The view from the cross atop Mount Tzouhalem is worth the exercise. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Column: Forced exercise yields unexpected mountainside inspiration

And with that it was settled. Sunday turned into mountain climbing day.

I remember my mom, back when we were young and wearing her down to her wit’s end in the dog days of summer, very clearly telling us to “get in the car, dammit, we are going out to have fun, whether we like it or not!”

I have become my mother.

Last summer we didn’t really get up to much as a family. We had a baby and a barely-two-year-old and I was still trying to figure out how to manage it all. I wasn’t as concerned about family adventures as I was about keeping everyone fed and bathed and about remembering how to get stains out of onesies. This summer, however, I’ve been determined for us all to spend more time outdoors so I introduced fun-sounding activities like “a family walk” and “a nature hike.”

I think my husband prefers to call it “forced exercise.”

I had gone on a coffee run early last Sunday morning and had arrived home to three groggy, swollen faces — all of which were not impressed when I declared with oddly unusual enthusiasm that the weather couldn’t possibly have been any more awesome and that I thought we should get out and get up Mount Tzouhalem before autumn really took hold.

“We’re going to nature, and we’re going to have fun, darn it!”

My mother’s words were flying out of my mouth.

And with that it was settled. Sunday turned into mountain climbing day.

I had texted a friend to ask her advice on the best route for lugging a one-year-old and a three-year-old up the mountain and before I knew it she and her two children had joined us at the Providence Farm side. It’s well-known as the steeper, but shorter, route. My friend and I like a challenge. My husband? Not as keen, but a willing participant nevertheless.

He and I each had a child strapped to our back and it was our intention to get up to the cross and back. My friend’s goal, however, was to hike up with her three- and five-year-olds as far as they could go before turning back.

Pretty quickly into the walk my friend picked up her 37-pound three-year-old. I was so impressed with her strength and conditioning as we made our ascent. Any other day she would have been the standout. But she wasn’t the standout on that day.

It wasn’t long before her five-year-old began asking if we were there yet and complaining that her legs were tired. The difficult 500m incline was a lot for her little legs and made even harder by the weight of the rocks and twigs she kept stuffing in her backpack “to build a nest”.

But she refused all offers to turn back.

We took periodic rests, we heard a little bit of whining, but we carried on all the way to the top and back down again. Now, we didn’t break any land-speed records but that wasn’t the point. This little girl was not going to quit.

And she didn’t.

And it was so inspiring.

In addition to forcing us to have fun, when I was little my mom used to praise my “sticktoitivness”. It’s something I’ve never forgotten when life gets hard and something that my young climbing buddy reminded me of once again on Sunday. It’s OK to take a rest. It’s OK to whine a bit. But keep going.

And if this young lady maintains the sticktoitivness she showed us this weekend, she’ll do more than just climb mountains, she’ll move them.

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