The question: Will Cherie be able to set one foot in front of another on a wooded trail on a regular basis this summer?

The background (a five-year history):

2005: Cherie hikes consistently, taking her dog out for long weekend rambles in the mountains.  She even memorizes a list of trails short enough to allow her to change after work, hike up and down a mountain at a rapid speed, and get back home before dark. Life is grand. [Please note that Cherie hikes alone with the dog because her husband, who used to be such a dedicated hiker that he insisted on one for their second date, somehow suffered some sort of brutal, completely undetectable injury at their wedding and has shown no interest in hiking since that blessed occasion.][Not that Cherie is bitter about this situation, of course.]

2006: In a fit of optimism and hope for the future and other very, very unwise things, Cherie and her husband start building a house.  Every spare moment of this summer is dedicated to putting up rafters and clearing a septic field.  The dog is disappointed, but she is allowed ample opportunity to run in the woods and eat (and then barf up) sticks, so that provides some compensation.

2007: See above re: housebuilding. Also, Cherie is now pregnant.  Nevertheless, she manages to sneak in a few relatively easy hikes.  The dog is grateful.

2008: House is essentially on hiatus, but Cherie has a baby too small to safely carry in a backpack.  She spends the summer with her feet in a baby pool while discouraging the eating of rocks.  The dog wallows in bitterness.

2009: Annabel, now 1 1/2, is sturdy enough to be carried in a backpack. But Cherie is now pregnant again and, as is her wont,  spends the entire first trimester from May-July sleeping.  An attempt to hike is made sometime in July, but mid-way through a 3-miler the backpack begins burning away Annabel’s flesh, or so one can assume from the shrieks and punches emanating  from its depths.  She is happy to be carried for the rest of the hike on Cherie’s hip, however. For two miles. Down a mountain. And thus endeth hiking for that summer.  Dog begins plotting escape to a caring, outdoorsy family with better snacks.

2010: A repeat of 2008, except now with two kids to watch in the baby pool. Dog has long since given up on her life and spends most of her time laying in a hole under the deck, sighing heavily.

2011: Well, now.  One kid is capable of walking a decent distance. The other has been tested on some practice walks and doesn’t seem to object too strongly to the backpack.  Let’s test it.

The scenario:  One day, as Michael was getting ready to head off for his regular Sunday afternoon volleyball game and I was facing a few hours of solo parenting time with no real plan, I looked at the kids and said, “Hey guys, do  you want to go for a hike?”

Annabel blinked at me. I blinked at her. Sam yelled baby profanity at an invisible speck of dust. Annabel blinked again. (She doesn’t like being caught off guard.)

“Sure!” she finally said.

I packed up what, in the parenting world, counts as the bare necessities (baby carrier, water, snacks, cell phone, keys, wallet, emergency diaper, and sun hats) (but not bug spray. That may or may not be important later).  I herded, cajoled, hefted, and buckled two kids into car seats.  I drove five miles to the preserve while picking up Sam’s raisins off the floor and carrying on a scintillating conversation about frogs.  I parked the car, strapped Sam into the carrier, lifted him onto my back, sunhatted Annabel, and finally, finally, checked the trail map.

Which is when I learned the short hike I remembered as being approximately a mile round-trip was actually 1.3 miles. One way.

Whoops.

Oh, and also it seems a little buggy.  Where’s the bug spray?

Whoops.

The challenge: About one mile into the hike, Annabel begins to dawdle and drag.  This is understandable, as it’s a long walk for little legs, except that we cannot stop to rest because are being pursued by approximately 752,342 mosquitoes desperate to drain us of all our blood.  Sam begins shrieking and waving at the buzzy things around his head and the whole outing is rapidly falling apart right at the farthest point away from the car.

The solution: Taking my cue from the military, I rally the troops with a rousing rendition of “The Ants Go Marching,” which I sing approximately 750 times over the next mile and makes the 25-year old me living in my head weep with despair.  But you know what?  It works.  Sort of.  Annabel is still whining, but she’s walking.  Sam settles back down, perhaps because of blood loss but why be fussy?  And, 1 1/2 hours after beginning, we make it back to the car.  Mission complete.

The follow-up: As we are driving back to the house, Annabel announces, “That was sooooo fun!”  She’s too young for sarcasm, so I can only assume she means it.

I hesitate, but I can’t help myself. “Would you like to do it again some time?”

“No,” she says. “Not really.  It was a little rough.”

Prognosis for the future: Not looking good.  2012, you are my next hope.

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