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  • by Carolyn Lackey

Mountain Mama

My husband, Alan, and I took a sentimental journey last week. We traveled "back in time" to one of our favorite spots - Estes Park, Colorado - which serves as the Eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Alan and I are bona fide National Park Nerds. I have explored 21 NPs to date. Alan comes in second with 17 NPs visited.

Secretly, I felt rather apprehensive about the trip. Alan, the planner, spent hours pouring over trail maps getting all excited about hiking to Calypso Cascade, Emerald Lake and the like. He researched trails that we've never hiked before. I wasn't sure how on earth a 60-year-old, sedentary, out-of-shape housewife like me with a touch of arthritis in both knees and terrible feet would conquer even the .8 mile "tenny shoe trail" around Bear Lake.

Then, I remembered Meems, the Mountain Mama.

When our three sons were little, she accompanied us on several of our National Park quests. She was a baller, that one. Back in the day, she was an active member of the Huaco Outing Club in Waco. Up until her mid-70's she went on many a weekend tent-camping adventure with her Huaco buddies. Meems had her own tent, sleeping bag, nifty lanterns and camping gismos. I still can't figure out how my little feminine, fashion plate, Chanel No. 5-spritzed mother became a Woman of the Wild. But, she did.

Here she is in Estes Park in '93 at the age of 67. "Mimi! Climb up here and sit by me!"

I'll never forget this day in 1998. We were hiking up to Hidden Canyon in Zion NP. The first part of the trail was a grueling zigzag of switchbacks taking us high up on a canyon wall. About two-thirds of the way up, Meems let exhaustion get the best of her. "Can I have the car keys? I need to head back down. I'm just too old for this. I'll just sit in the car and wait for you to come down," she sniffled. The tears began to flow. Old Age came a-callin'. She felt defeated. Alan, the boys, and I all gave her pep talks. "You can do it, Mimi!" "We'll go really slow and rest when you want to rest!" "You're not that far from the BEST PART!" "You can do it!" She dried her tears and began to slowly put one foot in front of another.

At last, we came to the "BEST PART" of the hike. The "trail" became a rock ledge about the width of Alan's shoulders. One carefully navigates this ledge by walking sideways clinging to the "complimentary" chain handrail. Below is a sheer rock face that leads down, down, down to the hard rock floor of the canyon. I cannot even begin to express how dangerous and scary this portion of the hike is. Meems was 72 years old. SEVENTY TWO. Reed (little tyke to the right of Alan) was six. Meems was legally blind, and young Reed was officially clumsy. What could possibly go wrong?

On this same Utah adventure, Meems hiked all the way to the bottom of Bryce Canyon and back up, all the way up to the Delicate Arch in Arches NP, and trekked several "tedious" trails in RNMP. She was determined to do everything and see everything. And, to take pictures while she did and saw everything.

So, last week as I hiked RMNP alongside my beloved Mountain Man, I channeled my inner Meems. If I'm going to become my mother, I'm going to have to "hike the hike"

Me at the base of Bridal Veil Falls sportin' Meems' hiking stick.

Alan helped me scale up the side of the falls to see the upper pool and a second waterfall.

It was there that I decided to pay homage the my Texas Tech Chi Omegas.

(I'm one of their advisors.)

I give them credit for keeping me young.

Alan and Jesus kept me alive.

My fitbit hit 10,000 steps just before Bridal Veil Falls came into view. During the first 1/3 of the hike I felt discouraged, nay, wimpy because a group of older hikers (average age 70) overtook us on the trail about a mile below the falls. I was huffin' and puffin'. The good news is that they couldn't handle the treacherous, steep rock-scrambling it took to cover the last 1/4 mile up to the falls. Like Butch Cassidy, I kept looking behind me to see if I was still being "pursued." I was all "DANG IT!" if I saw them nipping at my heels. When, at last, the Old Ones finally disappeared behind me, I felt truly triumphant. I had a Wonder Woman moment. As proud as I felt, I knew that if 72YO Meems had been with them, she would have been hot on my heels all the way to the top of the falls. DANG IT!

I'm proud to announce that I'm continuing to become my mother.

I went. I saw. I conquered.

I hiked a total of

18 miles

in RMNP!

And, I only fell down once.

PS. A word of advice. Hiking boots. It's all about quality hiking boots. Never look for good deals. Look for good support. And, hopefully, you'll only fall down once.

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