...Or lets introduce Val to the basics of rock climbing.
There was a phone call on the answering machine from our ex-neighbors. "Hey the kids are missing you, can you come by for a hike with us for a bit this afternoon?"
Ben and Terri moved away to a rental home last month. It isn't too far away, perhaps about 12 miles.
I've known the family since 2009 when they became the new owners of the house at the top of the hill.
We shared a driveway and a sense of 'adopted' family.
Terri is the same age as my youngest son and I've seen her family grow as well as babysitting for her over the years.
So off I went to go for a hike at the home they are staying in until they get ready for their next home.
Before I could put the Subaru in park, the kids and Terri were blasting out of the house.
"Hi Val!" they hollered and the kids came on the run. I got hugs from them all.
Pretty quick Terri got Dutch and Manny, their dogs and we were ready for the hike.
The place they are renting is in a deep valley, there is a beautiful rock outcropping high above the house and a deep rocky dry run that runs down through the property.
The kids led the way up the trail, which we old timers call a 'ridge road'. Brier who will be 5 soon, stopped me and told me that we would cross a bridge and that it was a very safe bridge and he could help me.
We crossed the bridge over the dry run and the kids dropped into the 'gulch'.
"Come on Val," they said, "Let's go, we want to show you the cool rocks we have here."
At the beginning, it sure looked innocent enough. Terri had Dutch on a leash and said she had to go up to the trail because Dutch couldn't climb.
Of course I just thought to myself. Dutch is very old and has a hard time negotiating mossy rocks.
Brier waved me on, his sisters had gone ahead.
"Come on Val!"
Then we came to an area that reminded me of a gulch. We walked in among the rocks and the girls simply disappeared around the corner of a sandstone formation.
Brier waved to me, "Come on!" he said, "We get to climb here!"
I followed figuring this wouldn't be such a big deal. After all the kids were doing this, how hard could it be?
How hard could it be?
The ledge where Ambrosia is braced is about 5 ft off the rocks below her. We were in a circle of sandstone carved over the years by water into a circle. When heavy rains occurred on the ridge or a large snow melt occurred, the waters would rush down this 'dry' run and cascade off the boulders and rush down the valley.
I stopped and watched.
"You guys have done this before?"
Ambrosia answered while trying to wiggle herself into a position so she could climb the boulders above her.
"Oh yes!" she answered, "With Dad!"
Brier tugged my sleeve.
He said, "You need to help me and Clover get up on the ledge."
Clover turned and said, "If I get a boost, I can get up there."
I looked down at Brier, his 5th birthday was a month away and here he and his sisters were climbing fearlessly doing basic real rock climbing moves.
Surely an old fart like myself could figure it out.
I boosted Clover to the ledge and she struggled and I kept as close to her as possible until she made it over the boulders and to safety. Ambrosia had laid over one boulder and extended her hands to pull Clover and steady her.
Next was Brier.
I don't have the strongest upper body, but I managed to get Brier on to the ledge. Both sisters lay across the boulders above to offer a hand. I climbed half way and hung on by bracing my legs against stone.
I put my hands under Brier's feet so they wouldn't slip and he continued to climb.
Finally he was up and over and it was my turn.
Okay. An 11 year old, 9 year old, and a nearly 5 year old had just done this, right?
I got safely onto the ledge and had to stop and think. There were no hand holds to get a safe grip. The climbing had to be done with bracing. I couldn't brace with my back as I had my camera sling pack on.
I wiggled around and got situated to go over the mossy boulders.
Ambrosia came back and offered a hand.
"Just stay there while I rest a moment," I replied. My heart was pounding. This was hard!
I was able to grasp enough of the rock to pull myself over and up.
Ambrosia turned to catch up with her brother and sister.
"There's one more," she said over her shoulder.
I turned and looked down.
That was a climb!
The next one was a bit tricky too, but I was able to climb it after helping Clover and Brier. When I got to its top, the dry run became quite a bit tamer.
At the top of the second climb we meet Terri and Dutch.
I chided her for 'misleading' me on the little bit of rock climbing I'd just done.
I said, "Jeeze Terri, I'm 59 years old! I've never climbed rocks like that before!" I laughed and she replied.
"Val, our intention is to never let you get old."
I grinned like a kid.
I looked back down after we'd gotten up further. It was beautiful, even in November.
I followed them to the top of the dry run. Ambrosia took a side trip in order to climb and old tree and its roots that were hanging on the side of the huge ditch.
The kids loved climbing.
I thought how wonderful it was to see them so confident in their abilities.
Children need this sort of activity or something like it. I can recall being the Queen of antics on the Monkey Bars in school and being called a Monkey by my mom with my tree climbing abilities.
I still had it at my ripe ... old... age.
We walked up to the ridge and investigated a doe that had been killed by coyotes. The kids looked down into the rib cage and I told them that this kill wasn't that old, perhaps 24 hours only.
I showed them that half of the lungs were still there. I didn't present the deer kill as gross or scary, just as a curiosity.
The kids called it "Cool."
We followed the ridge road back down to the house. After the rocky adventure, it was quite mundane.
I fell asleep last night thinking about how exciting it was climbing those rocks.
And as I drifted off to slumber-land, I wondered if I was too old to take up a new sport.