On the Trail: Getting soaked

Bob Ward
Aspen, CO Colorado

Billy and I both deserve part of the blame for get­ting soaked last weekend.

First, I took a wrong turn on the way to the trail­head, which lengthened our climb up Huron Peak, deep in the Sawatch Range. And he, being an 8-year-­old, kept wanting snacks all the way up. As a parent well-versed in dragging young children on long alpine slogs beyond their ability, I had no choice but to pro­vide ” peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, energy bars, fruit, nuts and anything else I could dig out of the daypack.

We got a late start and had to do some roundabout route-finding to reach the summit of a peak that has the well-maintained equivalent of a four- lane up its west­ern flank. It was actually a fine adventure for a dad and an 8-year-­old ” except for the rain and hail on the summit.

As it really began to pour up there, and the well-maintained trail turned to a viscous syrup, Billy’s spirits began to flag. Despite the extra layers, he announced that he was desperately cold.

“I feel like I’m going to die,” he spluttered.

As the guy who had dragged him up there, I felt ter­rible. I tried to be encouraging, promising that his suf­fering would end. I also pointed out that his misery was nothing compared to the screaming baby in the backpack that we’d seen near the summit.

Fortunately, the weather cooperated and the clouds eventually lifted. By the time we were down to 12,500, sun was drying our wet clothes and bloodflow had returned to Billy’s hands. And his mind returned to the baby.

“Why were they feeding him animal crackers in the rain?” Billy wondered.

“Good question,” I said. “They were actually feed­ing him animal crackers mixed with rain and hail, which makes mush.”

This was untrue, of course, but he loved it.

We then decided that the baby could simply suck the cracker-mush out of the Ziploc bag like energy Gu or infant formula. Riffing on this mush-sucking baby theme got us down below timberline, and by then the 8-year-old who thought he was going to die had become just another slap-happy peak bagger.

In the end, it was a cool father-son adventure. And we created an inside joke that’ll probably outlive all other memories from the day ( apologies to the baby and his parents).