“Wow what an awesome sunrise” as I lifted my head from the couch and looked straight out the sliding glass doors of my son home.
“This is going to be an awesome day for a hike with Luke”.
Luke is my grandson and this weekend I’m here to take him on his first hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT).
Today it will just be the two of us, no sisters, no Mom and Dad, just the two of us which has never happened before because he never wants to go anywhere without his Mom and Dad.
But he loves the woods so when I told him I wanted to hike he agreed to go with me, just the two of us.
It’s still early, so I step out the back door with my camera and start taking pictures of this beautiful sunrise.
I’m thinking, “This sunrise must look awesome from up top of the mountain. It’s only about 5 miles away, I could easily jump in my car, drive up there, take a few pictures and be back in time before Luke gets up. Yeah, I should do that”.
But then my son pulls into the driveway, he’s just getting off from working the night shift. It’s Saturday and his weekend is just beginning. We started talking and before long my grandson is up and ready to go hiking.
So much for hoping in my car but I still got some amazing pictures of the sunrise.
Luke has his day pack spread out on the kitchen table and is going through what he had packed the night before which includes a compass, light and a whistle.
“What else do we need grandma”?
“Water and some snacks and I think that’s it”.
As we got our packs together, I let his parents know where we’re going and how long we will be gone. It was going to be a short walk in the woods, first to the Kimmel lookout and then to the other side of Route 501 to the shelter and maybe a little further down the trail but no more than a mile or two, it will depend how far Luke wants to go.
OK, we’re set, let’s go!
This was probably the shortest drive I’ve ever taken to a trail head; we were there within 10 minutes.
Most times we’re driving hours to get to the trailhead. This was a piece of cake, of course it helped that my son lives at the bottom of the mountain, all I had to do was go up about 5 miles to the top, sweet!
We get out of the car and put our packs on, double check to make sure we have our water bottles and hiking sticks (my son and Luke made these hiking sticks) put our hats on and off we went towards the trail.
But before we could get started a young man came out of the woods.
“Hi, nice day for a hike, are you guys going to the lookout, you’ll get beautiful views this morning”.
“Hi, yes it is and yes we are”.
“Be careful crossing the road, it gets busy here; the trailhead is right over there”.
“Thanks” and off we went, across the road and down the rocky hill to the first lookout called Kimmel lookout.
This is a 2 minute walk from the car so this part of the trail gets lots of local people who come here to hang out but today we had the place to ourselves.
We walked a short distance to two more lookouts and stopped at each one so Luke could look through my binoculars. He wanted to see a hawk and sure enough he did.
He scrambled around the rocks looking for snakes but instead found a salamander which was a good thing, I’m not a fan of snakes nor did I want him to get bit.
I taught him to look for the white blazes which he did, finding them on trees and rocks.
He was curious about everything and asked lots of questions and amazingly I actually had answers for him.
“OK Luke, let’s head back the other way and go look at the shelter”.
Across the road and down the trail to the 501 shelter which again was a 2 minute walk.
We peeked inside to see if anyone was there, didn’t want to bother anyone, but it was empty.
Luke had never seen a shelter.
501 Shelter entrance
I let him know this is one of the best shelters on the AT and not all shelters look like this.
First of all, it has 4 walls and glass windows which you don’t typically see in shelters. It also has a skylight, 12 bunk beds, dehydrated food stuffed in bags hanging all around the shelter and Tupperware bins filled with supplies . There’s even a caretaker next door who manages the property and can help you if needed.
“Look Luke, pizza boxes, they must have had a pizza party here recently”.
“Wow, that’s a lot of pizza” Luke says.
There were about 10 boxes stacked up. I wondered why these boxes where’t thrown out and then realized they mostly likely will be used to start a fire.
We explored the outside area and found the outdoor shower and just beyond the shower was someone sleeping in a hammock. We had been talking loudly the whole time but after seeing the guy who appeared to be sleeping, we toned it down.
Until Luke says in a really loud voice “I have to go to the bathroom”.
“You can go to the bathroom outside”.
“No I can’t, I have to poop”.
Click to view
“You can do that out here. We’ll find a place to go and then I’ll show you how to bury your poop”.
“No, Grandma, I want to use the bathroom”.
“OK, let’s go this way, the sign back there says there’s a privy down here but just to let you know this is an outhouse not a bathroom like you have at home, you know that right?
“Yeah, hurry I have to go”.
We walk down the trail to an intersection and found nothing so we went back up the trail to the sign and follow another trail, no privy down here. OK let’s go this way, maybe it’s down here.
The sign is wildly confusing. The privy is not here.
“ Let’s just head out, can you hold it until we get home, we’re not far from the car and I can get you home in 10 minutes”.
“OK I think I can make it home”.
We walk down the trail that I thought was the way out (it wasn’t the same trail) and as we’re walking I see what looks like a port a potty in the distance.
Sure enough that’s what it was.
“Look Luke you can go to the bathroom there’.
He runs for it.
I’m thinking to myself, funny that a port a potty is here. Is this being used now instead of the privy, is that why we couldn’t find it back there at the shelter?
I’m just glad it was here, from how fast Luke was running I don’t know if we would’ve made it to his house.
I yell in “Do you have toilet paper because if not I have some tissues”
“There’s toilet paper here” Luke yells back to me.
He comes out a minute later and says “How am I going to wash my hands”?
I hand him my hand sanitizer.
He’s clean now so we start walking and I say, “Look down and let me know if you find any mushrooms, I want to get some pictures of them”.
But when I look back at him he’s rubbing his eyes and I knew what would come next.
I stopped, got my clean handkerchief out and poured water over it and handed it to him.
By now his right eye was burning, the hand sanitizer had not been dissolved enough before he put his hands to his eyes.
“Just hold it to your eye, the burning sensation will go away, you’ll be fine” I said.
And he was, we found some mushrooms, I took a ton of pictures and we were in and out in less than 2 hours with about a mile of hiking done.
I had a blast!
For the first time it wasn’t about how far we could go, it was about the time spent together. I got to see the trail through his eyes. He was curious about everything and asked lots of questions. It put me in the moment and what an awesome place to be. It felt wonderful to teach him about the trees, the plants, the wildlife and everything I knew about nature.
And the best part was when I asked him if he had fun he said “Yes I did, when can we go for a hike again, grandma”?
Soon, Luke, very soon, I said.
Now let me ask you, do you hike with kids? How do you feel after hiking with kids, exhausted or energized?
Let me hear all about it in the comments below, would love to hear your thoughts.
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