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Climb any mountain!

This is a guest post by Geralyn’s husband, editor, and aspiring adventurer,  Mike McLaughlin.

During Screen-Free Week, our two boys and I went to Beacon, NY for   a pleasant and sometimes strenuous hike up Mount Beacon.  I offer this account today as a great example of what you can do without electronic entertainment, and a great opportunity to get good exercise while going on an adventure.  This mountain climb was also the first of a “Do something new!” campaign for me – this writer and dad, who’s looking not only to get into better physical shape but also enjoy being with my sons as we do something that very few people do.

I had made this climb before, as had the boys on a school field trip.  But going together allowed the boys to point out to me different types of rocks.  As junior geologists, they informed me that lucite was a very common type of rock to be found in this part of New York, and that quartz and occasionally flint could be found as well – and they instructed me to keep my eyes open for samples that we could bring back.

For nearly an hour we followed a twisting rocky path from the parking area to the north summit of the mountain.  It was walkable, but the steepness and the uneven surface made the going a real challenge.  But we pushed our way up and finally took a lunch break on the concrete lookout point, all that remained of a hotel and casino that had once stood there.  We marveled at the fact that we were nearly 1,200 feet above the river.  We were, in fact, so high that hawks and crows seemed to be circling around us at eye level, even though this was their normal cruising altitude!  Lunch consisted of more water, bananas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (thanks, Mom!), with trail mix (nuts, raisins and some candy-coated chocolates).  We needed re-fueling, since the walk from the lookout to the fire tower on the south summit was at least as far as we’d already traveled.

At this part of the hike, the boys had become the expedition leaders.  We were heading toward a point on the mountain that they had been to before, but I had not.  This doesn’t happen often in a parent’s life, where the kids are now the experts, and I marveled at it.  I was hesitant, but also liked the idea that my boys were teaching me something new.

The path was easier to walk and the ascent was more gradual, and often through dense woods from which we couldn’t see the river at all.  But sky and valley opened up to us as we reached the south summit, nearly 1,600 feet up.  The view from here was astonishing.  We could see many miles in every direction, making out distant bridges across the Hudson, as well as other cities and towns – even Manhattan, sixty miles to the south!  Our perch also gave us a 360-degree view of the broad expanse of rolling mountains and hills that flank both sides of the river.  The sun was strong but there was also a cool breeze.  This made the summit a pleasant place to rest, have a snack, and simply enjoy being there.  We stayed for about half an hour, taking it all in – and then we headed down.

 

The return was more tedious than the climb up.  You use different muscles in your feet and legs when descending, and the fatigue made it even more difficult.  Our calves and ankles were burning as we slowly made our way back.  We stopped more than once for a rest.  “My legs are committing leg-icide!” my younger son declared.  But he was a trooper about it.  We knew that the longer we rested, the longer it would take to get back.  We pushed on, keeping a slow but steady pace, until we finally reached the bottom.

Screen Free Week was six weeks ago, and the boys and I have been back up Mount Beacon three times since.  Many friends and family members have also come with us on this adventure that is both pleasant and a challenge, as well as a real confidence-builder.  I’ve also made it a solid part of my own exercise program.  I continue to make the trek to the south summit by myself, as a new healthy habit.  After confirming that other family know where I am going – very important! – I make the trek as quickly as I can, burning calories and building endurance.  In addition, I’m now getting further cardio exercise at the gym and going for long runs in our area.  This real-life adventure with the screen off has been – and continues to be – a great one, and is (quite literally) highly recommended!

1 comment to Climb any mountain!

  • Thanks for this inspiring post, Mike! The wildness and nature are just beautiful and your story of sharing time with your boys is encouraging. We have a less treacherous (and much lower in elevation) city park here, but the trails are a perfect workout for my five-year old–and myself too. Thanks for sharing.

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