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Our Annual Labor Day “Hike”

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So Will looks a little pale here, but at least all three of us are in the photo right?

Five years ago, Chris and I hiked Tibbet Knob on Labor Day.

Honestly, it was terrible.  We’d heard that the out-and-back trail was a less-crowded version of Old Rag (that gorgeous rock-scrambling hike in the Shenandoah Mountains that’s so popular the rocks are actually slick and shiny from overuse).  We heard there would be beautiful vistas and lovely waterfalls.

All lies.  The hike started (and thus, ended) with a 1.5 mile steep descent into gnat-infested swampy trails.  There were no nice views–at least none that we saw while beating back heavy brush for two hours before calling it quits to try and beat daylight up the gargantuan hill mountain back to the car.  We ran out of water–the only time that has ever happened to us, ever–and started eating packets of powdered gatorade out of desperation.  I was fairly sure Chris was going to have a heart attack.

But, we made it out and down the road to a McDonalds where we ordered super-sized beverages and declared that Labor Day would hence forth always be celebrated with a family hike in the wilderness.

As it turns out though, Year 2 of our annual Labor Day hike was also a bit of a dud, if not an all-out failure.  We drove 3.5 hours to Assateague Island in order to hike and camp on the beach…only to watched as the last permit for the day was awarded to the couple standing next to us in the Ranger’s Office.  We saw some horses, took some pictures and then went off in search of a good diner for dinner before the long drive back to Washington D.C.   A beautiful drive though!

Year 3 we had been in China for just 4.5 months when we decided to hike Hou Shan (the back side of Qing Cheng Shan) for Labor Day.

Once again, the day did not start auspiciously.  Before we could even park the car, my camera battery died.  Then we drove up and down the mountain for 2 hours trying to figure out where to park.  Then we spent another hour trying to cajole every resident we could find into telling us how to find the trail.

“Oh certainly!” they all said, “but first you must come check into my hotel…”

Eventually we found the way up the mountain…though the backyard of a tea garden and behind a construction site.  Only in China.

In the end though, all of the hassle was totally worth it.  I wrote afterwards that it was my favorite day in China at the time.  Two years later I still think it was the most beautiful, magical day we ever had there, which is saying something, when you think about it.  

Last summer we wondered whether we’d be able to keep the Labor Day tradition alive after Will was born on one of the last days in July.  We did it though.  We bundled Will up on Labor Day when he was just 5 weeks old and went for a solid one hour walk hike over hills and muddy trails at a State Park near my parents house…albeit very slowly and on trails that rarely veered more than 30 feet from a frisbee golf course.

This year, despite arriving in India just 2.5 weeks ago, despite my in-laws arriving in India 2.5 days ago, despite our lack of car and our lack of gear, I foolishly declared that there was no way we were going to break our streak.  We were going hiking, somehow, somewhere, end of story.  If we could do it with a 5 week old, we could do it with a 13 month old.

I’ll write more about our “hike” at Haus Khaz soon, but for now, let’s just say that while there was definitely walking involved and a few nominally nature-related elements, I’ll be using the term “hiking” a bit loosely to describe our 5th Annual Labor Day sojourn into the wilderness.

I was a bit disappointed coming home from our “hike” yesterday but I guess now, looking back over the years, perhaps the real tradition here isn’t the hiking.  Maybe it’s actually all of our false starts and dashed hopes and misguided attempts at “getting back to nature” that always make our Labor Day’s so memorable every year.

Still, we’ll certainly be looking for redemption next year, maybe in Shimla perhaps?

Pictures and more to come.  How was your Labor Day?

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11 thoughts on “Our Annual Labor Day “Hike”

  1. I love this! What a great tradition. I think these kinds of traditions are the best — ones that aren’t always perfect — because it’s these funny little imperfections that become part of the story.

  2. That is a wonderful tradition! Love that you spend the day together and get out and explore opportunities to be with/in nature. I think that your result show the wisdom of the saying, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”.

  3. Fun tradition! I’m sure you will be able to keep up with it wherever in the world you are! I wish we had some other tradiion other than celebrating Christmas on the 24th and 25th! In Mexico we have our nice sit down dinner on the 24th so ever since we got married I insisted we did both!

    • Oooh a nice sitdown dinner on the 24th?? I love that! Do you do it with family or friends? Kid friendly or after they go to bed?

      • Sitdown! Just as big as the one on the 25th. We’ve been doing “chinese” on the 25th. Duck instead of turkey, noodles, etc. The last 4 have been with friends. ALways kid friendly. Then again in Mexico kids try to stay up as long as they can (1, 2 am) so Santa can arrive ASAP.

      • oooh I love this!!! I especially love “Chinese” on the 25th, might have to make this a new family tradition.

    • Chris and I have a saying we invoke whenever we are feeling stressed and haggard at the thought of getting out and doing something: “Darn it family!! Let’s go make some memories already!” (Only we usually don’t say darn but it does make us laugh)

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