LIFE IS KID'S STUFF

Building ‘get through it’ muscles; Rugged adventure provides memories, lessons

By Danielle Scroggins | Published Saturday, June 30, 2018

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Hiking We Will Go

HIKING WE WILL GO – The Scroggins set out on their advanture along the Ozark Highlands Trail. The hike provided an opportunity to test the family’s ‘get through it” muscles. Photo Courtesy Danielle Scroggins

“Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on, but you keep going anyway.” -Dr. James Dobson, The Strong Willed Child

In our house, we have worked on “getting through it muscles.”

Those lessons have taken many forms: classwork, chores, jobs or even just living under the same roof.

I have said to my children many times, “You are building get through it muscles. I know it feels like right now this is too hard, but you will get through this, and the next time something feels too hard, you will have this experience behind you. Because of that experience, you will know you can get through it.”

This might be my most important lesson as the momma.

Enter the hike.

The week after Memorial Day, my husband, two oldest hoodlums, three dogs and I set out to hike 38 miles on the Ozark Highland Trail in Arkansas. I know this might sound daunting to some, but we like to camp, hike, sweat, and hang out in nature. It’s one of the rules of “Being Scroggins.”

We recently purchased a sparkling new camper for our family vacation this summer – a camper that we might have been wishing was with us on this trip.

Throughout the spring, my husband researched and purchased all necessary items for a four-day backpacking trip through the Ozark mountains. We each had a pack filled with dehydrated food, water, survival gear, tents and sleeping bags. We packed a few luxury items like playing cards and books.

We also had two packs for two of the dogs. They were in charge of carrying their own food and water.

We were pumped. I knew it would be a challenge, but I absolutely love unplugging and challenging myself to nature elements. I was even more excited to share this experience with two of our three hoodlums – we left the youngest at home with his grandmother, giving him the choice since he’s still just the wee age of 12.

Off we drove to the mountains.

After a four-hour drive, we settled into our campsite, urging the teens to take charge of their own tents and packs. The dogs were in smell-heaven, taking in the scent of every blade of grass and every mound of dirt. I promise I could see their synapses working overdrive.

After a dinner “out on the town,” we turned in early to rest up. Problem No. 1: A huge thunderstorm hit our campsite about 2 a.m. Now, I’ve tent camped in plenty of thunderstorms, but these fancy “backpacking tents” seemed to have a different function, and not one that included waterproofing. We emerged early in the morning, wet, hungry, and a little unorganized. But we rallied. Those “get through it muscles” were starting to get warm.

We finally organized ourselves, dogs, and packs and set out down the trail. Our goal: 11 miles to camp. Problem No. 2: The only green plant growing on the forest floor was poison ivy. This wouldn’t be a problem for normal people, but for me it was literally like dodging land mines throughout the skinny trail. I don’t just get poison ivy. It gets me. It takes over my skin and spreads like literal wildfire. I’m certain it could cause a mental breakdown if left untreated.

My pace slowed to a crawl, and I kept up the caboose of our little gang. After a few miles, I contained my ivy anxiety and settled into the hike with proper safety precautions on alert at all times.

Problem No. 3: Problem 3 wasn’t truly a problem, but more of a bummer. It was at least 9,000 degrees and 100 percent humidity. After we started the hike, the sweat poured off of us like a faucet. It was dripping down our nose. It was streaming down our backs. It saturated our hair and hats. In 30 minutes, it looked like we had taken a dive into the nearby lake, a lake in which we all actually wanted to take a plunge. We pushed onward, drinking plenty of water, observing the landscape, and taking a few rests before the next hill.

It was during one of those rests that we encountered Problem No. 4: It was raining ticks. As a child, I remember dealing with ticks on a near constant basis in the summer. Mow the yard? Check for ticks. Ride a horse? Check for ticks. Go on a picnic? Check for ticks. I guess my children haven’t had this pleasure, and once my 15-year-old realized they attached to skin, he was less than impressed. Every break turned into a water check, tick check, and mile check. Between the sweat, ivy, and ticks, the kids weren’t seeing the “fun” in hiking just yet.

Enter Problem No. 5: The soles of my hiking boots began separating. I don’t know if it was the heat, the humidity, or the fact that I had borrowed them from a friend, but the boots were getting tired. My husband duct taped them together, and we trudged forward. At this point we had been hiking about six hours. During one of our breaks, we surmised that we had probably trekked eight miles.

Problem No. 6: Just as we decided we had completed eight miles, we climbed a mountain and found a marker for mile 7. (We are from Texas, most hills are mountains to us). Let’s just say it wasn’t good for our mental state. Between the heat, ivy, shoes, ticks and now longevity, some spirits were beginning to crack. I won’t mention whose spirits to let some of my family save face, but it wasn’t me.

Being the mom and therefore the chosen cheerleader, I started listing all the positives we had going for us. For example, at least we didn’t live in a time when this experience was our everyday. Also, we were in the shade of the forest. Imagine the beating if the sun were shining on us. Lastly, chiggers weren’t attacking us. Well, we didn’t know they were at this point. I wasn’t super successful in my cheers, but I did manage to get a few smiles.

Problem No. 7: The constant state of saturated clothing was causing my husband’s legs to become a little chafed. He fell further and further behind, and by the time we had overruled his 11 mile goal and set up camp at a poison ivy free creek bed, he could have been cousins with Popeye the Sailor.

It was time to regroup. My shoes were now fastened together with rope. We needed to filter water as we had consumed all that we had carried. The dogs were quickly becoming tick condominiums. Those family members that were losing mental clarity were continuing down that path, and my husband might need to be carried out of the forest should we complete the next 28 miles.

In light of the cards stacked against us, we decided to rest the night and turn back the way we came for the 10-mile hike out of the forest. We were disappointed in ourselves and our preparations, and then reflective of the fact that we had seen zero people on this trail. Perhaps the whole of the world was just a little smarter than we were?

The next day we set out in the rain for the long walk back, and spirits were much higher knowing we just had to conquer what we already knew we could do. Many hills, streams, rock climbs, and a near miss with a water moccasin, we climbed out of the trail dripping with sweat, almost out of water, sore, hungry, and grateful to see the campground bathhouse. I think one of us heard angels.

On our drive home, after stopping for hearty meals for the rest of the family and an overdose of cantaloupe for me, we reflected on the adventure. I got a few admissions of things we could have done differently, but most of all an acknowledgment of the importance of those “getting through it muscles.”

I think my kids finally got it. I told stories of how I built my getting through it muscles, and I swear I heard a click in their brains. The next time they think they can’t get through a week with 10 tests, or that their mean mom has assigned too many chores, they can reflect back on these two days of a tick-infested sweat-fest and know that they can get through it. They seem to think once they’ve built these muscles that they’ve graduated from that workout plan – seems I have more work to do here. Let’s just keep that reality between you and me.

Danielle Scroggins is a Decatur resident, Decatur High school graduate, former teacher and mother of three. She writes a monthly column, Life is Kid’s Stuff, for the Messenger.

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