Gum in Your Hair

A blog for parents under the big sky.

Bringing up the Rear

ARTICLE AND PHOTOS BY ELEANOR BARKER

My family loves to hike. From near-daily jaunts up the M to more ambitious treks to summits like Sacajawea, we’ve rambled all over the Bridgers and have also been lucky enough to recreate on trails in places from the coast of Maine to the Muir Woods in California.

But if you see us out on the trails, don’t look for me in front of the pack. Because I’m always bringing up the rear. That’s me, trailing behind, keeping pace with the slowest (or the youngest, or the smallest) in our party. Or gathering up the windblown hats, shedded sweatshirts and the forgotten water bottles that we’re forever leaving in our wake. Or waiting patiently for the sun to break through the clouds so I can take a deep breath or a perfect photo.

I grew up in a family of madly competitive hikers, and during many summer vacations spent roaming the Tetons, we endured some truly epic hiking adventures. We dodged lightning on Static Peak, skittered down from Hurricane Pass with a blizzard on our heels, and raced the clock and approaching darkness to board the last boat back across Jenny Lake. And I always came in last.

As a youngster, I was decidedly obstinate, resentful of others’ expectations, resistant to deadlines and timelines, and determined to set my own plodding pace. My position at the back of the pack started out as a silent protest, but something funny happened back there. When I was a kid, I chose the back of the line as the best place to hide. But as a mom, I’ve grown to love the view.

The view? Of people walking away? Yep. When I flip through photos of my family on our favorite jaunts, they all have that one thing in common. Unless I’ve managed to force everyone to turn and smile - no easy task - my boys are always walking (or more often running) away from me. Which, strange to say, brings me joy. Because my boys aren’t leaving me behind; they’re racing ahead to explore the unknown, embracing the possibilities that lie around the next bend, marching confidently towards their bright futures. And isn’t that just what we hope they’ll do?

 

 

 

Eleanor Barker is Executive Director of the Children’s Museum of Bozeman. She and her husband enjoy skiing, CrossFit and quality time with two teenage boys.