On Sunday I left the piles of laundry all over the family room, I did not clean the breakfast dishes, took four Advil to help with my mild hangover and packed a cooler full of food. We jumped in the car and headed for a hike along the American River. Preston did not join us since he was spending the day with his cousins.
The hike was called Codfish Falls Trail. It was a 3.5 mile hike, which was quite long for the little girls, but the end of the hike featured a special treat. The incentive to get to the end of the trail was a beautiful flowing waterfall cascading down smooth rocks. We had such great access to the waterfall that you could actually touch it if you were so brave. You could also fall in the river and be swept away with the current at the bottom of the waterfall, which was quit scary considering all of my children love to climb the rocks near the water.
I grew up in these very foothills of the Sierra Nevada. I remember spending summer days exploring trails and swimming in rivers. It was wonderful to get back into the outdoors with my family, teaching them what I learned as a child about nature.
At the beginning of the hike I was alone with Elsie and Violet. I watched them skip and run along the trail, one behind the other. They were gloriously happy. They called each other sister and held hands. Their bond is so special and my greatest wish for them is that they never lose it.
I used the trail as a teaching moment. I taught them that the river is called the American River, and that this was the North Fork of the river. When I asked them later what the river was called, Elsa answered that it was the United States River.
We learned about poison oak. We explored the shiny red/green leaves and I taught them about what happens when your skin comes in contact with poison oak.
I showed the girls the Manzanita trees and I invited them to feel the smooth trunks. We observed that the trunks look like they have been painted red.
We saw what looked to be an animal den. The girls asked me if they fell into the den, whether an animal would eat them. Violet said that the animal probably isn’t in there right now because it is out hunting for food.
Spring wildflowers had just begun to sprinkle both sides of the trail with pink, purple and gold. I explained how the gold flowers are California Poppy, our State flower, and we are not allowed to pick them, because that was what I was taught. The girls couldn’t believe that there was a flower out there that they are not allowed to pick and offer to me as a prize to place behind my ear and decorate my hair. After our hike I looked up information on the California Poppy and found that it is actually not illegal to cut or pick the State flower.
I asked the girls to make observations about the flowing water of the river, and they responded with, “mom, we are both Elsa in Frozen and we have built a frozen castle that we live in. Come on sister! Lets go into our castle!”
Nature learning was over for now as the ubiquitous Frozen roleplaying had become a part of our hike.
Ava and Chris chased the butterflies and Chris captured some amazing pictures of them feeding off of the sweet nectar of flowers. Ava scurried down the cliff like a mountain goat until she reached the rocky edge of the river and scaled the rocks for the last half of a mile to the car. The trail was just becoming far too monotonous for her.
As a little incentive to make it through to the end of the hike with minimal whining, crying or complaining, I had bought them gummy bears. I learned this little hiking trick from their amazing PE teacher Mrs. T. When times started to get tough and the girls began to question whether they could go any farther during the last mile back, they would begin to ask me some detailed questions about the gummy bears like, “are they gummy bears or worms?” “Are they all different colors and flavors? “Do we get to eat the gummy bears right when we get back to the car?”
At the end of the hike Violet and I took our shoes and socks off and soaked our sweaty feet in the cold [United States of] American River water until they became numb.
We climbed into the car and divvied up our sweet gummy bear rewards and the girls reminisced about how hard the hike was. I think they were proud that they did it.
Until next time, the mothership is signing off.