Stunted Adults

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Family Vacations Turn Me Into John Belushi

My husband, Country Boy, has three younger siblings and we took each one of them on an international adventure while they were in college.

Sounds great, right?  A chance to create an awesome memory together and to bond as adults.

And, I’m such a good person for doing this for my in-laws, right?

Wrong.  Because, despite my best intentions, as soon as these trips began I turned into Bluto and these kids become my Delta Tau Chi pledges.


The second I encounter an in-law while out of the country, this happens.

Seriously, I managed to accidentally haze them all.  And I hazed them hard.

My initiation ritual is the PinotNinja Death March (trademark pending).  Screw cotillions and bar mitzvahs.  In our family you aren’t an adult until you survive a brush with death on a mountain that was caused by your bungling wino sister-in-law.

First, there was Country Boy’s oldest younger brother.  Back in 2009, he was studying abroad in Geneva and we flew over to visit him. It was late October and we took a day trip to Montreaux.  It was lovely.


Just a nice afternoon relaxing by the lake while eating some crepes.

Not satisfied with my fancy foreign pancake, I decided that we HAD to get up close and personal with the Swiss Alps.  I had read about this great hike in a guidebook and the cog railroad that would take us 10 miles up the mountain to the trail head left from just down the street. Once off the adorable train, we would take a nice walk to the top of the mountain, check out an amazing view of the lake, and then catch the train back down.  I convinced Country Boy and his brother that it would just be a lovely afternoon jaunt.  No big deal.

When we went to buy our train tickets, the woman at the ticket booth asked me “Are you equipped for the mountain?”  Between the three of us, we had one Toblerone bar, one coat, three gloves, and no water, so my answer to that question, obviously, was “Yes.  We’re equipped.”  It was only October and we were all relatively fit people.  What could possibly go wrong?

We got off the train and everything was perfect.


Does it get any more Swiss than this?

But, then, about two miles into the hike, we encountered this:


Three people. One coat. Intermittent snowfall. Hmm….

And, then, we had to traverse this:

Crossing the "almost bridge"

It’s kind of a bridge?

After managing to survive the circus trick that was crossing that “bridge,” we shivered our way to the summit while bickering about who was hogging the jacket.  We then started to hike back down the mountain only to realize that we had missed the last train off the mountain for the night, it was starting to get dark, we were exhausted, and we were starving.  There was nothing on this mountain other than a few sleepy farms and we hadn’t seen a car or another person in about 6 hours.  So, we had no choice but to find a way down, which we knew was approximately 14 miles.  We spent the next two hours running down the mountain (thank you gravity), taking any trail or road we could find heading towards the lake, as the sun set in front of us.

We came skidding into Montreaux just as the sun dipped below the mountains on the other side of Lake Geneva.  We congratulated ourselves on not dying on a Swiss mountain and my brother-in-law promptly passed out from sheer exhaustion.


I swore that I would not do this again.

So, when we went to Chile to visit Country Boy’s second younger brother last December while he was studying abroad, I researched a great hike to do ahead of time.  It was on our way back from ConCon (where we had already almost died), promised great views of both the Pacific Ocean and the highest peak in the Argentina, and how cool would it be for the three of us to do a hike in the Andes together.  A lifelong amazing memory, right?


The guidebook did say that this was one of the hardest hikes in Chile, but I didn’t believe it.  There was no way that could have been right, because it’s not like we were in Patagonia.  And guidebooks exaggerate all the time to make sure that couch potatoes and grandmas don’t end up in over their heads out in the wilderness.   But, we were young and fit.  This was going to be no big deal.

Plus, the trail map said that the hike was only 7 kilometers.  We could do anything for 7 kilometers.


We decided that there was no way that we were hiking to that cloud covered peak. That would just be ridiculous. We were very wrong. That cloud covered peak was exactly where we were headed.

At the outset, everything was cool.  The trail was a little steep, but we still felt totally under control.


Just a little walk up the side of the mountain. I knew hiking the Sendero Andinista trail would be no big deal.

And then this happened:


See that big slope of loose rocks? That was the trail. Apparently, they have not yet heard of safety first in Chile.

And then there was this:


The trail map said to just walk right on up this sheer rock face. Just right on up there. Is this a map for mountain goats?!

Luckily, at that moment a wave of fog rolled over the mountain.  This was lucky because we assuredly would have died trying to scale the rock face and because it also caused us to realize that we have been hiking for over 6 hours, still had not reached the summit, and the sun was starting to set.  Turns out that the trail was 7 km each way, not round trip, and because the terrain was so treacherous it had taken us forever to get up the mountain.  This was a critical error.

So, yet again, I had led everyone into a situation where we needed to run down a mountain, in a foreign country, to beat the onset of freezing darkness and death from strange international animals.  We made it down, just in the nick of time, but not before getting into multiple stress-induced screaming fights and sustaining multiple injuries (including a concerning amount of blood loss on my part when I tumbled down the side of the mountain and into a giant life-saving thorn bush).

Opps.  Again.

Last month, Country Boy’s younger sister was in Seattle for an athletic training camp, so we decided to meet her in Seattle and take her on an adventure to Vancouver and the San Juan Islands since she had never been out of the country before.

The third time is the charm, right?


Not wanting to tempt fate, I opted out of doing any hiking while we were in British Columbia.  Just urban walks and bike rides for us.  Once back into the good old US of A, I figured that we were safe.

We were not.

We arrived on Orcas Island around noon and immediately hopped into kayaks and spent a couple of hours chilling with the harbor seals.  While on that delightful outing, I spotted a mountain.

You know where this is going.

After we got out of the kayaks, I consulted the trusty interwebs and it told me that we could do a great hike to the top of Turtleback Mountain in about 3 miles on an easy and well-groomed trail. While I was mapping out our route, Country Boy and his sister had found an ice cream shop and procured gigantic chocolate ice cream cones to eat for sustenance. Perfect!

And, at first, it was.

So idyllic.

So idyllic.

But then Country Boy’s sister got really quiet.  She muttered something about not feeling well, but it didn’t sound like it was serious.

And then shit got real.


My poor sister-in-law got a panicked look on her face and said that she needed to get off of the mountain, and back down to the restrooms by where we parked the car immediately.  Turns out that kayaking for two hours, wolfing down a huge amount of dairy, and then briskly climbing a mountain was not an award-winning combo for her body.

So, yet again, we took off sprinting down a mountain while danger was imminent.


Just once I would like to walk down a mountain.

We didn’t make it down in time.

Opps. AGAIN?!

But, I couldn’t just leave it at that.  Making someone soil themselves wasn’t enough for me.

The next morning, we had some time to kill before our ferry back to Seattle.  I had read about a hike.  It was just 3 miles and only had a 200 foot elevation gain, so I dragged everyone to the trail with the promise that it would just be a “light morning walk.”

We started hiking and it seemed like we were going downhill at a pretty steep grade, but I confidently proclaimed that the trail would level out at any moment because the elevation change was so minor.  Because we were going downhill, we didn’t really realize how far and how fast we were going.  Then Country Boy checked his watch and realized that we needed to hustle because our ferry was leaving relatively soon.

We turned around and saw this:


Umm…We have to go back up that?! In a hurry?!

The three of us then spent the next 45 minutes hauling ass up the mountain.  We were sweating profusely. We were swearing.  We were grunting.  Our bodies were screaming in pain.  Our spirits were shattered. Once we made it back to the trail head, I realized that the sign said 1200 foot elevation change, not 200 foot.

Opps doesn’t even begin to cover it.

At least I never made anyone accidentally kill a horse?