City Girl Goes Granola

City Girl Goes Granola

That was the tag line for my friend’s wedding. The New York City girl who used to walk only as far as the curb to hail a cab one day up and moved to San Diego for a job and now she was getting married to a guy who hiked. And now she hiked. And, as far as we could tell, ENJOYED hiking.  The rest of her East Coast crew were baffled, myself included.

And now, 7 years later, I am my own city girl gone granola. I am a girl who hikes. And a girl who enjoys hiking. There is still a part of me that’s baffled by this turn of events.

Much like my friend, I am a girl who started hiking for a boy – my son.  One of the best parts about living in Santa Monica is its proximity to nature. Drive 5 minutes, and you’re at the beach. 30 minutes north or east, and you find yourself in canyons and mountains. Drive to Point Dume (as we did a couple of weeks ago, both as part of Hiker’s Club and for The REALM’s Community Adventure Day) and you get both mountains AND sea, plus dolphins, seals, sea lions, pelicans and a pod of California Grey Whales. When we moved here two years ago, I was determined that we, a family more likely to go to a museum than a mountain, were going to take advantage of all of it.

A year and a half later. Best laid plans. The closest we had gotten to hiking was walking around the (paved) trail down by Palos Verdes.

So when we found The REALM, after a disastrous preschool experience that left all of us a little shell-shocked, and Vicki suggested Hiker’s Club, I thought a little outdoor learning and exercise might be just what our son needed. It was a chance to run off that boundless energy and a kick in the pants for me to actually do that thing I was sure we were going to do when we moved here: get outside more. My son was still at the point where he didn’t want to be left alone at school, but that was fine. I packed up our toddler and the stroller and a backpack and was ready to join them on whatever glorified walk they wanted to go on. I mean, it was a group of 4, 5 and 6 year olds. How hard could it be?

Little did I know.

Nathan, our fearless leader, described the hike we were about to go on. It ended with 512 steps up from the bottom of the canyon. I wondered how I was going to get my stroller up those stairs. Was there an elevator, perhaps?

What I have learned since is that nothing ruffles these teachers. There’s always a solution and it involves very little panicking. On their part. I panicked in a big way.

While I was panicking, however, a hiking carrier for my daughter materialized from thin air, as well as Vicki’s husband, who shouldered my backpack so I could carry my daughter on my back and chase my son through the canyon floors.

As we marched down, I thought I had lost my mind.

As we headed up those 512 stairs, I knew I had lost my mind. I also wondered what happened to my kids if I died on the fire road.

My son, just barely 5, started demanding that he be carried. And I had no way to do that with my daughter on my back, feeling like I needed to be carried myself. I felt overwhelmed and scared. What if he couldn’t do this? What if I couldn’t help him? What happens then?

But then this miraculous thing happened. Trista, who co-teaches with Nathan, came over and took my son by the hand and said, “Come on. Let’s see if we can tell some jokes while we walk to make it a little easier.” And he took her hand and off he went.  I saw him dig in and find the resolve to finish something rather than just give up. To make the best of a bad situation and then to find that the situation actually wasn’t that bad.  That trying new things can be scary, but the payout might be awesome.  There is a moment on every hike where he is done and the hike isn’t. And, every week, I see him figure out how to work though that. It’s a lesson that I now realize I could have never taught him, no matter how hard I tried. It’s what he learns every week out on the trail.

By Lindsay SanGiacomo (a new REALM parent)