I have some complications from having type 1 diabetes for 38 years, including diabetic retinopathy. I’m a little behind publishing this post because my left eye hemorrhaged recently from the diabetic damage and it blurred my vision for a few days. At the time of the bleeding, I felt like my body was a ticking time bomb. I thought very specifically about Weverton Cliffs, the Appalachian Trail, writing and what it would be like if I do lose my vision. Would I finish the trail? Would I continue to write? I can’t say for sure, but I know that my kids look up to me and they also have diabetes so I’m pretty sure I’d keep doing anything and everything I could to achieve my bucket list goals. We have created a YouTube channel, mostly about our adventures, go check it out!
My parents were with us in Gettysburg for the first few nights of spring break. They were going to be our shuttle to our next section in Pennsylvania, but instead of driving north together, we said goodbye after lunch on Wednesday. As we watched the rest of the week’s weather forecast change in Gettysburg, we decided that an 80% chance of thunderstorms would not be the best weather to bring the kids out on the trail, especially since they don’t have any rain gear. Ken picked a spot very close to downtown Harpers Ferry, and we planned to take the kids to one of our top 5 favorite spots on the AT so far, Weverton Cliffs. The weather turned out great, serendipitously we ended up having two full days of hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. We spotted a baby Black Racer snake on the trail the first day, many birds and a few centipedes.
Since we had all our backpacking stuff and we are still helping the boys build resiliency for longer backpacking trips, we kept most of our belongings in our packs, less the tent and sleeping bags. There is a parking lot at the Weverton Cliffs Trail which we got to around 6 at night and headed up the trail. It’s only about 2 miles from the parking lot to the overlook, so we continued north a bit further and talked about our trip to Gettysburg. So far in 2023 I have turned forty, my youngest turned ten and my parents will likely move into a retirement community. I am officially middle aged. My role as caregiver for my boys is far from over, but now the focus is more on who they are and how they’ll succeed, rather than what they are eating and when they are going to bed. Erik Vance recently wrote an article in The New York Times called “The Secret to Raising a Resilient Kid,” about how kids need a strong base to fall back on, support from their parents when they do falter, but mostly adults behind them that will allow them to safely face challenges. Wednesday evening’s hike began with switchbacks up a few hundred feet, and both kids put their heads down and climbed. They talked about how they would have “tired legs, then normal legs and then we get our trail legs.” Now if only the same resiliency could be found when they do things less rewarding, like weeding!
We arrived at Weverton Cliffs at the ideal moment, just as the sun was setting behind mountains, the sky lit up in orange and pinks. We took a bunch of photos and videos. Back in August 2021, this spot was our final resting spot before Ken and I ended our first AT backpacking trip. We recreated a picture he had taken of me back then and reminisced about our favorite trips so far, and we all agreed Weverton has some of the very best views so far. Ken boiled water on our camp stove and we dined on chicken fried rice and trail mix as the sunset behind the mountains. Charlie was scared of hiking in the dark, but his confidence grew as we walked along our headlamp-lit path back to the car. He still holds my hand on and off when we are hiking, but he didn’t let go on this trip back to the car. At one point he told me that I am his favorite human being on earth, a moment where all the hard work I’ve put in parenting paid itself back in leaps and bounds.
Thursday we packed up once again with some food and water and drove to Gathland State Park to show the boys the War Correspondents Memorial, and get them some more AT miles of their own. We hiked about four miles north to White Rocks on a steady incline. The trail was rocky, and I explained to the boys how I had once written a post inspired by these “medium rocks.” When we got to White Rocks, we put our packs down, lit the stove and cooked ourselves some Raman Noodles and a breakfast scramble, a brunch with a view! On the way back to Gathland the boys really upset me by making some inappropriate jokes, and I instantly thought of the ‘worst case scenarios’ of when they are a few years older. My youngest students are only three years older than James, and I have some pretty ill behaved darlings sitting in my classrooms. I do not want my children to be those kids in a few years. Our minds are designed to go to those worst case scenarios as an archaic way of protecting our primitive selves, the problem is that it can be daunting in today’s world. The “worst case scenario” is still death, but your mind can also create a big deal out of something as trivial as someone taking screenshots of your post and texting it to others to mock you, especially if you are a teenager. The other day James came home from 6th grade excited to tell me about an assembly they’d had that day. It was an anti-smoking/drugs assembly where a rapper shared experiences in his life that inspired him to make music for kids about why they shouldn’t choose tobacco or drugs. James told me about the performer’s story of how his mom had died of lung cancer, and how his brother “went high” on drugs and robbed a store. James stops at this point in the story and tells me, in all earnest, “I never knew that doing drugs makes your blood sugars high!” He only associates being high with diabetes, not drugs. I have to keep in mind that parenting is like preparing a soufflé. It is a lot of work with a pinch of luck. At this moment in life, I am waiting for the soufflé to rise. It’s delicate, and I still have a ways to go, but I have some very promising signs. From Charlie’s compliment, James’s innocence to the fact that they are building resiliency every day with their diabetes, I know they have a strong foundation underneath their feet.