Cartwheel paused at the edge of the field and looked back at me. She exhaled deeply and exclaimed with a loud sigh, “whew, my legs are BEAT!” Then she looked back at her brother drafting along behind Princess North Star, getting yet further ahead. She gave a little shrug, shook her head and sighed again; then she was off down the trail at a trot to catch up to the front two and crank out another four miles in an hour and twenty minutes. I could barely keep up; my legs were BEAT.
The day started off with the kids being uncharacteristically industrious. They hopped out of their hammocks, took down the tarp and packed up their bags all before the adults climbed out of their tent at six thirty in the morning. Momma Bear discovered that the isobutane fuel canister had leaked empty overnight (thankfully not near our tent), and she proceeded to make a cold breakfast of bagels and cream cheese while I packed up the tent. Then Cartwheel came running up in tears.
“Nathan’s lost in the woods and it’s all my fault!” she waled (she was too upset to call him by his trail name). “He had to go to the bathroom and I told him that the privy was that way (she pointed), and he took off running. But I misread the sign and sent him the wrong way, and now he’s lost in he woods and it’s all my fault! I tried to find him but I can’t find him!” She was near hysterics. Then we heard RobinHoods voice call out, “Maddy, I’m over here! I found another trail to the privy!” Cartwheel’s tears began to dry. The other hikers enjoyed the theatrics (if not the timing of the earliness of the matinee).
After we were all packed up and everyone was accounted for, we headed north. After a few hours of hiking, Cartwheel came out with the ‘b’ word: “The trail’s boring and I’m not having any fun anymore; I’m ready to go home.” RobinHood tried to convince her that she’d regret the decision after being home for a day. She wasn’t convinced. Then Mama Bear hit on an idea and suggested that Cartwheel listen to an audio book while she walked (something we hadn’t done up to this point). It proved the perfect way for her to get out of her own head for a while. Cartwheel started listening to Roald Dahl’s, “Danny a Champion of the World” on the kindle touch (she’s now declared she wants to learn how to become a poacher), and RobinHood listened to “The Princess Bride” on the iPad. Their hiking pace improved, as did their mood.
We caught up to Princess North Star, and the Cartwheel was back to her boisterous self, chatting away. When they found out that he was planning to go five miles past our intended stopping point (we had again planned an afternoon of lake swimming), they decided to skip the swimming and keep up with him. The kids managed to push out twelve and a half miles between 2:30 (when we caught Princess North Star resting at a shelter) and 7:00 when we arrived at an old farm property where the non-resident owner allows long-distance hikers use of his shed, well and outdoor shower.
It was some fast walking, and Cartwheel wasn’t the only one feeling it in her legs. But we finished the day at a beautiful spot with good company. And those last four hours? The kids spent those designing a video game that involved getting a Princess to the North Star involving many cartwheels and arrow shooting )Princess North Star is a web and app developer). They did all this at a pace that left their parents dripping in sweat.