Sunday, January 18, 2009

a walk in the wild

Last night, as I was going through our digital photo archives, I came across a series of pictures that I took when Charlie and the children accompanied me on a business trip to Palm Springs this past October. On one of the meeting days, we were dismissed early to explore the area. So, Charlie and I loaded up the kids and took a tram ride to the top of Mount San Jacinto.

Please, come with me as I relive the experience.

Mount San Jacinto is at an elevation of 10,834 feet above sea level, and is the second highest mountain range in Southern California. There are magnificent granite peaks, sub-alpine forests, mountain meadows and several hiking trails that allow visitors to explore the high-country wilderness area.

In order to access the mountain from Palm Springs, we hopped aboard the Palm Spring Aerial Tramway which runs from Valley Station at an elevation of 2,643 feet, to Mountain Station which is at an elevation of 8,516 feet.

Once we were off the tram, we realized that we had not planned very well and had consumed almost all of our snacks on the tram ride up. So we decided that since there would be hiking involved, we should probably pick up some additional food supplies at the Mountain Station Shop to bribe replenish the children.

With two large bottles of water, a bag of trail mix, a jumbo bag of peanut M&M's, two apples and a banana and $30.00 less in our pockets, we set off on our hike.

We stopped to observe tree that fallen down across the trail. We counted rings and looked at little worms that were burrowing in to the wood.

We scurried to the top of large rocks and played in the shadows of the magnificent trees.

We tried to pose for a family photograph by using the timer on our camera.

We tried again.

And again, and I started to feel harried as Henry threw out indications that he might be getting hungry and frustrated with all of this sitting and LOOKING AT THE BLINKING LIGHT!! LOOK!!

Finally, success. Although, it does appear William is sprouting out of Charlie's head, I was amazed that everyone actually was LOOKING AT THE BLINKING LIGHT!!

I sat down on a rock and soaked up the sun with my boys.

When suddenly, William hears something. "What is that noise? THAT NOISE? What IS that?!" I replied, "I'm sure it's nothing. Sit. Smile. Soak up the sun. This is God's Country, son!"

"No. Mommy. Good feeling is gone. What is that noise? Over there, in the twee!!"

"THAT TREE. What's that noise??"

Since I was not providing the level of support and protection that was dictated under such circumstances, both William and Elizabeth ran to their father, while Carolyn retreated to the stroller.

"Daddy. What is that noise??"

"Oh, what is that? Over yonder breaks, look children! It's a little squirrel!! See it?!"

Insert blood curdling screams here.

And here.

They tried to climb on top of their father's head.

While continuing to scream.

And scream. And then, under the weight of hysteria, Charlie started to lose his balance...

And toppled like a magnificent tree in the mountain meadow.

The kids continued to scream while Carolyn looked on from the safety of the stroller.

"Are you OK over there? Are you safe? Stay there!! Don't move!! Although not attracted to EAR PIERCING SCREAMS IN A QUIET MOUNTAIN MEADOW, small North American brown squirrels that are the size of our shoe ARE attracted to sudden movements and it will SWOOP OUT OF THE TREE AND DEVOUR YOU with their RABID teeth!!"

The first and only wildlife experience offered a prompt conclusion to our nature walk. The children were terrified to put their feet on the ground, so with Elizabeth on Charlie's shoulders, Carolyn in the stroller, William on top of the stroller, and Henry in my backpack, we began the walk up the switch back trails to Mountain Station.

And up, and up and up we went.

And up. And up. While fellow hikers looked on and asked if we had heard the blood curdling screams that echoed through the still mountain air. Was it a poisonous snake? A vicious mountain lion perhaps?

But at a mountain elevation of 8500 feet, while carrying and/or pushing more than 100 pounds of children, two large bottles of water, a bag of trail mix, a jumbo bag of peanut M&M's, two apples and a banana ... I could only shake my head and gasp, "Squirrel."


  1. What a great trip. You took me up that mountain but I think it was pre-kids. This is much more fun.
    That squirrel must have been horrible for the children. Are you sure it was not a mountain lion?

  2. OMG! Super photos w/ super narrative!! I almost woke my girls up from their naps with my laughter. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Holy Cow, that is hilarious! That photo sequence is really funny. I take it squirrels are an aberration in your part of the world? LOL Out here on the East Coast they are everywhere!

  4. Your story of the child-eating squirrel reminds me of penguins. Hundreds will group up at the edge of an iceberg then shove in the penguin nearest the edge. If it doesn't get eaten, then they all jump in for a lovely swim. I can clearly see Elizabeth at the top of an iceberg, looking down, shouting calmly, "Anything nibbling your toes yet, you two?"

