18 January 2016
Kendall Peak Lakes Snowshoe, Gold Creek Sno-Park, Snoqualmie Pass
5 miles, 600 ft. climb to 3200 ft. maximum elevation
I’m a decent human being. I’m not a terrible parent. But, parenthood sometimes makes me question these all-too-modest-barely-there statements of myself. Today was supposed to be a fun day in the snow for my junior hiking buddies since both were out of school in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; instead, today’s outing was a test of my sanity as both a human and a parent. After deciding, planning and preparing the night before to go snowshoeing and sledding at Gold Creek Sno-Park, both girls woke up possessed by zombies this morning. They really wanted to get out to the snow, but they were still “hungover” from Little Hiking Buddy’s birthday celebration at the ice rink yesterday. Neither child seemed able to do anything routine without first moving through molasses, much less comprehend additional direction to get us smoothly out the door to romp in fresh powder.
When we finally began our drive along I90 at 9:15 am, we were flanked by drivers and passengers with the same motivation to frolic in the winter treasures hidden throughout Snoqualmie Pass. Many were headed to the slopes for a day of downhill runs, while others were in search of scenic alpine hikes and sledding hills. Once we made it to Gold Creek Sno-Park just after 10 am, I immediately found an open parking spot in front of the lower trailhead. I proudly thought to myself how wonderful it was to save the unnecessary time of trolling along the road for parking, then having to trek all the way back to the trail. Little did I know that was the least of my concerns for the day.
Parenthood is a fickle test of one’s patience. Just when you think you’ve passed that moment of truth with flying colors, another situation sidelines you in utter failure. Big Hiking Buddy was not her normal self today. Her typically agile fingers and limbs were clumsy and awkward, making it all the more challenging for her to ready herself under the extra winter layers and outdoor equipment. Rather than allowing me to assist her so our trio could quickly get onto the trail, she continued to frustrate us all for almost 20 minutes until I ultimately – and publicly – lost my cool. Clearly not my best parenting moment.
When we finally recovered from both our meltdowns, my hiking buddies (poor, confused LHB!) and I made our way over to the start of Kendall Peak Lakes Trail. BHB’s dour mood quickly lightened as she took in her surroundings. She articulately described the snowdrifts along the creek as “magical floating clouds of snow.” Both girls found joy in exploring the trail, as they took every opportunity to touch the frozen icicles lilting off sleeping buds as well as convey into words the natural beauty their sights possessed. We were having fun! Whew!
As we continued further along the trail, BHB noted how few people there were compared to our time at Gold Creek Pond on New Year’s Day. I hadn’t noticed the serenity of today’s trail until she mentioned the difference. With a narrower path laid down solely by snowshoes and boots, Kendall Peak Lakes Trail limited access to cross-country skiers in search of wider groomed trails, while also making it more challenging for parents to tow their young ones in sleds behind them. The extended length of this trail to Gold Creek Basin, relative to Gold Creek Pond Trail’s shorter version above, also gave snowshoers and hikers ample space to traverse in near solitude. Today’s fog shrouded the Basin with pure whiteness in every direction, leaving us feeling even more secluded in this heavenly setting.
The girls and I traveled over 1.5 miles up 600 feet of elevation before taking a break. Rather than making the expected right turn up the hill, we continued straight down NF-020 for another quarter mile in search of a quiet spot to set up our picnic. Using the sleds I had tied to my backpack, my hiking buddies made themselves dry, comfortable seats in the snow and unpacked their sandwiches and treats. The rush of sugar intake brought about increased levels of goofiness, including newly-minted (and non-sensical) lyrics to traditional holiday songs along with failed attempts at making snow angels. I was still climbing my parenting high after our earlier debacle.
With bellies full and hearts content, we began our return to the trailhead with BHB leading the way. The downhill trek was so much faster as both girls gleefully opted to sled down the path (for just as far as I could see to be free of travelers). The mildly flat terrain never allowed the girls to gain enough momentum to glissade more than a few feet at at time. As we made our way back, more families had arrived at the trail with sleds in tow looking for spur-trails-cum-sledding-hills to ride down. We too found a spot perfectly smoothed out for my hiking buddies to speed their way downhill on their discs. It was here, though, that I had my epic parenting failure for the year. It’s only January.
In gearing up to sled, BHB realized she lost her brand new gloves somewhere behind us on the trail. Before I could register what had happened, BHB had backtracked up the path in search of her missing gear. Ironically, I was more focused on LHB’s whereabouts because I now trusted BHB’s increasing sense of independence and good judgment. BHB, the little ballerina whose legs are as quick and sturdy as any wide receiver, had gained so much distance between us before I could take notice of her departure, much less gather all our things together to catch up to her. Since both girls had already taken off their snowshoes and packs in hopes to play in the snow, all I could do was tie every loose piece of gear onto the sleds and schlep them back uphill to chase after BHB.
LHB was resistant to return the way we had just come. I didn’t blame her for not wanting to walk back up the slope, but we had to. I couldn’t leave BHB alone at any cost in this winter white hinterland – this was not our backyard! As I tightly gripped LHB’s hand for fear of losing her too, we trekked back towards NF-020. I asked a number of folks on the trail if they had seen a girl clad in purple, a bigger version of LHB. Some noticed her, others couldn’t remember which way she headed, but enough people pointed me to exactly where I thought she would be. She had made it all the way back to our original mid-point of the day. When we finally met up with her, she was happy to have found her gloves. I was first relieved to have her back within my sight, safe and sound. Then, my anger consumed what little resolve I had regained over the course of the day.
EPIC FAILURE. I was shocked by my misjudgment of her sensibility. My desire to give her the freedom to move and learn was now short-circuited by the near possibility of tragedy. Granted, everything turned out fine (including the additional grey hairs on my head), but I’m now haunted by thought of almost losing her because of an instance of poor decision-making by us both. I know I need to let her and LHB grow through their own mistakes, but at what cost? I’m still learning how to maneuver through this minefield called parenthood. Today, I failed that fickle test of patience far too many times for me to want to count.
After once again regaining my composure (following a very detailed lecture of why BHB shouldn’t have gone off on her own), we three morosely headed back to our chosen sledding spot. With a 3-mile snowshoeing trip now topping 5 miles, I towed LHB behind me for a fair distance just to save us all from further insanity. As much as I thought to discipline BHB for her lack of good judgment, I also didn’t think it just for LHB not to get to sled at all. While I unloaded our gear for LHB to play, my youngest asked her older sister if she would sled with her too. I couldn’t deny her this request since a slightly worried LHB was just as happy and thankful to have her best friend by her side again.