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Father, fun, fitness and 50: What doesn’t belong?

I didn’t know it at the time, but one of the pictures I took during a family hike at Seneca Rocks last week pretty much sums up our long slog up the mountain. At least, it pretty much sums up the hike for me.

The picture shows our 16-year-old son starting to take a fairly commanding lead over his mother and sister, who appear to be holding a conversation of some sort. All three are walking along a wooded track with their backs to the camera. All three seem to be moving at a good clip.

I’m nowhere to be seen.

That’s because I possessed the camera and took the picture from behind.

Way behind.

Which begs the question – why was I lagging?

Just to get that shot?

Or was I struggling to keep up?

It depends on whom you ask. My wife would probably tell you that I was getting a little red in the face. In fact, she asked several times on our way up the mountain if I was “okay.”

Personally, I like to think I was leading from the rear. After all, our trip to Seneca Rocks was my idea.

I told my wife about a month ago that I wanted to take the kids to the Rocks over spring break. I figured they could use some fresh air – especially our son, who, if left on his own, would probably figure out a way to somehow become one with the Internet like Johnny Depp does in the new movie “Transcendence.” But instead of hatching an evil plan to destroy the world, our son would likely use his extravagant power to have a pizza delivered to the house every day.

As ideas go, that’s not such a bad one. But even the digitally omnipotent need to flex their muscles every once in a while.

And, flex them he did.

The trail up to the observation platform at Seneca Rocks is a mile-and-a-half. One website I found describes it invitingly as a “pleasant hike along gentle uphill grades and switchbacks.”

For a 16-year-old (and, apparently everyone else) that description rings true. But I’m a newly minted 50-year-old who realized not far up the trail that our teenage son is not the one who needs to get out more – that being dragged around our neighborhood by our giant dog Rodney once in a while was not going to be enough exercise to keep from getting a little dizzy from exertion.

Thankfully, there are plenty of places to stop and rest on the way up. Wooden benches are placed strategically along the trail, and fallen trees and big boulders are handy to lean against as you catch your breath and let the burn in your legs subside.

Not that I ever got to take advantage of any opportunity to rest.

As anyone who has ever had the misfortune of bringing up the rear will tell you, there really is no rest for the weary. I’m just glad I was in charge of the water bottles.

I had them in a fanny pack strapped around my waist – a happy circumstance that forced my wife and kids to stop and wait for me when they got thirsty. Unfortunately, my joy at each pause in our hike didn’t last long. After they sipped some water and I began settling in for a well-deserved break, our son would turn almost immediately and start back up the trail with my wife and daughter following closely in his wake.

I had no choice but to get moving, again.

I finally got to catch my breath when I stumbled up to the observation platform to join my family. The view is spectacular and well worth the hike up Seneca Rocks, especially if you’re concerned about someone in the family who really ought to get out more.

And, just for the record, I actually led the way for much of the trek down the mountain.

There are times when gravity really is my friend.

Giles Snyder lives in Martinsburg with his wife and two kids. You can follow @GilesSnyder on Twitter, find him on Facebook or contact him through his blog at gilessnyder.wordpress.com.

Snyder is one of a group of West Virginia columnists whose work soon will be syndicated and available for purchase by WVPA member newspapers. 

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