The rope

My daughter, Ev, right, works her way down the steep slope of Dutch Creek Falls in Coloma on the rope she swore we had no use for.

Are you an outdoor enthusiast? Does nature make your heart churn in wonder? Do you have children that are equally unenthused about your incessant outdoor adventures?

Welcome to my club. 

I’m not quite sure where my daughter’s hiking aversions come from. As a toddler she loved going outside and exploring the world by my side, but somewhere around the age of six going on 16 she developed an insatiable need to criticize my every decision.

The first example I can think of is a trip we took a couple years ago to visit family on the East Coast. During this time we visited the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to see our country’s most cherished monuments. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial my daughter caught sight of a popsicle cart, and of course she wanted one. I on the other hand wasn’t about to pay six bucks for an otter pop and she had already topped her sweets quota for the day at grandma’s house.

“No,” I said as sweetly as possible. “But I have some healthy snacks packed if you’d like.”

I expected a small bit of pushback, but certainly not the level of disdain and resentment that followed. For hours, all my sister and I heard was how much better off her life would be if only she had an ice cold popsicle to enjoy.

“Wow,” said my daughter. “Sometimes moms care about their children, and sometimes they don’t.”

As we walked along the tidal basin, under the peaking blooms of Japanese cherry blossoms, I imagined this would’ve been a dream come true for most little girls across the globe. My beloved daughter, however, scoffed at any attempt I made to document these precious memories and informed me that “maybe I’d smile if I had a popsicle.”

Her tenacity lasted the entire day, until a small black bird broke the tension of her iron will. We were headed back toward the car, following the Potomac River to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge, when all of a sudden a soft warm splatter came to rest upon my head. I gently patted my part line and sure enough, guano.

My sister quickly sprung into action with a stash of napkins and a water bottle, and as she scrubbed the poo off my scalp, I watched my daughter roll in laughter at my feet. This is still one of her favorite memories. 

Just recently, the family and I set off to explore Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma. The trail we took was called Dutch Creek Falls, and like any responsible hiker mom, I had done my due diligence on AllTrails and thought it might be useful to bring the utility rope I keep stashed in the trunk. This rope is one of my many “just in case” items, and I was proud to finally justify one of my “prepper” tendencies. 

Surprisingly, my daughter enthusiastically volunteered to carry the rope as we set off down Bayne Road toward the green gated trail head. A few yards in, my daughter started to heavily question what use we could ever possibly have with such an item.  

“Just in case,” I said. “You never know.”

“But why, there’s really no reason,” she replied.

“Well, there could be, I haven’t done this trail before and some people said there are some steep parts,” I added, trying not to lose patience. 

“Look, it’s flat,” she said, “We don’t need this.”

“We aren’t on the trail yet darling,” I chimed back through gritted teeth.

Sensing the tension, my partner joined in and offered to carry the rope if it was an issue, an offer my daughter adamantly refused.

“No, I want to carry it,” she stated roughly.

“Well then don’t complain about it,” my partner clapped back. “If you think we don’t need it, then I’m happy to carry it for you.”

“Even if you carry it, I’ll still be upset about it,” said my daughter with a stubbornness that was almost admirable.

We continued on like this for some time until we ventured off the path to explore a small set of cascades and swimming holes. I began scaling some boulders to see how far up the river we could travel off trail, which inspired my daughter to do the same. She managed the first couple on her own, but as the path began to steepen it was clear she would need some assistance. With a soft smile, I pulled the rope from my pack and fastened a harness around her waist.

“What do we need a rope for?” I taunted.

She shrugged as if she had no idea what I was talking about and began scrambling up the cliffs. Our “off-road” adventuring eventually made its way back to the main trail as it meandered toward the falls. The last section of trail descended at a sharp 45 degree angle and the ground beneath our feet skidded from loose rocks and sand. A few old ropes were fastened to a nearby tree to aid aspiring hikers, but to ensure our safety we doubled up with the one we had brought. From there, we slowly belayed our way down with my daughter sandwiched between us. The bottom greeted us with lovely blue-green waters, red dragon flies, and the tumbling flow of Dutch Creek as it raced to meet the southern fork of the American River. I reached around to grab my camera but my arms were blocked by the vice grip of a tiny eight-year-old’s embrace. I looked down as she smiled up at me, her eyes gleaming with excitement. 

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m glad we brought that rope.”

Recommended for you