And just like that, I have a teenager. My son, my precious baby boy, is a teenager. We’ve all heard it before, and it’s true enough to repeat: time moves impossibly fast. It’s just leaving, right now, right past us. My children, who souls are most beautiful, remind me of this daily. It’s like I have three hearts and two of them beat outside of my chest. They exist, enclosed in the ribs of my children. A nearly perfect combination of me and his father, Blake is a kind young man with a heart of pure gold. He is wonderful with small children, has a ridiculous sense of humor, is sharp as tack and, most importantly, he loves his mama. (swoon) When I asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate his 13th birthday, he said he wanted to hike to one of his favorite waterfalls, Whiteoak Canyon, and invite friends and family. His request made me proud. I’ve intentionally been taking them hiking more frequently this year and we hiked Whiteoak in February. Then, the trail was covered in ice, snow and mud and there was hardly any green to be seen. This time, it was a completely different hike with lush life all around us. The air was surprisingly cool for a June afternoon so when we arrived I looted the soon-to-be-dropped-off-at-Goodwill bag in my trunk and tossed sweatshirts out to our shivering group. There were 11 of us total: a good group of adult friends, kid friends and family.
The kids helped me pack supplies for the day: water, gummies, pop tarts, a Harry Potter book, hand warmers, a loupe, bandaids. My son threw in his fire-starter knife, you know, just incase. Not my standard backpack-o-survival but it would surely get us through the day. Our friend, Erin, met us in Broadway and we headed to Skyline Drive via 211/Luray. The Whiteoak trail was solid ice at first. My daughter hit the deck after three steps…but we laughed it off and kept moving, staying in the brush and stepping toward exposed earth. My son, on the other hand, charged forward. Slipping, sliding, hurdling, clanking sticks, climbing to the tallest points…my little goat…setting my stomach into fits of somersaults. Boys…middle school boys. Lord help ’em. We noticed some large tracks on the trail. And now that I review the photos, maybe they are a bit larger in my head than in real life. I tend to lean toward exaggeration…it’s more fun. That day though, I was thankful I didn’t have cell service. I would’ve googled the paw prints and convinced myself they were the print of a timber wolf…and that’s pretty unlikely. Right? …right?! Ella declared herself “Detective Cheetah” and inspected the prints with the loupe she brought along. Her prediction: a ghost cat. The paw prints led to some interesting conversations about ghost cats, ghost catnaps, animal use of man-made trails, animal communication and relationships compared to that of humans. The mountain is a great place to ask such questions and not expect answers. So we did a lot of that. Just as the kids started getting a little antsy…we could hear the roar of the falls. I’ll never forget my son’s face when he stood on the rock and looked out at Whiteoak Canyon. For a split second, he was all kid again. In awe of nature. Stoked. I can’t bottle that pure emotion but I aim to keep setting up moments like that for my children. We didn’t want to leave but the sun would be getting low soon. We finished our snacks and retraced our steps, content with new memories in our bank.
These protein balls are the perfect hike snack. They’re super easy and delish. Here’s the recipe.
And the tree was happy.