Sunday, July 28, 2013

Franklin Falls, or a tale of hiking with two kids

I chose to move to Seattle because I wanted to go to go grad school somewhere that I thought I might like to live.  But, in reality, this choice was largely based on movies (Singles, Sleepless in Seattle), its connection to grunge (what could be bad about a place that helped spawn Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the like?) and a brief visit during an unusually beautiful day or two in March.  (Within a year, I knew everyone was happy during that visit because the sun was actually out during the tail end of winter.)  Oh, and you didn't have to have an air conditioner to live comfortably.  But within my first full year, living in the Pacific Northwest had reinvigorated a love for the outdoors that had largely laid dormant during my high school and college years in Texas.

I'd spend the week searching online for new hiking gems (my job was much less demanding in those days).  Checked out new areas every weekend.  When I met Tyler he joined in (he had hiked a lot when he was young, probably less so when we met), continuing my annual pilgrimage to Lake 22 and even revisiting Mount Dickerman toward the end of summer.  We hiked a ton during our RTW trip.  And we even kept it up a bit when Stella could be carried on our backs. 

But the last few years have been a struggle.  We tried one hike last summer, which ended up feeling disaster-ish.  Otto too young to really walk.  Stella to old to really be carried.  No one was happy.

But we're gearing up for a camping trip (or two or three, if we can swing it) and last night, when I realized the weather had been beautiful and we had nothing planned, I suggested we try a hike.  We'd be smart this time.  Do something short, good for kids.  Not care if we reached any sort of goal.  Bring lots of food.  Low expectations.  So we got up, did a little research, and decided on Franklin Falls.  Listed in just about every site talking about hikes good for kids five and under, it's one mile to a waterfall, one mile back, with really mild elevation gain.  With a picnic lunch, many changes of clothes and good attitudes, we hit the road.

Hitting the trail!

Franklin Falls were farther out than I initially expected, and not surprisingly crowded when we arrived.  I used to shun the busier hikes, annoyed by hikers who slowed me down or when too many took away from my enjoyment of being in the wilderness.  Maybe it's age, maybe it's that I'm one of the slow people with little kids in tow, but it doesn't phase me so much anymore.

So the short story:  we made it!  We had fun!  It took four hours to hike two miles plus lunch, but the kids--both of them--made it from start to finish using their own legs!  We had a brief moment when I think we both started to get that itch to reach the waterfall,  but we spent a lot of time picking up rocks, throwing them off "bridges", talking about the shiny roots from many people walking over them and had lots of snack breaks.  And, sure, it helps that both the kids are older, but I do think largely it was us as parents getting over ourselves and just letting things go more at their pace.  (Which I think is part of why the last hike was so disastrous and one of the difficulties of parenthood--whenever things are bad, you really know deep down that it's largely your own fault in one way or another.)

Second snack stop, about a quarter mile in, maybe.  I should have brought even more food than I did.  I did bring:  six oranges, four string cheeses, Trader Joe rice crispy bars, two bags of "trail mix" (random stuff in our cabinet), chips, and ham and cheese sandwiches.  We broke into the snacks fast and they'd basically eaten everything except the stuff they didn't like in the trail mix before we'd started heading back to the car from the waterfall.

Climbing up a big tree, Stella being the protective big sister

Otto and his big rock, waiting for the next bridge so he could throw it down to the river

We made it!  We were all pretty excited to make the slightly slippery last stretch of hike to the base of the falls themselves

Picnic time, then some time to hang out in the sun and--you guessed it--throw rocks in the water


Obligatory family shot in front of the waterfall.  Otto distracted by the waterfall.

Stella being silly with a stick by a few trillium holdouts

And we made it!  Sweatier and more tired but still in good spirits!

And it was fun to get to talk with Stella, and tell her about trilliums and white water and other random trail stuff.  And Otto--well, he doesn't converse back a lot yet, but he is fantastic to talk to because he has this endearing way of saying a really enthusiastic, supportive, "Yeah!" at all the appropriate moments.  It was so fantastic to get to share something we love with them and have them have a good time too.

Now, we won't subject any of our other hiking friends to this pace and routine anytime soon, but we will be hitting the trail again before too long.  And I can't wait to go camping!

Sleepy Otto--two miles is pretty good for a two-year-old!  And final confession--I promised Stella we'd stop for ice cream if she hiked all the way back on her own without whining. I'm not sure it was strictly necessary, but it certainly didn't help.  And, hey, who doesn't want some ice cream after a hike?

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