"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Moms hiking with their sons

By on August 29, 2017 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments

Evan took this photo of Quentin, Marlene and Meleah walking past Mount Stuart toward Stuart Lake. The beautiful day was getting hotter and the boys were looking forward to jumping into Lake Stuart.

By Marlene Farrell

Photos by Meleah Butruille

Our small band of backpackers tramped away from our lakeside campsite, through boulder-strewn alpine meadows and a small tarn, following Quentin.

He had found the perfect bear bag-hanging tree. It was perched on a small knoll amid other trees, but 20 feet up its trunk was a fat branch with few obstructions.

We, two moms and our 12-year-old sons, did it all together —finding the right-sized rock, wrapping it snugly in the end of the cord, tossing it up over the branch. After several rewraps and tosses and much laughter, we got the line in place and then hoisted the food until it dangled far above our heads.

It was such a little thing, but it was precious because our husbands, both capable outdoorsmen, weren’t around.

Evan shows a cutthroat trout — he released all the fish he caught.

We succeeded at the bear bag, setting up the tent, and even more so, hiking with full packs past Stuart Lake on a steep unmaintained trail to Horseshoe Lake.

Gratitude overwhelmed me that this trip came together. It was a last minute decision, squeezed in between other commitments. We could have easily skipped the adventure, making our lives less hectic, but we seized the opportunity.

Kids’ lives spiral upward in busyness in middle school. As moms, we’re there for them, driving them everywhere, watching their sports, double-checking their homework.

But Meleah Butruille and I wanted a chance to just be with our boys. We both have daughters and somehow the one-on-one time with chances to have deeper conversations are more plentiful than with our sons.

The boys proved very capable. Every year they can carry more on their still slightly narrow frames and hike farther on their long legs. We teased them how in 10 years they have to invite us back and we’ll let them do the planning and carry the majority of the weight.

Evan fished more times than I thought possible. He watched the creeks and lakes patiently until he spotted a fish and then assembled his rod and reel in the blink of an eye.

He caught several beautiful trout with flaming throats, and he always hollered for Meleah to come see. He fishes a lot with his dad, but this time it was for Meleah and Evan to share.

A lot of the trip was about hiking. When you’re covering 17 miles round-trip with 3,000 feet of elevation gain, that’s just the way it is. Sometimes the boys hiked ahead, and Meleah and I caught up on each other’s lives. Other times we naturally fell into step with our sons.

Marlene and Quentin at Horseshoe Lake: Before long, it will be the moms’ turn to stand on rocks to be even with their growing sons.

While hiking, Quentin confided in me about his latest computer game designs. His brain is adept at navigating the complex logic of game coding; I do my best to keep up.

Our steady pace on the trail afforded me time to ask a lot of questions. We might not delve into deep philosophical questions, but Quentin and I come to know each other through talking while walking.

When we crested the top of the climb, scrambling through rocks baking in the sun, the view of Horseshoe Lake was a magical reward. The serene brilliant blue wove its way through the rocky basin full of small larches.

Aptly named, Horseshoe Lake has a meandering curvy shoreline that begs to be explored. Mount Stuart dominates the rocky cirque in which we were nestled.

Evan immediately grabbed his fishing pole. Quentin dropped his pack and scampered off, looking for an ideal campsite, saying, “It’s like being on the moon.” I think he meant the lightness he felt and also the out-of-this-world beauty.

Wild solitude was ours for a long evening, as we watched the peaks blush and more trout rise and as we crunched on freeze-dried ice cream. Although we were tired, it was with a bit of reluctance that we climbed into the tent that night.

Both times we passed Stuart Lake we stopped where a boulder leaned over the water. There were two ways into the lake — easing in from a lower rock ledge or up above, running and leaping with faith.

Experimenting with both methods, we jumped in, the water rejuvenating itchy bug bites and tired feet. It was simple for the boys, who still hooted and whooped.

I felt like a kid again, taking the plunge off the rock, experiencing the thrill of falling and the suddenness of cutting through the surface to the cold below.

The final miles of a backpack trip are often subdued, as we are lost in our own thoughts and one with the rhythm of downhill hiking with lighter packs, slowly transitioning to a return to the ordinary after being away from it all.

Evan, leading at the time, called back to Meleah, “Mom, come talk to me.” Meleah said this surprised and delighted her.

Quentin and I hiked together too. I don’t remember our conversation beyond a shared contentedness. We simply were happy to be together. Though, if I’m honest, we were also eager for some post-trip grub, something involving melted cheese.

In a few months Quentin will be a teenager. Before long, he’ll be off on his own young adult journey of a sort I can hardly imagine.

I only hope he and I can squeeze in a few more adventures like this one in the meantime.

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