Blog Post James King, Jr. Apr 30, 2014

Tackling a Mountain with Mom

Going to a national park with Mom for Mother’s Day? This outdoorsman did and had an unexpected adventure.

For ages, I’d been trying to convince my mom to get outside.

As someone who loves being in nature, I wanted to bring her camping, hiking, and doing some of the other activities I enjoy. I tried asking her to tag along on everything except water activities, because I knew that hair would not be getting into a kayak or canoe anytime soon. Still, I chipped away at her inch by inch, inviting her to events organized by a local Atlanta outdoor club, and even borrowing a tent from friends and popping it up in the yard to give her hands-on experience setting one up. I bought her nice hiking shoes that sat in the closet waiting for a trail and a fancy Camelbak water bottle, which she took to work with her, but never outdoors as I intended.

To be clear, my mom is no couch potato. Her family has always been engaged with the outdoors in a different sense. Growing up on a farm in Thomaston, Georgia, my mom always loved planting in her vegetable garden. She’s taken me and other family members out to the creeks and streams in the country backwoods of our property. We’ve even gone to Sweetwater Creek State Park numerous times and enjoyed ourselves near the lakeside picnic areas. But as we were growing up, she never ventured out onto the trails or led us on outdoor recreational trips. I knew she was missing out on the joys of exploring nature, away from the safeguards of a “built” environment.

Mother’s Day was weeks away and I had been thinking about what we were going to do as a family. Then I received a writing assignment from national park enthusiast and NPCA Board Member Audrey Peterman to go to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. I had visited this park before as the local host for a group of young people creating videos for the National Parks Promotion Council and had a great experience there with friends.

So that was it—we’d do a Mother’s Day hike to the top of Kennesaw Mountain. The scenic views—of a full, healthy forest, with major cities way off in the distance—were bound to change my mom’s perspective. The site’s rich history, with stories about women, enslaved and free, as well as business-owning blacks and Civil War soldiers that had fought battles in the area, would definitely capture her attention.

To my delight, my mother and my sister Jameika agreed to head up the mountain with me … but as sometimes happens with family, the experience didn’t go as smoothly as I had imagined.

Ten steps into the trail, I heard deep breaths and, “How in the world did I let my children talk me into this hike?”

Twenty steps into the trail, even my sister was looking for a way out.

Thirty steps later, they found a bench, and both of them sat down and tried to locate every bench on the map.

As it turns out, the park doesn’t mark the benches on the trail map. My mom asked why and concluded, “They must be crazy.” My sister agreed.

When we finally moved on, the conversation up the mountain was classic. Our destination wasn’t to reach the top—it was to reach the next bench or boulder to sit on. Every sign with a distance marker was rechecked for accuracy on the map. Every passerby was asked the same question: “How much farther to the top?”

About halfway up, at yet another rest stop along the route, their apparent reluctance had worn me down. “OK, ladies,” I said. “This will be it. We can come back another day.”

To my surprise, my mom hopped off the bench and said, “Let’s go on up.”

As we trekked up the trail, we started to look at the scenic views all around us and in a short time, we were almost at the top. When we made it up, my mom seemed so at peace. I noticed a big smile on her face and on my sister’s face as well.

When we hiked back down to the parking lot, my mother turned around, looked up at the mountain and said, “Can you believe we went all the way up there?”

“Yep!” I said.

I don’t know whose smile was bigger.


This story originally appeared in Audrey Peterman’s “365 Parks in 365 Days” email series.