“You’ll probably want to drive with your windows down,” one of the instructors called after us with a laugh. We’d just picked up Ursula at the conclusion of her Teen Wilderness Adventure and had turned to walk back to our car. Our friends Chris and Patty were with us; their daughters Sarah and Rita had also joined the week-plus backpacking and rock-climbing adventure in the White Mountains.
It was true: The girls gave off a robust fragrance. But what the instructors might not have realized is that being the parents of teenagers can require a sleuth’s skills, and that even the smell of sweat and wet socks can provide clues.
When Jim and I had first arrived at our pick-up spot behind the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, Rita and Sarah had come over right away to give us big hugs. But Ursula had stayed where she was, shaking her head and rolling her eyes at us, to make sure we got the message. “Don’t take it personally,” Patty said to me. “Rita wouldn’t hug me, either.”
The trip instructors had asked the eight teenagers on the trip to help clean and put away the group gear. As those chores wound down, our three girls joined a boy who had unfolded a map of the Presidential Range on a picnic table and was trying to ink in their hiking route. We parents sidled in closer, detectives working the shadows. Ursula excitedly pointed out a cut-off they’d taken near Mount Adams. Rita confirmed a side trip to Madison Hut for water. And thus we learned that the group had stood on the summits of at least four of the White Mountain’s tallest peaks, had hiked over the summit of Mt. Washington in the clouds, that early in the week they’d retreated below treeline when a storm rolled through, and that they’d also climbed four (or was it six?) pitches of technical rock to the top of Whitehorse Ledge.
Who knows how long it might have been before one of them admitted to a parent that she’d enjoyed her trip? It was obvious, though, listening to them, that they’d had fun, that they’d worked well together, and were proud of what they’d accomplished. They seemed to wear their ripe aroma like a badge of honor.
Truth is, none of us minded the smell. Chris and Patty had powered up and down Boott Spur that morning, and Jim and I were coming off an ambitious two-night loop through the Pemi. The girls were out ahead of us, striding toward the parking lot and already conferring about ice cream and lemonade. Patty called back to the instructors, “That’s OK — we all need the windows down.”
– Read “Our Teen Adventure: Packing to go.”
– Read “AMC’s Teen Wilderness Adventures: A Parents’ Primer.”
“Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.