Back to La Cumbre Peak - This time with a brave little girl
We were hanging out at the Coronado Butterfly Preserve in Goleta. We looked up to the mountains to the north.
I asked, "Do you want to go to top of that today?"
"Yup," She said.
She had seen my pictures from my previous trips up to La Cumbre Peak and was fascinated with the lookout tower. The first time was my attempt to climb it and Cathedral Peak while wearing Keen sandals, something I am glad I didn't undertake. The second time is when I successfully summited Cathedral Peak, wearing the right foot gear.
Over the years, I've shown her pictures of my hiking and backpacking trips and have even texted her video messages from some of the peaks while on top. Also, my Apple TV is set to show my flickr pictures when it goes to sleep. Therefore, she's been pretty in touch with my adventures, knows what a benchmark is, and has a general fascination with the outdoors. Anyone who has been following me on twitter or flickr knows that I try to take her out as much as possible.
I told her it was going to be a fairly long drive on the way up and she confirmed that she wanted to go. My goal was to set expectations, but have her climb her first peak. She's been driven to the top of some lookout points and has gone on some minor hikes, and has even ridden on my back to the top, but has never had the satisfaction of summiting a peak on her own. Granted, this is an easy peak with a short hike, but I wanted her first peakbagging experience to be positive.
We drove down the freeway and began the ascent through side roads to get to Camino Cielo. She fell asleep along the way, which was perfect. I wanted her to be refreshed for the short hike and not feel like it took a long time to get there.
She awoke as I parked the car near the access gate just below La Cumbre Peak. It was cold, in the 40s F. I had brought plenty of layers for her and we bundled up. After a short walk around the gate (she went under), she perked up and asked me about the hike and played with pine cones and dirt clods.
As we hiked up the steep access road, she said her legs were tired, but I told her to hang in there, we were almost to the top. I pointed ahead and we could see the lookout tower rising ahead of us and she started running up access the road. So much for tired legs. We got to the top and sat at a picnic bench, so she could have her lunch and milk. The amazing view of the coastline was almost a third person at the table, keeping us company while we played on the rocks and did the silly things we usually do when we are together. Once at the top, the sun warmed us up and she seemed at home in the outdoors.
I asked her if she wanted to get to the very top, where the benchmark was, and she said yes. I told her she would have to do a little rock climbing and she was OK with it. Skirting the fence that protects the lookout tower, we climbed the summit block. She climbed first and I climbed behind and under her, protecting her from falling with my body. It's a small climb for me, but the highest she's ever done. We got to the top rock and she had to crawl on a flat part that has a tiny bit of exposure, and, once again, the most she's had to deal with. She was scared, but I was encouraging. She got to the benchmark and she was excited. I told her there are benchmarks all over and she said she wanted to go find more with me someday. I told her she could count on it.
We took some pictures and enjoyed the view. Getting down was a little more precarious, as it usually is, but we scooted down on our rears. Once down, I told her how proud of her I was and could tell she was proud of herself, too.
I told her she was brave.
She said, "But, Dad, I was scared."
I said, "Being brave isn't about having no fear. Being brave is about being afraid, but doing it anyway."
She was quiet as we walked down the trail. I could tell she was thinking about it, like she always does with new concepts.
"Daddy," she said, beaming with pride, "I was brave."
She had that little hop in her step as we went down the front side of the access road loop and I asked her if she wanted to go geocaching. Boy did she. I had found a geocache here the first time I came here, so I led her close to it. This particular one is camouflaged well and I told her it was nearby. I gave her some clues until she found it. We played with sticks and trees until I could feel a sharp drop in the temperature. The sun was going down. I said it was time to go, but she wanted to stay. OK, five more minutes. We played some more and she finally accepted it was time to start heading home.
As we descended the trail back to the car, she asked, "Daddy, when is our next hike?"
My heart melted. Mission: success.