I Had No Idea Raising Kids with My Wife Would Be Like This
- Category: Dad's Dirt Roads: A Blog
- on Fri May 10, 2013
- by Mark Stephens on Fri May 10, 2013 - (7) Comments
Before my wife became my wife, she gave me a backcountry permit for the Grand Canyon. So we spent a spring break with four friends camped on the Colorado River at Phantom Ranch. It was March 2001. Other friends who didn't join us hooked us up with some bulk dehydrated meals that they had stashed away years earlier in preparation for the Y2K bug that they were certain would collapse modern civilization on January 1, 2000. "Well," they laughed, "we don't need them now. Why don't you take them?"
They were big bags, too. Like the size of a giant bag of Tostitos, but 3 or 4 pounds apiece so they could feed 10 souls in one go. Despite the funky apocalyptic juju, we took the meals and left for the Grand Canyon. We took way too many of them because we didn't know better. Seriously, I know I had three of these big bags in my pack alone, and everyone else had a few, too. That's in addition to the granola bars, Gatorade powder, tortillas, jerky and other absurd amounts of absurd food.
When we arrived at the Grand Canyon, it was snowing on the rim, the upper third of the canyon's cliffs were dusted with fresh snow and clouds danced low in a whipping wind. The forecast offered no hope, either. Being young and stoked, we slid on our gloves and warm hats, amped ourselves up for a cold, soggy weekend and hiked 13 miles down the South Kaibab trail to Phantom Ranch.
The next morning, the cloud cover remained and dropped a light sprinkle and bursts of fury most of the day. We hung out in the tents, played cards and talked about our sore muscles. Then, a stroke of brilliance: we realized we could reduce our pack weight for the trip out if we ate all the dehydrated food, every last bit. "We're taking shifts eating! Light the stove! We're not taking back one bag! Mark, you're up first. Keep your spoon moving."
Come to find out, the dehydrated meals weren't too shabby. We dubbed one Mountain Mush because it was the best of the bunch, and it felt good to give it a name. It had blueberries in it. On one of my eating shifts, the rains had paused so I took my bowl and hoofed it down to the river bank to stare at the canyon. I had come all this way, threw down some painful miles with untold (and ill planned) pounds of food on my back and I hadn't been able to sit quietly and enjoy the canyon we came to see. Until now.
I sat on a soggy rock right next to the Colorado River and fell in love. I've looked at mountains, artwork and beautiful women before, but on that day I had never seen anything like the canyon walls from the bank of the Colorado River. They climb 4,800 feet to the edge of the south rim on one side and 5,800 feet to the edge of the north rim on the other. 17 million years in the making. Rain water drained off of Vishnu Schist and Zoraster Granite ledges singing a calm chorus soundtrack you can't even buy on iTunes. Clouds hung low into the canyon, a biting breeze gave me a chill, and I mowed down my share of Mountain Mush.
A team of folks on two rafts and kayaks beached shortly after. We chatted. Their trip was a private one, self-guided, and it took them over 10 years to draw permits to ride down the Colorado because the National Park system only hands out so many permits each year under a lottery system. If you get lucky enough to be drawn in the lottery, your launch date is set. You can't change it, postpone it, trade it or scalp it. And it's a trip that can take up to 25 days, which makes it extra hard to plan the trip. But the guy I spoke with kind of chuckled about it. "I've been waiting a long time to do this trip. Screw it. Work will always be there."
He didn't look at me while we spoke. He looked up at the canyon walls and wore a goofy smile, probably not too unlike mine. "Man! I knew this would be incredible," he told me. "I just had no idea it would be like this."
We have two daughters now, and that backpacking trip is over 12 years behind us. My wife Brooke spent most of 2012 pregnant with our second daughter who is now 8 months old and who just started crawling yesterday. Our oldest is going to be 6 years old and she says there's a boy in her class that she wants to marry. The little one needs a lot of holding and rocking to fall asleep. The big one needs to be told numerous times to put her clothes away or clean her messes. Together, they're a force.
What can I tell you about my wife now? At the moment, the kids are in bed, my wife is out for the evening at an event for her job and I'm on the back patio with a microbrew and the iPod shuffling through Led Zeppelin and Counting Crows and everything in between. When Brooke left before dinner, she said, "Wait up. When I get home, we'll have a glass of wine outside."
I'll wait as long it takes.