The small group of friends had a few more adventures and a couple more races before Isaiah and his family had to move on. Alexander and Isaiah were both pretty sad but encouraged when we promised the two of them that we would be meeting again soon. Ashley and Marissa had already mapped out our two itineraries ensuring that we would cross path again. Isaiah made Alexander a really sweet card with his picture and a promise to practice riding his mountain bike so they can ride together when we meet again in Utah. Alexander gave Isaiah his favorite book with a promise to share the next one in the series when next they meet. Each of us grew close to this family that we called Team D. Ashley and Marissa had made a close connection so they were both sad not to be able to spend time chatting and I was saying see ya later to one of my favorite pickle ball partners. But, as we told the kids we would soon meet up again and therefore it was not “goodbye” but “see ya later” and this time the “later” was on the calendar.
With Team D moving onto their next destination, that left Team H to have to absorb all of our attention. Luckily Brooke and Autumn are always up for playing in the trees, building forts and bases, planning and executing building projects and of course running and swimming. Our two families had some epic workouts together. The 5 kids spent hours playing in the trees. And we would spend most evening unwinding in the pool with Karin and Will discussing where we have all been and where we would like to go as the kids splashed around in the pool. On one of our last days before Team H had to move on they led us out to Joshua Tree National Park and introduced us to outdoor rock climbing! Victoria and Alexander have climbed in a gym before but Will and Karin told us it is entirely different once you get outside and on real rock. They were kind enough to share all their gear so we just had to show up. We parked the cars, loaded up all the gear and began our 1 mile hike to our chosen rock outcropping. They led us to a spot that had many levels of climbing all in one spot. Will went up the back of the rock and sent down the rope after securing it to the top of the climb. Soon Autumn was harnessed up and tied in. Karin did the belaying and up Autumn went. She was gracious with her climbing as she talked about what she was doing and why for Alexander and Victoria to learn and feel confident. She climbed for a bit and then showed us all how to carefully make your way back down, which proved to be just as difficult on this particular pitch. Next was Brooke in her normal cool and confident fashion. She, too, pointed out what she was doing and why for the benefit and Alexander and Victoria as she took a different route up the rock. Next was Victoria. Now, Ashley and I were not so confident that either of our kids would enjoy climbing. They both liked climbing at the gym but that was two years ago. Victoria has grown a lot and she does not always move gracefully. And Alexander has expressed a new fear of heights when standing next to cliffs. Will tied Victoria in and she went through all the safety checks with him and Karin who was still belaying. Once all was good to go she turned to face the rock and began climbing. And she did not stop until she climbed all the way to the top. She looked calm and cool the whole way up. Victoria’s excellence is something we have become accustom to but this one really shocked me and Ashley. She made her way back down and had a huge grin on her face. She absolutely loved it. Alexander got tied in next. He was less confident but he did not hesitate to begin climbing. He made it about ¾ of the way up before deciding to turn back. His decision was greeted by cheers of support and congrats from his fellow climbers. I thought he did great for a kid that has expressed sincere fears of heights. Little Addeline was next and she climbed about 8 or 9 feet before we had to stop the 3 year old from climbing to the top. Alexander wanted to give it another try and this time I could see it in his eyes and manner that he was going to the top. Sure enough with little hesitation and a few route adjustments he too reached the summit of our climb. When he got back down his smile was from ear to ear. He loved it and asked to go again. Each of the kids did some more climbing and also spent time bouldering amongst the rocks in the area. Ashley and I elected not to give it a try. Rock Climbing is well outside of Ashley’s comfort zone. I have long wanted to get into climbing but I knew Ashley was not going to join me. However, now that Victoria and Alexander both love it I am no longer the only one in the family who would enjoy it. The reason I did not climb is that I and we do not need another hobby that requires us to have a bunch of gear to find a place to store on Samadhi. Therefore I resisted the urge to learn to climb. However, since we have been back I have loaded our REI cart with all the gear needed for the four of us begin climbing. And at least at the time of writing this I have yet to order it. We will see how much longer I can hold out.
The day Team H had to leave, we all gathered and had one last hike together up to the top of a nearby mountain. As is usual with anything uphill Alexander and Brooke took an early lead that they increased with every step up the mountain. Those two really like to push each other and they have a great time while doing it. Autumn and Victoria stayed back with the rest of us and we all had a great hike to the summit. We took some group pictures. The mood was a little somber as we all made our way back to the park. As we hiked back we made plans to meet again in Utah. We also gave them an open invitation to come visit us anytime and anywhere once we are back to Samadhi. The kids spent the last hour together playing in the park as Will and Karin packed up the RV graciously giving the kids every last minute together. It was really sad to say “see ya later” as our two families share so many things in common and really enjoy each other’s company but again we are very confident that we will see each other again down the road.