Only two weeks of summer were left and we had them planned, solid. The Last Hurrah would be 6 days in Yellowstone. See, Lucy was scheduled for surgery. She was scheduled just two days after we would be returning home from our Yellowstone trip. She and I would then spend the final week of summer vacation in the hospital while she recovered. Ideally she would be released from the hospital, just in time for school to start.
If there is anyone who should have learned to expect the unexpected, it’s me, but sometimes I just forget that part.
This is where our story begins.
I had never been to Yellowstone, so I dug through their website looking for information. Their website was not very helpful, there was simply too much information and I had no idea where to start. (so I will link you to it!!)
Yellowstone was… in a word, remarkable. We must’ve accidentally purchased the deluxe package because we saw it all. It was amazing!
Considering that I called a reservation center and was assigned a random campsite, we somehow ended up with an amazing site!
When I retire, I think I am going to be a Campground Host. Aaron is the one with the Parks, Recreation and Tourism degree to make it happen. I was going to be a nurse, because I wanted to help people, but I dropped out of college after my first year to become a musician. A musician! How silly is that? How many college kids bail on their degree to become musicians… pipe dreams I tell ya!
Back to Yellowstone and retiring. When I do retire, you can find me at Bridge Bay Campground, Loop H. I will have potted plants, an herb garden and a welcome mat in front of my RV. I will have a hammock hung between two lodgepole pines. Look for me in a high-end camping chair, the kind with two drink holders, a sunshade and a footrest. Living large!
Leah and Lucy are great little campers. I have proof. Don’t they look miserable?
We also take our food very seriously when camping;) Dutch Oven Meatloaf was our dinner.
Roasting marshmallows takes patience AND focus.
Aaron and I are ambitious hikers. So, on day two we set out for a 6 mile hike.
We would have seen two lakes and two waterfalls. I say “would have seen” because just 1 mile up the trail there was a sign that said the trail was closed due to “dangerous conditions.” Hmmm.
Okay! It’s time for Choose Your Own Adventure: You are a family of four, hiking in the woods. Your route, which was recommended by a Ranger at an Information Center, is now closed. You…
A. Keep hiking that path.
B. Turn around and hike back a mile. (Wow! A whopping 2 mile hike.)
C. Take another path.
D. Get eaten by a bear (you are in Yellowstone)
We went with option “C” and took another path. I’ll admit we stood there for a while and thought about it though. I realized that if it were just me and Aaron, I would have gone for the closed trail, but then again, I got into a paddleboat in a lagoon of crocodiles in Ghana… so, I bet you’re not surprised.
Yes, we took another path that lead us out of the woods, directly to the road. Then we followed the road to a parking area, and from the parking area to some well marked tourist paths. Boo! 🙁 Oh well, we tried! Still ambitious, we hiked down Uncle Tom’s Trail, a path that the Ranger said we shouldn’t bother trying with a 50 pound child in a backpack. (Bring it!) It is pretty much a billion stairs down to the bottom of a waterfall. (Truth be told it is over 300 stairs and a descent of 500 feet) Aaron took the pack with Lucy down and back up. I’ve gotta say there were people, carrying nothing on their backs, who were huffing and puffing harder than Aaron. (Go Aaron, go!)
Then I took Lucy on my back and we “hiked” back to the car.
We had lunch and then continued on to the next stop.
Did you know that the center of the Earth smells like hard boiled eggs? Yeah, charming I know! In Yellowstone, there are countless geothermal areas, some spouting water and others just letting off steam, and all of them laced with varying degrees of sulphur. (Fabulous!)
Some are holes of boiling mud.
Others are multi-colored fairy pools.
Some look like science projects gone wrong,
and some look like science projects gone right.
Most of them smell bad! I really wish my blog was scratch-n-sniff right now.
I hiked Lucy around the mud pots. Leah thought this stop was torturous. The hot sulphur blasts of steam fogged her glasses and sent her reeling… she likened it to the open sewers in Ghana. Lucy, on the other hand, just hollered, “Pee-yew!” at each stop.
While driving up north to Mammoth Hot Springs, we saw bison.
And we saw a bear!
