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For parents, everyday beings with an ‘alpine start’

May 15, 2012

For parents, every day begins with an ‘alpine start’

As published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette

Saturday arrives and I am awakened by an irresistible, little voice, “I want cereal.”

The clock glows 5:47 a.m. and Adam stands next to the bed in his fuzzy “monkey suit” pajamas, clinging to his silky giraffe blanket.

He has learned the value of persistence from his older sister, Zoe, and I realize, in my foggy state, that I have about 39 seconds to act before his request escalates into a full-blown demand to end world hunger.

As I slowly emerge from the warm bed, he zooms down the hall. Soon he is seated at the kids’ table, stuffing fistfuls of Gorilla Munch into his mouth, the familiar sound of collateral cereal sprinkling the floor.

I sit down with a strong cup of tea and the morning paper, just in time for Adam to remind me that Gorilla Munch goes best with a cup of orange juice.

Approaching the table to serve the young prince his drink, the sound of cereal being crushed under my sandal leaves me mumbling choice words.

Soon Lori greets me with a morning kiss. I offer her a hot cup of tea, as Adam wiggles onto her lap and our daughter Zoe, sleepy-eyed and sporting serious bedhead, wanders into the kitchen.

Our spirits awaken as the rising sun brightens our kitchen. We muse about weekends before kids, when we lived, worked and played in the mountain mecca of Boulder, Colo.

In those days, Saturdays were for wilderness adventure. Running trails in the foothills, climbing 1,000-foot rock formations, hiking along the continental divide, and hitting the slopes to carve turns in fresh powder are now treasured memories.

To stay ahead of hot temperatures, lightning storms or avalanche conditions, those journeys often started in the wee morning hours; “alpine starts” in mountain lore. No matter how tired, the spirit of adventure would crank the body out of bed.

Zoe announces she, too, is ready for a cup of juice, and Adam cheerfully says, “More munch, please!”

An inventory of my gear tells the story of transition from pre-kid mountain life to domesticity.

My trusty headlamp, once a key tool in my 10 essentials wilderness kit, is now a daily staple, which I don every night, to read bedtime stories with the kids.

My coveted red, Gortex parka, purchased 11 years ago at an outdoor-gear swap, keeps me warm and dry on my sleek, hybrid commuter, kid trailer in tow, which replaced my rugged, mountain bike.

I recently strapped on my climbing harness, ascended a neighbor’s dying sugar maple tree, wielding a chainsaw, and trimmed it to the ground, while others guided the fall of the main trunk with my oldest climbing rope, purchased years ago during a trip to the picturesque Swiss Alps.

The kids routinely use my one-person backpacking tent as a basement fort. This same tent sheltered me from the elements during countless wilderness trips, including a four-week trek in Nepal that culminated with near sleepless nights in the thin air and cold, glacial ice of a remote 20,000-foot peak.

Fittingly, when night time temperatures recently dipped into the low 20s, I built a tripod of maple tree branches over our newly planted apple tree, and draped my tent’s rain fly over the tender flowering branches.

As Lori serves our morning oatmeal, we console each other with promises of more wilderness outings, when the kids are a bit older. Talk turns to plans for our weekend adventures. I agree to load our gear: diaper bag, snacks and water bottles, so that we can stomp around in the woods and return in time for lunch and naps. We both agree that for parents of young children, every day begins with an alpine start.

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