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Smelly Socks: Enchanted with the Rock

June 20, 2013 at 1:20 a.m.

Austin and Jamison on top of Enchanted Rock.



Ranch Life

We are a fairly spontaneous family. We have never been a group of planners and prefer to let the weekend take us where it may. So naturally, John woke up Sunday morning and announced that after church we were going to change clothes and head up to go hike Enchanted Rock.

"Hike a rock? Really, Dad? Come on," Austin said with his typical, 12-year-old wisdom. Jamison, as usual, was much more detailed. "What is the rock made of? How big is it? Where is this thing, anyway?"

We explained that it is made of granite. That intrigued Jamison because we have granite countertops. Suddenly, "Oohs and ahhs" came from his mouth. He was hooked and into the whole adventure. The minute that Austin learned that Enchanted Rock was right outside of Fredericksburg, he was interested as well.

But I could tell that he faked an interest in the whole hiking thing, I knew that his real interest was in a particular steak that he had at The Brewery in Fredericksburg. I have been told often that the steak simply blew his mind. When Austin is involved, he is usually led by his stomach.

We arrived a little behind schedule. At the very last minute, John decided to take Jasper, our enormous lab. We loaded up the dog and grabbed our hiking shoes. I was really excited about this little trek of ours. Secretly, I had been doing the "Walk Away the Pounds" workout series in a futile attempt to prepare for the summer months, and I was anxious for John and the boys to be impressed with how fit I thought I was.

After paying for park entrance, parking, sunscreen application and saddling John up with a backpack full of water, we set out on the "Summit Trail."

"Sure," I thought, "That sounds easy enough."

We started out, and Austin immediately started complaining about our slow pace. We told him that he could go ahead of us, but he had to be careful. Honestly, I believe that I took a breath and looked up, and there he was, waving at me from the top of the summit.

I was just finding my walking stride when the unthinkable happened. As I was paying attention to my proper breathing, a fly as big as a pencil eraser got sucked up my nose. I spit, sputtered, coughed and bellowed, but I couldn't dislodge it. This particular bug wasn't content being lodged in there, but it had to buzz unmercifully.

Every time the buzzing started, a tickling sensation started that nearly brought me to my knees. Jamison was the closest "hiker" to me, and he came back to me scared that I was having a heart attack or something worse. After I explained what had happened, Jamison calmly explained, "Well, just blow it out."

After I gave it a couple of tries, he proceeded with great detail, explaining that I should put my thumb over the clear nostril and blow with all of my might. It finally worked. At last, my nose was clear, and although I didn't actually see it, I am sure there is a wadded-up fly that shot straight across Enchanted Rock.

After recovering, I asked Jamison where he picked up such "nose-blowing wisdom." He explained that Popsy had taught him that. That was enough said. I understand that some things are better kept between a grandson and their grandfather. As I was getting my wits about me, Jamison said, "You sure are lucky, Mom."

I asked, "Why?"

"Well," he explained, "it could have been a bee."

As our hike continued on, I did a bad thing. I am ashamed of myself, but I said it. I asked John, "Why would anyone think this is fun? This is hard. All we are doing is stepping around and on these huge rocks." I swear to you, people stopped in their tracks and stared at me with their mouths open.

The park-goers at Enchanted Rock are truly some diehard hikers, mountain climbers, extreme runners and triathlon participants, and I just committed a sin against this beautiful mountain and identified (as if they couldn't tell) myself as an outsider. "She is not one of us," I could read their lips.

Finally, on an extreme section of the trail, I had enough. The path went straight up, and it was solid, slippery, rock. "I can't go any further. I have to stop," I panted. I was exhausted and terrified of the extreme height. John and Jamison urged me to continue on the last little bit to the actual summit. My shaking and non-toned legs just wouldn't take me any further. My heart was willing - although beating out of my chest - but my body was done.

"John," I asked him, panicking. "It hurts to breathe. Why does it hurt to breath?" John tried not to laugh. He calmly smiled and said, "Um, Jo, you are kind of out of shape. Need to increase your cardio." With John's harsh but real honesty, with Austin walking down from the summit to where we were over five different times and Jamison's concern that I would be stuck on the side of the mountain forever, I stood my ground.

I convinced John to leave the backpack of water and Jasper with me and go on up to the very top of Enchanted Rock with the boys. He made sure that I was all right, and I wasn't going to be furious that he left me on the side on a mountain.

Then he and the boys continued their climb. I started really to feel bad for myself when I saw a woman about eight months pregnant walking past me not even sweating. But I reminded myself to conserve my energy as we still had a long walk back down.

Fortunately, gravity is my friend, and the walk down was pretty easy. Jasper found a stream, and we all soaked our feet while Jasper soaked his entire body. Austin decided to run all the way down the trail and then to run all the way back up to the stream we were at. What I could do with all of his energy and lack of body fat.

We packed up the truck, and Austin got to sample the steak he had been talking and thinking about all day. The boys had a great time, as they kept saying how "cool it was" and want to come back. I was a little surprised, knowing how my boys like to needle me at times, that no one mentioned my failed attempt to reach the top or the infamous nose incident.

That night, I was tucking a worn out Jamison into bed. He hugged me tight and told me, "Mom, you did your best, and I am so proud of you." I smiled and thanked him for being so sweet. I always thought that it was a parent's job to encourage their child. After a long day, I needed some uplifting, and the needed encouragement came from my sleepy 9-year-old who happens to have perfect timing.

I might not have made it to the top of Enchanted Rock, but my son's encouragement made this mom soar. As I turned to leave his room, I could see a smile spread across his sleepy face, and he quietly said with a slight chuckle that I was still really lucky that it wasn't a bee.

Johanna is a proud, seventh-generation Texan. She lives on her family's South Texas ranch with her husband and two lively boys. Email Johanna Bloom or Anita Spisak at smellysocks@vicad.com.

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