Heaven – by way of hell
How would your relationship with your best friend or partner change if you spent three months hiking the Continental Divide Trail together – waking to breathtaking sunrises, walking to crisp, clear lakes surrounded by mountain peaks and traipsing through flowering meadows? How about battling wind, rain and lightning storms, crossing steep glacial fields and dealing with different hiking paces?
Before you answer the question, let’s throw in another variable. Let’s say for three months you’re hiking not only with your best buddy, but with a 1-year old and a 3-year-old. That means carrying 100 cloth diapers and cleaning them in a stream every day, putting up with a 1-year-old who kicks your back and pulls your hair while you’re carrying him in a pack, answering incessant questions or playing with the kids after you’ve hiked in the rain all day and remained hypervigilant about bear attacks or hypothermia. Oh, and you all sleep in the same tiny tent, so if you’re with your partner, your sex life is about to go drastically downhill.
Cindy Ross and her husband, Todd, hiked the entire 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail with their two toddlers. They were avid hikers before the birth of their children – covering the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail in the East and the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail in the West. When their children were born, they thought they would have to wait years before venturing on another long-distance trek. Then they discovered llamas.
With the aid of the pack animals, the family spent summers hiking portions of the Continental Divide Trail until they completed every step of the trail from Canada to Mexico. It took them five years.
In her latest book, “Scraping Heaven,” Ross chronicles her family’s struggles and strengths as they emerge on the trail. Her story is clear, honest, and most of all, unbelievable. Her delicate balance of beauty and hardship, exhaustion and adventure, wraps the reader in mysteries found both in the immense, natural world and in the intimate bonds of family.
“Todd and I don’t get up in the morning, have a quick breakfast, down a cup of coffee, grunt good-byes to the kids as they’re whisked off to school and day care, then come home, have a few words over dinner, passively watch TV, and go to our separate rooms,” Ross writes. “We’re in each other’s presence all day long. We even sleep together. There’s no one else to take up the slack. No teacher to supply answers for six hours. It’s a paradox, but here we are in the big outdoors, unable to get away from each other. There’s no door to shut, no confined space to retreat to. No place to hide.”
Later in the book she writes, “But if you avoid the hardships, you never experience the gift. You have to live with the discomfort to receive the gift.”
The gifts she and her family receive are priceless. Her children matured into confident, resilient and sensitive human beings. She and her husband learned the importance of bonding and paying close attention to each other’s needs, as well as to the needs of their children.
In the end, their triumph bears witness to the power of nature, the strength of the human spirit and the endurance of love.
Summit County has a new book club, and it meets every other Friday in the ETC section of the Summit Daily News.
Our staff will take turns reviewing books with Silverthorne resident Carrie Brown and her book club – Sally, Jess, Rita, Amanda and Jo – who will share their opinions on books in the Summit Daily News.
Join the club and follow along. We welcome any comments and opinions (approximately 100 words) about the next book we’re reviewing. The deadline for letters about our next book, “I Don’t Know How She Does It” by Allison Pearson, is April 30.
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