The kids and I have hiked Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield more than a handful of times. There have been a variety of reasons why we haven’t reached the summit — stomach flu, a canine injury and a lack of interest have all been factors — but recently we decided it was time to commit to getting to the top.

There are some wonderful vistas on this Brownfield mountain trail that don’t require too much effort. When the girls were small, a short hike to a vista point for a picnic was just right. The area is particularly beautiful in the fall because the valley and surrounding mountains are a beautiful panorama of colors during that season.

A couple years ago I suggested to the girls we try to get to the summit. It’s just under a 1,200-foot elevation gain, which is something we’ve accomplished on other mountains. But that first real try didn’t work out because my husband came down with stomach flu. For obvious reasons, we had to head back to the trailhead early.

Last fall the girls and I tried to summit again. This time we took along a dog we were fostering. Unfortunately, the dog cut his foot going up the mountain. I was concerned about the bloody paw, so we headed back to the trailhead to ensure the injury didn’t turn more serious.

So it was with some self-deprecating humor that we set out again to summit the mountain. When we passed our usual vista/picnic spot, we cheered that we were “finally” moving into new territory. And as is the case with this mountain, whenever we try to get to the top, we encounter some new challenges.

We had problems with the plentiful mosquitoes because I forgot the DEET bug spray. I clearly wasn’t paying attention when packing and threw in an all-natural version. As much as I try to use chemical-free products, when in the backwoods I have found we need the strongest bug juice we can get.

The lack of adequate protection from the mosquitoes was very annoying and I kicked myself up — and down — the mountain that I didn’t pack the right spray.

The last quarter-mile to the summit was steep and included open ledges. My kids really enjoyed the challenge of finding foot and handholds to make the ascent up the last couple hundred feet to the summit. We made a loud declaration once at the top that “we finally made it!” This might have been heard for miles.

But after looking around we decided the summit was anticlimactic. Yes, it had a beautiful view, but there are also nice vistas of the surrounding area at lower elevations that didn’t require as much effort. As I have said in previous columns about this mountain (and others), hiking doesn’t always need to be about getting to the top. Sometimes it’s about finding a nice spot for a relaxing picnic.

Within minutes of hitting the summit, my 16-year-old developed a bloody nose. It was a full geyser and she was a bloody mess by the time her sister and I dug out napkins and tissues from our packs. She handled the situation like a trooper and later commented she didn’t have much choice since we were at the top of a mountain.

“I think we should call this ‘bloody’ mountain for Shadow’s paw (the foster dog), my nose and all the mosquitoes!”

The bloody nose was quickly controlled, and truth be told, my daughter found the mosquitoes more problematic than the nose. We reapplied the all-natural bug spray at least a half-dozen times on the trail, but it just didn’t do the job. The mosquitoes were so thick in some areas that a lot of our pictures turned out blurry due to so many bugs flying in front of the lens.

Our experiences on this mountain have turned into our family folklore. It happens that some places were just made for quirky storytelling. And sometimes stopping to enjoy the sights (and people you’re with) without any goals in mind are all that really matters on a family hiking adventure, anyway. It’s nice to be reminded of that, particularly as the kids get older. But a lesson I hope not to relearn: Don’t ever forget the “good” bug spray.

Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 791-6334 or at:

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