We stopped to hike the Tower Falls Trail.
This time, I carried Lucy down the trail and back up. As we hiked, I could hear Lucy saying something, quietly, to herself. I finally asked her, what she was saying. “I’m just counting your steps.” (That makes two of us)
When we were climbing back up from the waterfall, I stopped to catch my breath and drink some water. As I started back up the steep trail, Lucy could tell I was working hard, she leaned in, over my shoulder and quietly said, “Mom, this is what you are training for.”
Ok, talk about words of encouragement!
Did I tear up a little? Uh, maybe.
Did I pick up my pace? Yeah. I did. Because suddenly, I felt a little less tired.
But you know what, Lucy’s right! This is the event– waterfalls, dirt, trees and steep rocky paths with Lucy on my back. She’s right!
A few minutes later a curious voice asked, “How old is she?” I turned to see a couple in their sixties right behind me. The woman had asked the question. “Oh, she is nine.” I was breathing hard but doing my best to keep my voice steady.
“She’s nine?” the woman asked, surprised. Now I wondered, was she surprised because Lucy looks younger than nine or was she surprised that a 9 year-old was on her mother’s back? She continued, “Well, let me tell you something.” (here it comes) “When my daughter was five she always wanted me to carry her…” (ah, the latter) “and we came up with this game you ought to try.”
I kept smiling. I didn’t want to interrupt, that would be rude, but I already knew how this was going to play out. Somebody was going to feel bad.
She kept talking, “See I would walk ahead and tell her all she needed to do was meet me. Once she met me, it was her turn to walk ahead and I would meet her. You see? Then, before she knew it, she had walked the entire way!” (helps if you can walk)
“That’s really great.” I said, meaning it.
See, I don’t like this. I don’t try to leave people feeling like they shouldn’t have said anything in the first place, but I was pretty sure that in a few minutes, she was going to be kicking herself. I turned, looking back down the steep path and said, “The thing is… this trail isn’t wheelchair friendly… at all. So, if I didn’t carry her, she would just miss out on all of the beauty.” I said it smiling, cheerily, not in snide or rude way, I promise!
“Oh! Oh! I am sorry! She’s in a wheelchair?” (no she’s on my back, but…)
“Yep, she has spina bifida and cerebral palsy.” Again, I state it as a fact, like saying “the sky is blue.” No pity. (Please no pity.)
“Oh! My! I am sorry! So, so sorry!”
Was she apologizing to me or to my daughter? Was she “sorry” that Lucy uses a wheelchair? Or “sorry” for suggesting I force Lucy to walk? It didn’t matter, really. For the past eleven years I have worked on ways to give information about my kids, without adding drama. Additionally I have honed my skills, so that I can take someone’s reaction and diffuse it, and explain it to Lucy or Leah so that they can see it is just someone else’s point of view. It is not the truth. Most people look at Lucy and they can only see what is “missing.” They are blinded by the wheelchair, the disability. They cannot imagine the full and beautiful life Lucy has. The full and beautiful life we have, yes, even with a child in a wheelchair.
I used to want to smack people upside the head when they said ridiculous things, but now I listen to the reaction that goes off in my head… it’s just my synapses firing. I listen to the reaction, my reaction and then… a very calm, collected mommy chooses the words that come out of my mouth. (most of the time)
I just kept smiling and the woman continued, “The poor little thing!” (Please don’t say that in front of my kid.) I quickly cut her off for fear that we might be dazzled with some of my least favorite adjectives like “crippled” and least favorite statements like “she’s bound to a wheelchair.” (Want to see bound? Watch her without the wheelchair)
“Oh, no apology needed.” I said. “Lucy is a very smart and very fun little girl. We’re not going to let dirt and hills stop us from seeing so many beautiful things, are we Lucy.”
The woman continued, “Well, I really can’t imagine doing what you are doing. You are going to be a very, very strong young lady!”
“That’s what I’m working on.”
It was quiet.
We all kept walking.
We came to the parking area.
We completed the trek.
We did it.
And you know what? I don’t even think the woman was kicking herself.
Yes, this is what I’m training for.
To be continued…