Sometimes, I feel a little guilty raising a child in the city. I have fond memories of growing up in small Midwestern towns where we were allowed to roam outside by ourselves. Where our backyard butted up against woodland (or swampland, in my case). Where we built fairy houses under the trees and pretended we were the Box Car Children or Swiss Family Robinson.
And then I take my child an hour out of the city and we are in the most enchanted forests in the world, and my guilt instantly dissipates.
This weekend our favorite William L. Sullivan hiking book pointed us to Falls Creek Falls in the Columbia River Gorge not far from the town of Carson, Washington. At 3.4 miles round trip with gentle terrain, we thought the Sprout might be able to handle it. She regularly runs the .8 mile to the park, plays, and runs back home again so we know she has some endurance. But still hiking with a three year old is always a gamble. Heck, hiking with a thirty-eight year old is a gamble!
This was our first time hiking this trail, and it's definitely one we'll be repeating. The trail follows the creek that has hollowed out a mossy canyon, and the pleasant sound of rushing water accompanies nearly the entire length of the hike. Most of the trail is wide enough to keep my mom-panic from kicking in. There were only a few places that I demanded the Sprout hold onto an adult hand because my over-active imagination could not help but see her slipping over the side of the trail and tumbling to the rocky river below.
The same strategies that keep a thirty-eight year old hiking also apply to a three year old: comfortable shoes, frequent water and snack breaks, and some tomfoolery keep us all happy hikers.
These pictures do not do justice to the gorgeous, moss-covered punchbowl at the bottom of the falls. I've taken to leaving my big camera at home and using my iPhone for quick photos, but next time I think I'll lug the camera along.
3.4 miles seems like a good distance for a three year old. On the way back out, I did give her a piggyback ride for about .2 mile but other than that she hiked it all herself---and kept up a continuous patter of conversation and nonsensical songs. We stopped to gather mini pine cones, Special Rocks and Sticks, and moss. Our pace was slow, but we all had a great time.
So, no guilt for this mama. My city kid can out-hike your city kid any day.