The times I spent as a child with my parents in Olympic National Park and Green Lake, an urban park in Seattle, were defining moments in my life. So, when I was able to move back to Seattle and become a dad, I was eager to show my daughter, Amelie all of my favorite places.
It was a big moment in January, as I outlined in my last blog, when she first started to notice the landscapes around her.
Well, I didn’t know what I was in for when we took a family hike at Franklin Falls near Snoqualmie Pass near Seattle. As I loaded her up in her backpack carrier, she asked if she could just hike.
I felt a sense of fear as I lifted Amelie out of my pack.I know I am supposed to be Mr. No-Child-Left-Inside, but my first reaction was to protect her!
Franklin Falls is a two-mile hike to a waterfall surrounded by Douglas Fir trees and mountain views. As Amelie skipped happily next to our dog Mocha, she grabbed her own personal walking stick. She was not only using her eyes, but she stopped to touch every fern. As she looked at them she asked “what are these bumps on the back?”
My fear soon vanished as I realized she was slowing us down in the best way possible. Amelie’s smile was infectious. I was so excited when we finally rounded the last turn and saw the 100-foot waterfall that is the signature of the trail.
However, instead of embracing the sound of the crashing water or the majesty of the waterfall, she ran toward me and grabbed my hand and said, “No Daddy it is too loud and scary,” I held her and explained that the crashing waterfall sound was beautiful, and that people hiked just to see the Falls. She looked at me quizzically and announced it was time to turn back.
The minute the waterfall was out of site, Amelie was back to having a smile on her face and taking in all the sights and sounds of the natural world.
We ended our trip by going down to the riverbed to throw rocks into the river. It was not the waterfall that made her want to continue, it was the unscripted moments that nature provides. The energy we all felt was palpable. But what surprised us was her independent confidence, her eagerness to stand on her own two feet.
This past summer, I summited Mount Rainier. As I was climbing I thought about how Amelie had appreciated the little things on her hike to Franklin Falls. I found myself focusing less on the destination and more on the journey.
Watching Amelie embrace the natural world has been a gift, but I’ve been surprised to see how much our family has bonded via nature. In a fast-paced, over structured world, many families struggle to find moments to bond. This is not a plea to go find a national park and play as a family outside, but to find a park near you just to get outdoors.
A great way to find that time is to join or start a Family Nature Club, with the help of C&NN’s guide. This can help your family get the support and energy you need for quality time as a family.
For our my family, my hope is that the moments that we have spent outdoors continue to help Amelie discover even greater confidence, curiosity, and a sense of adventure. Time is our most precious resource. Remember to hit pause and enjoy.
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