Nearly every weekend throughout my teenage years you could find me on one of the amazing hikes near my tiny hometown that’s nestled in a discreet fold of the Blue Ridge Mountains. But above all, there was one that was my absolute favorite. Only safe to scramble up on a sunny, dry day, the Devil’s Marble Yard was a mile and a half of bouldering straight up the spiny ridge of the Parkway.
Red faced and hand over hand, I would pull myself up and over boulders the size of minivans, around precariously loose and wiggly rocks cradled over ravines, and hopped the dark and ominous divide between the rocks more than a few times. At the top I’d sprawl out sweaty and exhausted on the flat plateau of the King Boulder, and survey the lush and rolling valley below. This was life.
Now rapidly approaching my mid-twenties (and oh dear god, thirty) I feel my wings slowly but surely getting clipped little by little. First it was a routine (but incredible) desk job, then it was apartment shopping, and next it will inevitably be starting a family. I’m the kind of girl who has literally never held a baby. Frankly, I tend to find them repulsive. But now my uterus is revolting against me. It’s making me want to settle down. With one person. Forever. And have children. (Shudders in millennial.)
As I sit at my little desk, my (traitorous) heart feeling all fuzzy at the idea of having my own family, I find myself scrolling back through my Instagram more and more – the curated highlights of my best adventures. How can I realistically do the things I love, like bouldering, and be a mom? Sure, guys can do it and jet off for the weekend and be the ‘cool dad’ but you never really hear about moms doing that.
And with that I closed the door on my bouldering-esque adventures: the end of an era with the beginning of a family. At least until I went to Wales. And holy shit, let me tell you, those children are wild over there. Standing at the base of Devil’s Kitchen in Cwm Idwal (the people who named the Devil’s Marble Yard must have been Welsh) the fog lifted just enough to show boulders stacked straight up. People who were half way up in orange puffer jackets looked like fire ants migrating up a cliff. I was shocked. It had been raining for a week straight, it was bone chilling cold, and the wind was enough to make small dogs go airborne – aka a typical day in Wales. I was extremely nervous – a rare feeling for me.
Then, I kid you not, I saw a small child come bounding down the stack of boulders with one of those kiddy leashes on. Like these massive, slick, jagged rocks, and then there’s this three and a half foot tall kid on a leash just Spidermanning it down. And there were tons of them! From six years old, these little mountain goats turned children were dominating the trail and even outpacing their adult companions. I felt entirely inadequate and 100% ashamed of my nerves.
After I had made my own loop up and down the treacherous Kitchen, I found myself back in the park bathroom with a group of moms and their Tarzan-like children. Striking up a conversation with one of the moms, I was briskly informed that they had grown up climbing in these mountains and, just like their parents, weren’t about to be stopped just because they now had a couple of kids. And their kids loved being outside and preferred to spend the day crawling about in the rocky crags instead of standing in line to see a commercial megalopolis of kiddy entertainment.
What was that? A glimmer of hope?
While I grew up similarly, I’m not sure I’m as badass as those Moms drying their kids off from the mountain top rain in the bathroom. I remember the hikes of my younger years being much more even footed, without the risk of falling off a rock the size of a Range Rover. So maybe I’m not quite ready to take a small child up a range of boulders, but (when that time comes) I could start them out with some light hikes and scrambles, all the while preparing them for the queen of them all: the Devil’s Marble Yard