This spring we have finished most of our “formal” studies and have enjoyed shifting our learning to more relaxed pace of nature exploration and outdoor pursuits.
On our walks we have observed orchids, woodpeckers, owl pellets, dragonfly larvae, and one of our favorite, caddisfly larvae. These invertebrates are fascinating as they build their own homes with materials such as tree needles, shells or pebbles.
On a recent walk with friends we collected some eggs from a drying up ditch, and a few tadpoles that had already hatched. Over the next couple weeks we have been enthralled watching pond life in our aquarium. We have observed a mosquito larvae change to a pupa. We have watched the caddisfly’s build onto their homes. There are many tiny tiny insects jumping up in down in the water. The most exciting find was noticing our tadpoles looked different. We had in fact gathered two different kinds. I was stumped as to what one of them was. They are a spotted brown color and have external gills. This is when after a quick google search we realized we have salamanders!
I’m quite excited to see all the changes in our “pond.” If anyone one has suggestions on how to keep our little ecosystem alive and happy, and any information on salamanders it would be greatly appreciated!
After over a month of planning, writing lists, food prep and waves of nervous excitement, our backpacking trip finally arrived.
I started packing a week in advance, checking off my lists carefully. Following a hearty breakfast, we loaded the car up and hit the road. In a couple of hours we were registered for the trail, unloading the car, loading up the deluxe chariot a friend lent us, and strapping on our packs.
Only a few minutes down the trail, Miss S had a spill. She had a cry, then was back on her feet ready to trudge on. We were hiking the Berg Lake trail, under the colossal Mt. Robson. We had a 7 km hike into the back-country campsite on the shore of Kinney Lake. The trail is a wide, even path with only one big hill and one section of switchbacks leading up the side of a mountain to get around a bay on the lake. The only unexpected issues were a giant puddle that soaked the bottom of the chariot, and a fallen tree we had to lift the chariot over.
One of the things I love about these trips is the sense of wonder and excitement that the kids radiate, and it is infectious. They were bubbling with joy as they discovered many tiny pebbly creeks with banks of moss and shadowed by ferns. They chatted excitedly about fairy homes and fairy lakes and fairy streams, naming each and every one. The forest was magical, even I felt it.
Arriving at the campsite, we were ready to set up our base camp and eat some supper. The girls had fun playing along the lake and helping set up. While Miss A and I slept in the tent, the older girls slept out “under the stars” with Ben. He had set up a tarp in case of rain. Unfortunately no stars could be seen through the haze from BC forest fires.
Early in the morning Ben took the older girls to fill up the water containers to start making breakfast, finding rabbits hopping along the trails. What a fun surprise! We had a relaxing morning and then headed further up the trail on a day hike. The next section rose up high onto the mountain, where the girls climbed over gigantic boulders covered in moss. Then the trail went down again to the river bed. We crossed tiny bridges over thundering white water. On the other side of the valley we spent some time relaxing in the shadow of the trees. My heart felt so full watching my family laughing, playing, connecting. It was truly a gift to be together with no distractions. Out there I felt a soothing peace, and a quiet calm within. Despite these trips being so much work, for me, they are so worth it. I feel renewed and refreshed.
Making our way back to camp, we took the lower trail across the Kinney Lake flats where the rushing river spreads out over the rocks in to many little streams. What a wonder to watch our girls. Miss S was like a wild pony racing across the flats, leaping over the streams. Miss B scrambled up every large boulder to stand triumphantly on top, hands on her hips.
Wild. Free. It was refreshing.
The next day we slowly packed up our camp, lingering in the cool morning stillness. The sun came out as we started down the trail.
The hike back we tried to focus on the trail in front of us, the thundering river beside us, the towering cedars beside us, and on the wonderful experience we had. We pushed thoughts of the week to come and to-do list out of our heads, wanting to soak up the present.
It was a stunning retreat. Out family was renewed and strengthened. I am so proud of our strong mountain girls who hiked a total of 18km over the 3 days, all on their own, carrying their own water and snacks most of the time. One girl asked if we could return every year, to which the other excitedly exclaimed, “Or next weekend!”
Today we found strawberries on a great sale, so we loaded up on them and spent the afternoon washing, slicing, blending and filling up the dehydrator.
A few years ago when Ms. S was about 2, she loved eating our homemade strawberry fruit leather, but called it strawberry ham. I guess she thought it looked like deli meat. It has been one of those cute things that your kid says and just sticks. So today we blended up some strawberry rhubarb fruit leather, sprinkled with some chia seeds for extra nutrients and some texture. We also sliced up many strawberries to dehydrate for adding into oatmeal or trail mix.
The sale was great timing as we are starting to prepare for our big adventure for the summer. We have booked our spots at a back country campground, and will be backpacking with our girls for a 2 night trip. 7km in, a rest day, and 7 km out. It is a beautiful place and a gorgeous trail, accessible enough to push the chariot loaded with pink clothes, fluffy sleeping bags and yummy strawberry ham. Sound a little crazy? Maybe. But these crazy adventures give me a burst of energy and sense of life and wonder. They help me to refocus on my great life purpose, as we step outside our regular routine, standard views, and mundane tasks.
We have done this trail before, when Ms. S was 2 and Ms. B was 11 months old. It was epic. It was an unusually warm fall, and we hiked it in October. It was stunning. The crisp air, blue water, and stunning night sky. Ms. B hardly slept that night. On the plus side, we didn’t need to worry about wildlife as I’m sure her crying kept everything far far away. But that was how she was as a baby and we thought, “We could stay up all night at home with a crying baby, or have a grand adventure with a crying baby.” But the lack of sleep and crying baby isn’t what I really remember about that trip, it was the quiet waters, the mist on the mountains, the crisp air, the stars, and watching Ms. S explore in the wild. Since we’ve been married, Ben and I have had many adventures in which we have coined the phrase, “You don’t have to be having fun to have fun.” Now I really sound crazy. But it helps me to remember that things can’t and won’t go perfectly. And that the things that are hard, are often the most memorable, and reap the greatest rewards.
So here we go again. I’m excited to return and to share natures beauty with our girls. I better bring lots of strawberry ham.