It was yet another beautiful day hiking in the Alps. The sky was a robin’s egg blue dotted with powderpuff clouds. A gentle breeze kissed my face and the stunning scenery of the Alps made me continually want to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t all just a dream. It was our third day of hiking during a ten day intergenerational hiking trip around Mont Blanc. So far our trip could not have been more surreal.
As my dad and son climbed up the steep path leading us higher and higher above the dazzling aquamarine Moulin Dam far below, all I could think about was the reward for our efforts. A view of the legendary Lac Mort, a high alpine ice-covered lake at 2843 meters (9327 feet) above the Aosta Valley on her perch in the Italian Alps. But then, after two hours of hiking and only twenty minutes to go to our destination, the wind began to change. We could see a series of rain-laden clouds off in the distance over the Aosta Valley. I checked the radar and knew we would be fine however my dad grew nervous. He had been caught in a ravaging thunderstorm atop a mountain before and swore he’d never do it again. He wanted to turn back.
We had just reached the first of two alpine lakes, Lac Long, and it was stunning. It would only take another twenty minutes to reach Lac Mort but my dad said we couldn’t go. An argument brewed because I hate to not complete a hike especially when I knew we could make it before the rain. But I had to respect my dad’s decision despite my displeasure and disappointment. Upset, we turned around and headed back without ever seeing the prize.
I didn’t talk for the next hour of the hike down to the car and purposely held back on my pace letting my dad and son go ahead. Yet it was at that moment when I fully realized the true beauty and power of intergenerational travel.
From a distance, I observed and listened to my dad and teenage son talk about life, the world, their hopes and dreams. Slowly my disappointment and anger eased and instead a deep sense of gratitude grew. For this is what it is all about and why it is so incredibly meaningful to travel as family. This unburdened time together in the middle of nowhere. Sharing our common love of nature and mountains, creating bonds that somehow are often harder to create at home. It is magical and priceless.
The trip ended up being all I had hoped for and more. It gave me precious time to reconnect with my teenage son, spend more time with my dad and realize what an incredible gift all of these priceless memories are. I look forward to sharing my stories in the upcoming months and reliving the beauty of not only the Alps but of spending sacred time with family. Stay tuned.
Excellent- did you just return then Nicole? I assume you went on your own and not with a group……
Hi Ruth! Yes, I returned just five days ago. It was tremendous and we did not go with a group. I learned a lot and realized it is very easy to plan the entire tour by yourself. We found excellent online resources that I will be sharing in upcoming posts. Also, all the hiking trails are very clearly marked with length and estimated time to hike with many options on how you can proceed. I’ve done a lot of hiking before and never have been on trails so well marked for self guiding. I want to go back and do it again! 🙂
I could feel your disappointment Nicole but could also see your Dad’s viewpoint. It sounds like the trip was a tremendous gift for all of you.
Yes it was so incredibly special Sue! I realized during that trip too how much out of all mountains I really do love the Alps. They are special. The trip was special. I’m glowing.
I’m so happy for all of you. The Mont Blanc area is so physically beautiful, and I agree that travel with parents and kids is so meaningful. We have done a few trips like that, and our kids still remember that time with grandparents so fondly (and vice versa). One summer we took only two of our kids to do the Mont Blanc circuit (the other one chose to go to camp; we did not banish him!), and it was a similarly wonderful time for us to bond with those two in spectacular surroundings.
So …. did it end up raining?!
It was such a wonderful trip Lexi. My heart is still filled with gratitude. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to do the entire tour someday with Max and maybe my daughter Sophia once she is older. She is 12 and isn’t totally into hiking yet but Max is at 14. How old were your kids when you did it? Did you stay on top at refuges or did you stay in hotels? I learned so much on the trip. There are so many ways to do it and of course pros and cons of each.
As for the rain, it did eventually rain very hard but not for two more hours after we were back in Aosta. Our hike was an hour drive away so I’m actually not even sure if it rained there or not. I didn’t put this in the story but we ran into a couple from Luxembourg who had been to the Lac Mort and showed me the photos. It did make me a bit more disappointed as the lake was completely frozen over with ice and reminded me of something I’d seen in South America. But oh well. It wasn’t meant to be!
As you know, I’ve had my share of mountain hiking disappointment, so I feel for you. But safety is really #1 – I get that. Our kids were college-age – 18 and 20, I think – which was great because they could drink wine with us after a day of hiking! We stayed on the mountain in refuges and small inns. The food was amazing, and it was great to have three different cuisines as we passed through France, Switzerland, and Italy!
That sounds amazing Lexi. I’m hoping that I can do this too once Max and Sophia are a bit older. I can imagine how fun it would be to share a fantastic glass of wine together! What a wonderful trip! Have you done more hikes like that with your kids?
Oh, yes! We started them young … I think the first “real” (like all day) hiking was in New Zealand when my youngest was 6, and then the first multi-day trip with camping in tents was in the Great Rift Valley when they were 12, 14, and 16. We trekked the Inca Trail a year later … and blah blah, lots of nice long hiking trips with the kids and without! We have found it to be one of the nicest ways to spend time with them over the years.
Wow how amazing Lexi to have shared all these magical moments together with your kids. I agree, travel has been some of the fondest times we have experienced together as a family. It has been so wonderful to also include my parents in the mix. I look forward to many more trips with my kids! 🙂
Heavens, how did he get so big, Nicole? 🙂 🙂 It’s been amazing to follow the journey.
I know Jo! He is very very tall for his age. 6 ft 2 and only 14. He is starting high school this fall and my daughter will be in 7th grade. It is scary how fast time is going so I am so glad that I got this very special time together with my son and my dad. It is priceless. 🙂