    I pick Elizabeth as my hiking buddy. She has the true Survival Instinct.


  5. This post had me laughing so hard I was crying! Your little ones are a riot!
    I don't know how you managed to push that stroller up that hill. I would have passed out!

  6. Ahh... city dwellers, I just loved the 'terror squirrel' story. I had such a good laugh. Perhaps you should expose them to some 'wild' animals at the petting farm then advance to the nearest zoo to help them over their fears.
    We lived in a small community on the northern end of Vancouver Island and had a cabin in the woods by a lake when our kids were small so wild animals were no big deal to them. We had to teach them to be very respectful and cautious of the animals whose home ground we had invaded. I remember having to take our eldest daughter for an early tetanus booster shot when she got bit on the finger by a little mouse she had captured in a paper bag and was trying to pet. That was a case of too little fear on her part and a big opportunity (effective too) for me to teach respect or the critters in the woods no matter how small and cute they were. Our daughters pocket often contained salamanders (pets again) until I showed her how bad they looked dead as a result of her loving ministrations and explained (yet again) that they were meant to live their lives in the wild not her pocket. We also had frequent visits of bears in our yard, particularly on garbage day, or down by the beach looking for any goodies that were edible.
    Oh dear, this is becoming a small book, I really only meant to thank you for sharing your fun and trials with us readers but it brought back such wonderful memories of our own "walk in the wild", I hope you enjoyed them. The daughter I spoke of is 36 the next is 30 and our son is 24 they still love camping in the woods and are at long last respectful of their wildlife neighbors.

  7. Absolutely HILARIOUS. Oh do tell, ye geologists, how you will ever take the kids on field work when they are afraid of SQUIRRELS??! I'm laughing so hard.

    I got my iPod!!! I plan on spending naptime figuring out how this new-fangled technology works. It's so TINY! How can it work? I need reading glasses!

    THANK YOU!!!!! I'm sure I'll love it.

  8. That's hilarious!

    My parents (and I, just a bit) have equally lovely memories of that tram ride up... I was 5, my sister was 3, there was still some snow up there, and my sister managed to have an accident involving poop, and my mom didn't have spare clothes along for her. So they turned my sweatshirt into a temporary pair of pants for her. I was not happy about that at all. -Anita R.

  9. LOL, Jen. You can make me laugh so hard! I LOVE the pictures of the kids toppling their mighty daddy to the ground. With those expressions of terror they look like promotional stills from a motion picture set in the woods - a horror movie perhaps. Starring Wile E. Squirrel as the (noisy but) elusive villain.

    Made my day :) Also made me want to visit Palm Springs - what a beautiful area!!

  10. I am out of breath just looking at the pictures of you guys hiking up that trail. Wow!

    And next time you must warn the kids in advance about the rabid squirrels. It's a good thing you didn't come across a mountain lion! ;)

  11. OMG!!! That is the funniest thing I have read/seen in a long time! Your children would absolutely die of fright in my backyard. We have hundreds of squirrels...they are in the yard ALL day long. Not to mention the resident racoon, armadillo and family of possum. And I live in a densely populated suburb of Houston!!!


  12. I heard there is a new squirrel ride at Legoland!
    I can be ready anytime after my vacation with Noni and Jim.
    Your nephew Michael

  13. I laughed till I cried!! Thank you for sharing. Am I a bad person for laughing at those pictures?

  14. You are so funny. I love to read your blog. The narration and pictures on this one were priceless and I snorted. Is that a carrier that Baby Henry is in? Which one?

    Take Care,
    Finley and Jude (almost 4)
    Toddler Avah (almost 2)

  15. Delurking to say that I haven't giggled that much in a long, long time. Your children are so terribly delightful, and the photos that accompanied the narrative were perfect. I probably would have been laughing so hard at my kid that I may not have been able to snap one picture! Kudos to you for keeping it together and sharing this memory with us.

  16. That is just hilarious! And I loved the scenery. We lived in CA for awhile not too far from there - made several day trips to Palm Springs, but never rode the tram up the mountain.
    But I could see a snow capped Mt San Jacinto from my kitchen window.


  17. OMG Jen that is the funniest story I have ever heard. The pictures are priceless absolutely priceless. Kudos to you for being able to take them!!! I love your blog. It is so entertaining.

  18. Oh WOW!!! A photo of whole family looking at the same spot looking good - I still can not produce that one :))

  19. OMG!! That's FUNNY!! That photo sequence was priceless!!