“Caution: Trail not maintained. Use not recommended.” I think that is an accurate representation of my family vacations. My mom has always been a huge fan of a good adventure, and so far in my life I’ve been swimming in the ocean with manta rays at midnight, stuck on a dogsled at the center of a snowstorm, and driving through lighting bolts in Nowhere, Idaho. There was one particular trip, however, that was even more hilariously cliche and “what-were-we-thinking” than the others. Mom had just proposed to the family her newest quest: a mission to hike all of America’s National Parks. For my family, this was like a challenge. Us versus the National Parks. So we said, “Bring it on!”, and we headed for Mount Rainer in beautiful Washington State.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Actually, we were just about to leave for the airport when my brother, Jack, and I decided to take a short bike ride and Jack challenged me to a race. I watched him quickly take the lead, and then, a couple houses away from ours, hit a bump in the road and flip over his handlebars. Jack broke both of his arms, and came home from the emergency room a couple hours later with bulky temporary casts and tear-stained cheeks. But, being his mamma’s boy, he insisted on still taking the trip. We rescheduled our flight for that evening and headed for Mount Rainer with a total of six functioning arms. The next morning dawned with potential. The trail my mom decided we would take was deemed “treacherous” by the visitor’s brochure and the somewhat-chubby park ranger warned us that people normally take about six hours to complete it. “Psh, what does he know,” my mom said, “People are not this family!” We drove out to what seemed like the very edge of the park, with no other cars in sight, and pulled up alongside the trailhead to a sign that said “High risk of bear encounters.” We started hiking along the edge of a dense forest, then forked off and began to climb over huge boulders through a canyon—my brother’s casted arms above his head like he was in a stick-up—trying to guess where the actual trail was. After half an hour, we spotted the one-foot-wide trail entering the bear-infested forest. Then, after two more hours of hunched-over walking and holding on to tree branches to keep from sliding downhill, we came to a sign announcing that we had reached the end of the “maintained” part of the trail. By that point, none of us were too enthused to continue on, but my mom reminded us that “this part is what our family does best!” I was convinced that this was not the part that I did best, but my dad had already begun to follow my mom, with the food and water in his backpack, so I followed. Then we came to the bridge. The bridge was straight out of an Indiana Jones movie: It swung about five hundred feet over a canyon and was built with wooden planks each spaced about five inches apart. I don’t remember much about crossing the bridge, but I will always remember the look on my dad’s face as he started to make his way across to his family. He was closing his eyes, and I thought he was trying to show off like he always did, but I later learned the truth: maybe my family was a danger-loving superfamily, but my fearless, superhero dad was afraid of heights.
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