We Are Not Amused
Subject: We are not amused
Place: Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia, Canada
Looking for skunk cabbage
“Yuk yuk, is that a stinky skunk cabbage?” asked Cameron, pointing to a spruce tree.
“Not yet, just a bit further,” I encouraged him onwards.
The walk was far from over and we didn’t want to peak too soon.
“Is that the stinky cabbage Mummy?”
“No, that’s a glacier lily.”
“And that one?”
“Then I think Daddy smells. Yuk yuk, he’s really stinky.”
The joy of hiking is not inborn
Passing the joy of hiking on to a three year old and a four year old has been literally an uphill struggle. Our kids are full of endless energy when it comes to playgrounds, soft play centres or toy shops, but although they have the ability to walk for several miles, they don’t always have the will or concentration.
“I’m tired Daddy, want a carry.”
“Why is it such a long way? This walk is too long.”
Like any kid, the magnificence of nature, her volcanoes, snow covered peaks and powdery blue glaciers can’t impress them in quite the same way as a red and yellow bouncy castle.
We’ve found that any long walk requires quite a bit of imagination from us, developing games, engaging them in toddler interests and diverting their attention. Food helps too!
This walk is a failure
The skunk walk failed to deliver on the smell front. When we found the giant cabbages, they were pronounced “rubbish.”
“Cameron’s feet are smellier than that,” exclaimed Matthew.
Cameron took his shoes off and sniffed them to confirm his brother’s theory.
“Yuk yuk, they stink of skunk.”
“What shall we do now Dad?”
Thank goodness for farting frogs
The main interest of the walk had come to a sudden but undramatic end. Thankfully nature helped out around the next corner.
“Look look, frogs. Big frogs, giant ones.”
“Wow, they’re really mavis, look Daddy.”
“He means massive Dad. Is this one asleep or dead? Do frogs smell horrible or nice?”
“Have a sniff and see.”
“Hmmm. It smells a bit skunky. Where’s the frog’s daddy?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he’s gone to work.”
“I think the frog’s Daddy might have done a fart before he went.”
Any diversion will do
Rude or unusual names of walks help us in our quest to get the kids more mobile. Wildlife spotting is also a certain winner. A five kilometre hike to a waterfall was saved by chipmunks scampering with us along the route. But the kids were unimpressed they weren’t allowed to feed them their picnic lunch.
“Why not Dad?”
“Because if they get used to human junk food, they won’t want to eat their natural diet. Then they either die of starvation or become a nuisance.”
“But it’s not junk food, its peanut butter sandwiches. Squirrels like nuts”
“But it’s still not the food chipmunks would find in the wild.”
“Then why are those people feeding them?”
Behind us, a family was feeding the chipmunks a packet of smarties, while another child held out some Reeces pieces.
“Because they don’t read signs,” said Stuart pointedly. Come on kids, lets go and find some bears.”
Let’s go on a bear hunt
The concept of bears running loose and keen to eat small boys has fascinated Matthew and Cameron since we entered bear territory. The children are well briefed to eat their dinner before the bears get to it; they know not to run ahead in case a bear pounces, and at bedtime, they shut their eyes immediately in case a grizzly tries to snuggle into their sleeping bag with them. No need for a Goldilocks fairytale to impress these kids. A challenging walk is a delight for everyone when turned into a bear hunt.
“Dad, dad, I think I found a bear footprint.”
“Daddy, I can smell bear poo. Come and sniff.”
We introduced the kids to their first genuine bear in a reserve on the mountain at the Canadian ski resort of Kicking Horse. Apparently there had been no sightings of the grizzly called Boo all morning, so the boys took up the challenge of tracking him down, happily spending half an hour scanning the enclosure from the safety of the electric fence, armed with sticks to fight off any attack. Up on the mountain trees waved in the wind, rivers bubbled and babbled, squirrels hopped around looking for food, but there was no sign of a bear.
Where’s the bear?
“Is that it?” said Cam, pointing to a mountain biker in the distance, bombing down a track outside the enclosure.
“Is that it Dad, is that the bear?” said Matthew, as the wind rustled in the breeze. “I see it, I see it, there it is!” Making his way down a stream, about half a kilometre up the hill, was the young grizzly.
“Yup, that’s him guys, that’s our bear. Let’s call him,” shouted Stuart with as much excitement as the children
“Boo, Boo, come here Boo,” cried the kids, running around the perimeter fence. But the excitement was all in the chase. When the big furry grizzly with his humpback and sharp claws lumbered down to the fence on his routine scavenge for food, the kids immediately lost interest. For a three and four year old, imaginary bears are much more exciting than the real thing.
Blind man’s buff
The bear game is redundant now so we’ve developed a new game to keep the kids amused on walks. We blindfold them, take them up to a tree and give them five minutes to examine and get to know it. Then we walk them around, spin them a few times and unmask them. They blink and squint in the sunlight, and then go tearing off randomly to hunt for their new leafy friend.
Matthew finds his most of the time, by a combination of sniffing, feeling and guessing his way around, while Cameron usually ends up making friends with a dead tree stump or rock. But of course it’s much more fun when Daddy plays the game. As Stuart jokingly stumbles around blindfold, tripping over trees and falling into heather, the kids are completely engaged in their surroundings.
On yesterday’s tramp, when their Dad faked a head on collision with a spruce tree, Cameron got very excited.
“Daddy just walked into a skunk cabbage. Hooray! Does it stink of fart Dad?”
Stuart responded by tripping over a tree root, and falling noisily into a bush, unaware of the middle aged couple who were coming up on the path behind him.
“Pwooahh, what’s that smell? Who let off?” Stuart shouted.
“We’re taking our Daddy for a walk,” said Cameron to the couple. “But he’s fallen over into a skunk cabbage.”
“Isn’t it marvellous how Fathers never grow up,” said the female hiker with a small smile as she stepped over the turbaned man in shorts lying prostrate in the grass.