Just 5 and 7 years of age, Jace and RJ take on the stunning Lake Hauser, in northern Wyoming, where the view is captivating and the bear tend to keep their distance (for the most part).
On this day, as we hiked in, packs stuffed to their absolute maximum capacity, we marverled at the lofty pines and the flat, stair like rocks that made their way to the tips on the mountains. I’m captivated by staring into the landscape of the towering trees and thinking about what might be staring back at me from within. RJ’s pack covered his body from above his head down to his little knees. Jace, being smaller, carried a backpack stuffed with all the necessities, like a Mickey Mouse pillow that has somehow survived (via mending) numerous dog attacks. Also, the same pillow that has somehow remained desirable after every kind of bodily fluid has soaked its surface. To say this pillow is a necessity is an understatement. We make room just for this pillow, even it if means foregoing underwear. Who really needs underwear anyway? Well, RJ does, actually. I’ve never seen anyone shart so much, which is a blessing really.
So, strapped to its faithful owner, Mickey Mouse pillow and Jace take off into the tall pines and flat rocks of the Beartooth Mountains bordering MT and WY. It was only about a mile hike in with fairly uneventful happenings. We did stop for lunch by lake #1 where the boys found a pretty cool cave between two giant rocks. They played around in these rocks while Raymond and I made tuna and chicken (from bags) pitas. We followed it up with a handful of dried fruit trail mix and a Camelback bottle filled with fresh, cold, filtered lake water.
When we got to our site of camping, which was really just the best piece of flat ground we could find, located between the trees and the water, we called it home. Best part? The hikers before us dug a pretty legit fire hole, which instantly satisfied our need of digging a poop hole. I was the first to utilize this wilderness toilet, if you’re wondering. I don’t know why, after 30 years of life, I’m just now discovering that I’m actually a pretty competent bush woman–and not just because I can poop in a hole. Although, I gotta say, it does take some mad skills to squat, concentrate, hold on your pants and a tree in front of you AND fend off an army of mosquitoes that have just discovered untouched, bare skin. Oh, and reach for the tp. I also couldn’t help by wonder what animals were watching the whole thing thinking to themselves that there’s gotta be a better way. With which I would reply “I know, right!?”
The whole while RJ and Jace were flipping over big, flat rocks with their new knives. They just needed these knives to do “you know, knife things”. They cheered with every worm they found and kept them for pets, in which I made clear were NOT coming home with us.
As Raymond finished setting up camp, the boys took the rocks they dislodged and made a fire ring. They also gathered fire wood and made a plentiful pile for easy grab. After a delicious bag meal (seriously though, it was delicious). Raymond took us into the deep pines, a stones throw away, and taught us how to hang a bear bag high up in a tree. The boys found a caterpillar that they begged to cut in half. I reminded them that we only do that to spiders. With that, we walked back to camp.
The boys and this Momma Bear established a safe distance which they can play without us going with them. Although, our two dogs never let them off the hook–they trailed along the whole time. We prayed for dogs like this.
When it rained we played UNO under the refuge of our tent. When the mosquitoes left a permanent buzzing noise in our ear holes, we played UNO in the tent. When Mom and Dad needed alone time, we played “UNO” in the tent. I’m just kidding, I am a Momma Bear, after all. My eyes rarely come off of my children, whether in the city or the wilderness. I give them space enough to explore their independence and problem solve on their own terms, but this Mom can be found watching from afar, because this Momma don’t play, and I support the Second Amendment.
When the weather calmed down enough for us to explore, we packed our day bag d our fishing gear (leaving the boys’ newfound friends behind) and trekked on over to the other side of the lake. What we found was terrifying, yet, somehow freeing. After we fished, with little luck, we decided to take the other way back to the camp, which circled us around the whole lake. We found old bear poop and new bear poop. We found old elk track and new elk track. We found old bigfoot prints and new bigfoot prints. OK, I’m just kidding about the last one. I say terrifying because, well, HELLO, fresh bear poop, right where we stand! Even armed with a pistol and two canisters of bear spray, you feel pretty vulnerable. Freeing because there is just something about being connected to nature in such a way that is so liberating. Side note, I never once took my daily anxiety med while out there, nor did it cross my mind. You know that saying “into the woods I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”? There is no better way of putting it, and I don’t think there ever will be. Being out there, albeit for 3 days, helped me find something deep inside myself that I never knew was lost.
Our last morning at camp proved to be a productive one. While Raymond took down the tent, the boys and I took our knives out and channeled our inner forest people We built a pretty “epic” (RJ’s words) wilderness shelter out of pine branches and dead tree limbs from non pines. Unfortunately, we couldn’t play around with it die to time restraint, but we hope to see it again one day. That is, if an “epic” storm doesn’t come through and take it back to its natural form.
This way of life, in the outdoors, isn’t just something my husband and I want our kids to experience, it’s something we want to instill in them. There is more to life than knowing how to use different controllers for different TVs and game consoles. There is life, beautiful, wondrous life just beyond the road. A life that may take some skill to survive a long period of time, but that gives back two fold. My boys will be raised a little men of God who respect others and nature, including natures inhabitants.
What nobody could have anticipated in this crazy thing we call life is that God would not only bless me with the man of my dreams, but grant me the responsibility of two, exceptional little men of my own, coining me a “boymom” for the rest of my life–and gift them with the coolest mom anyone could hope for, am I right!?
With a zeal for living as much of life as we can in the outdoors, and a weird enthusiasm for gaining as many survival skills as we possibly can, it’s only natural that my husband and I would want to pass on these amazing qualities to our children. You really never know when they may need to fend off a crazed bear or, you know, a zombie apocalypse. I mean, the Bible does say something about the spiritually dead walking amongst us–or something like that, anyway. The point is that my boys are going to grow up with the basics of survival skills, because momma says so…and why the heck not!? There’s just something about being able to use the strengths and abilities we were given as humans and not rely on the world to provide for our needs.
Life was grand in the world of 10 year old little me. It wasn’t uncommon for my brother and I to pitch our guns over our shoulders and walk the trees on our spacious farm to hunt whatever birds dared to land on a branch within eye-shot of us. Laws about that kind thing never really went passed our ear holes. We were country kids, after all. That’s what country kids do! One time, before the bus came bumping down our long, gravel driveway, my big bro landed himself a morning dove. We hadn’t eaten breakfast yet (although it wouldn’t have mattered if we had) so mom cleaned the bird and fried it up for us. Now every time my own kids point out a morning dove and we admire their lovely songs, I can’t help but remember just how beautiful that breast of meat was, and tasted.
Also, I should probably mention the elephant in the room. The big, big elephant. Ok, it’s not an elephant at all, it’s the bigfoot, the Sasquatch, the record holder of the finest of kids games, the hide and seek champion of the world. Why do we like him, you’re probably asking yourself? I don’t know, why do Americans drink 10 billions dollars worth of Starbucks a year? All I can say is life is better with a friend, real or imaginary. Just kidding, my imaginary friend was killed off when I was 9. Bolt, like the actual bolt (like nuts and bolts) just didn’t have a spot in my life anymore. Actually, my husband have always liked the illusive beast that is bigfoot, no explanation needed, no explanation given, simply because there is no explanation at all. What can I say, we are a different kind of abnormal–just us and our two, adorable little-foots.