“Man …. I wish my parents had taken me cool places to hike when I was little.”
So said one of the two college guys who paused to let us pass on our way up Rough Ridge recently. At this particular moment, we looked liked quite the hiking family. The wife was in front, followed by six-year-old daughter, four year-old-son and myself. We were each on foot. It would not last.
This was the first time we’ve taken the children into the great outdoors along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We started at the Linville Viaduct. There’s a rest stop/gift shop combo at the start of the trail, which goes under the iconic strip of road and into the woods.
The kids were immediately enthused. The boy was running and jumping from stone to rock much like a thrown rubber ball bouncing between walls. The girl was stampeding ahead as much as she could, anxious to leave her brother far behind.
We posed for photos. Explored caves (“where’s the bear?). And marveled at some of the huge boulders along the trail. We got about a mile in when my wife made a dramatic discovery. Or, more precisely, lack of discovery. “Where’s my cell phone!?”
We backtracked a bit and found it safely on the trail. (It must have slipped out her back shorts pocket). Seeing as how the deeper we went in, the longer the walk out would be, we headed back. Me and the daughter on foot. Mom way behind us … carrying the youngest on her back. (I called it her “Jedi training.”)
We then left the Viaduct and headed to Rough Ridge, a 1.2-round trip hike up a mountain. At least, that’s what I told the kids. “You want to climb a mountain!” The daughter was ecstatic, “Yes!” The son, not so much. “I’m tired. I wanna go home.”
So I did what any parent in this situation would do. Bribery. Climb this mountain, then we’ll go get ice cream. The son had a counter-offer, “Carry me.” After further negotiations, we struck a deal – I’d carry him some of the way up and he’d go with no complaint. Off we went.
Rough Ridge is a great hike. It’s pretty tough in parts, especially if you have 36 pounds of boy in your arms. We made easy time to the half-way rest point, where a series of boardwalks borders some ledges. Here there’s an outstanding view of the surrounding area. You can easily see the Viaduct, as well as the rolling landscape encompassing the Parkway. We took more photos, of course. My daughter snapped one of a group of college kids doing their own Rough Ridge pose.
From there the going got a bit tougher. The boy – and my arms – gave out just before the summit. So mom and son rested while dad and daughter went to the top. Exhilarating. Not many dads get to share such a moment with their little girl. “We conquered a mountain!!!” …… “Yeah. (pause) Can we get ice cream now.”
The trip down proved eventful. The girl wanted to be carried. Her go was gone. I acquiesced. You have never seen true sympathy in a stranger’s eyes until seen carrying a full-sized first grader down a thin mountain path littered with rocks. But it was worth it.
Later, the ice cream tasted supreme. A nice evening cap to another High Country adventure, one of many possible any given weekend. And another reason I love calling the High Country home.