Day 15: Marie Lake to Muir Trail Ranch (MTR), 8 miles. 3000 feet of elevation drop.
Our evenings have taken on a cozy feel as the family quietly gathers around at camp to hear me read from the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. It’s a delightful and clever read, set in Botswana, we are learning a bit about Africa as we traverse our own wild American lands. As if we have two movies that we are watching, as soon as we are all snuggled into our tents, Cory starts into the entertaining and heartwarming stories of James Herriot, the country vet of Darrowby, in All Creatures Great and Small.
These are the kinds of traditions that when weaved into trail time make it so much more fun for the whole family. We finished the tails of Mma Ramotswe of the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and as we descended down from Selden Pass into MTR, we looked forward to meeting up with Mma Ramotswe again, as she was waiting in our resupply bucket in the form of book #2.
Within minutes of opening the wooden gate at Muir Trail Ranch, we met Dan, a high-energy dad of a 9 and 13 year old who worked at the ranch in-between his shifts as a Fresno firefighter. His enthusiasm over seeing kids passing through the ranch was exactly what our tired kids needed. He bent down and looked Bekah right in the eye as he asked her, “Did you hike all the way here? I am so impressed!”. Then he saw Cade hanging in the wings and ran over to him, “And how old are you buddy?”. When he turned his attention to us, I could see sincere amazement at our feat to bring our kids with us. “I never see kids coming through this ranch. How do you get your kids to do this? I’d love to get my kids out here but they just get tired and end up not liking it. How do you do it?” He whipped out his phone and took a picture of our two kids as proof for his own two, to hopefully inspire them to try it again. It’s not the first time a hiker has taken a picture of our kids to inspire their own. I begin to wonder if a kid sighting is more rare than the illusive cougar sighting.
Later that night, John, a dad in his 30s, appeared on the ledge right below our granite perch for the night. We called down to him with a friendly hello, which he returned and continued on with, “are you the family that’s hiking 200 miles this summer with your kids?” He came to get tips, wondering how he could motivate his 9 and 12-year-old boys to hike with him. His 11 and 16 year olds love it, but the other two were not interested.
It would take more conversations with folks and more trail time for me to process it all to start to formulate an answer to these questions that we were receiving on a daily basis. The truth was, we had not seen a single hiker under the age of 14 the entire summer. So for every parent that we passed that asked us how we were pulling this off, we realized hundreds more were asking the question (or maybe they stopped asking) that we’d never meet.