My scouts needed to go on a hike for one of their scout patches. We voted on where to go, and the vote came out to be Table Mountain. I have hiked Table Mountain with my scouts and with my family more times than I care to count, and every time I do, I swear I will never go there again. But I had promised my scouts that anything they would do, I would do as well, so I had to go.
That hike is six miles up, climbing 6000 feet, and then it is six miles back down. But harder than the climb is that when I go with my scouts, there is always one or two who hike so slowly that it is the pace that is tiring. When I hike, I like to take full length strides, but, having to keep track of my scouts, I always bring up the rear and have to follow the slowest group.
That particular year wasn’t any different. Although 14 of the boys we had with us were in good shape from lots of farm work, two did nothing all day but watch television and play video games, and I knew it would be a torturous hike.
Before sunrise, we started out by going through a checklist of everything they should have in their packs. We checked off water, food, rain gear, an emergency flashlight, and snacks for along the way. The sun was just peeking over the mountain when we lifted the packs to our shoulders and started the climb up the first set of switchbacks that took us into the heart of the canyon.
Things went just as I feared. My assistant scout master, leading the way, was soon far ahead with 14 of the boys, while I found myself behind the other two, who plodded along and needed to rest after only short intervals. We hadn’t gone much more than a hundred yards before they were gasping for air and I had to transfer their packs to my own back. I found their packs to be heavier than I expected, but only assumed it was because I was getting older.
Now, carrying their two packs plus my own, I found myself tiring quickly, but I was determined to continue on. All of their talk was about video games and movies, things I participate in very little.
Even though I was tired from the extra load, I felt an anxiousness to keep moving, knowing that getting caught in a late afternoon thunderstorm could be dangerous. Still, we had to stop often, not for me to rest, but for them.
It seemed like forever before we reached the last mile, which was a final, steep ascent to the summit. It was at this point that we met the other group coming down. My assistant told me they had waited for us at the top for about an hour, but had finally grown impatient, and he could detain them no longer. The other group left some treats with us, and, as it was already getting late into the afternoon, the three of us decided to stop and eat lunch before making our last push to the top.
As the two boys I was with opened their packs fully, and I saw for the first time what took up most of the space and weight, a feeling of frustration, anger, and disgust almost overcame me. Their packs were full of hand held video games.
“You mean I have carried these stupid things all the way up here?! How in the world do you think they are going to help you on the mountain?!”
I started to pull them out with the intent of throwing them over the edge of the cliff, but they begged me not to. Probably the only thing that truly deterred me was that I would be littering.
They promised they would carry their own things from there, but only a few minutes farther along into the steep climb, I again found myself straining under all three packs.
Finally, we were almost there, only a few feet from the summit, and the boys stopped me.
“We want to carry our packs from here.”
When I asked them why, they rolled their eyes. “Well, duh, how do you think it would look if we weren’t able to tell everyone we carried our packs to the top?”