My family has been very happy on Saturdays for the past year or so. When we first arrived in Dushanbe, I would drag them up to the mountains to hike almost every Saturday that I could. I like being outside and I like exploring, so hiking is the perfect thing for someone like me.
My children like not having to drag themselves up steep hills for an undetermined amount of time. My husband likes not having to drag the children up steep hills, too. But, I'm not a very nice mom and I once read in an Ensign article that it's good for families to do hard things together. And they mentioned hiking by name, so no amount of whining could trump the combination of my love for hiking backed up by religious endorsement.
But then my thyroid stopped working and then I got pregnant and then I had a newborn and then it got hot and then it was brown and ugly in the mountains and so we just kind of stopped hiking. Like I said, everyone was happy.
Usually the winter is a win-win time for everyone because we can go sledding. I can be outside and the children willingly hike up steep slopes because they can sled down them. But this winter has been very, very dry and sledding hasn't happened at all. I started getting antsy, so this past Saturday I hauled everyone up into the mountains to go hiking.
I found a likely hiking route on Google maps (this is how you find hiking routes in Tajikistan: look for a valley with a village at the mouth, drive to the end of the village, park the car, and start hiking. This works every time). Well, almost every time. My chosen route, which was tantalizingly filled with trees (there aren't many trees here because they all get chopped down for firewood), turned out to be barred by a gate. Brandon's Russian skills read the sign that informed us it was a science preserve or something like that. So that's why the trees, I guess. Our next route had an extremely sketchy bridge, so we went to option #3.
The drive started out a little sketchy and we almost gave up, but Brandon, aided by four-wheel drive, persevered and we eventually found a place wide enough to park the car (a very important part hiking: being able to turn the car around when it's time to leave). Everyone got out and started hiking. It started off with a good bit of whining and at one point Brandon had William on his back and Eleanor on his shoulders.
But I was a magnanimous mother and let everyone stop (even though I could have hiked for another couple of hours) after forty-five minutes and eat their snacks. Because they still only come for the snacks. Unfortunately someone (me) had left the water back at the house, but it was pretty cold so nobody was dying of thirst.
Then the real fun started. There was rock throwing. And Edwin invented a new way to throw rocks: rock fireworks, when you throw a rock so hard it explodes into little pieces. It's pretty fun to throw rocks when you're hiking because there isn't any other time when you're allowed to do that.
Next Sophia and Edwin tried their hands and rock climbing. I commented to Brandon that we could have spent the morning paying to climb fake rocks indoors, but that we got to climb real rocks outside for free! And, as a bonus, Brandon added, no ropes!
If it had been a sunny warm day we could have stayed much longer, but it started snowing so we had to head down. And on the hike down, everyone was much happier.
So now, of course, I am planning my next hiking Saturday. After all, we're not going to live this close to the mountains in Tashkent, so I'd better get all of the fun in while I can. My children are praying for lots and lots of snow, enough to keep us out of the mountains until May.