Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: Adventures

Four Of Us And Pup, Winter Trekking

There is always that feeling of mild sorrow when leaving a place where you stayed even for a bit. A part of you stays behind no matter what. When we left in the morning, the cabin that was our home for one night was inundated by bright sunlight. It looked pretty and inviting. Places where you share laughs and snuggles always do.

We crossed a frozen lake, following our own tracks from yesterday. Deep enough wells lined with hoarfrost that looked like tiny evergreens. As if a white forest grew in each of them. The four of us and pup too, we left tracks that danced together and trampled in each other’s steps all the way to the cabin. Now we were trekking back. So much sun to walk with us. That only the pup pranced is because we were rather weighted down by winter gear. But our hearts did, alongside her.

We traversed the first lake and followed a path through the woods. Tall swaying trees decorated with big clumps of snow, lichens and sunshine guarded the trail and the magic of walking among them was unsurpassable. There were holes in the snow that were filled with blue light and you wanted to be small enough to slide right in and marvel at the world of light filtered through ice crystals piled on top of each other.

Magic, yes. Boys chattering behind the supply sled that Max pulled, and pup and I walking ahead and announcing dead-fall crossings. Ever heard the music of trees swaying in a gentle breeze? It’s yet another kind of mystery that the forest envelops you with.

There are tracks of bunnies and squirrels and mice too, the tiniest of all, and my camera is asleep due to cold temperatures so we only stare at them and imagine the stories that go with each, grateful for yesterday’s glimpses that got photographed. This is what I always wish for. Time to be. Present so we can see each other…

We are in the heart of the snowy woods, no notifications on any devices, just furtive glances that speak of winter-kissed red cheeks, simple joy, togetherness and being able to steal some time together, away from a fast-moving world that often makes us feel we have long misplaced the brakes of it. Hence the speed and craziness. Hence the need to trek away from it at times.

We reach the half point; there’s some sighs, tiredness, and laughter at the pup’s antics. She buries her face in the snow, swims, and crawls through the white thick waves of brightness, checks in with us and dives in yet another pile that might or might not contain a mouse somewhere at the bottom. Worth a shot.

We reach the second lake and follow thick translucent snowmobile tracks. They had churned the slushy overflow on the lake and now it’s all frozen, thick tracks and small bumps of ice as if the whole lake was churning and a big freeze came and put an end to all that movement. It’s quiet and sunny and the pup follows the scent of coyotes. This way and that, she smells the snow, the air, she sniffs at sunshine that carries smells though to us it’s but a storm of bright air that moves cold and swift over our faces. So much sunshine.

Reeds are frozen from the waist up and we wind our way through, around an island that sits just as frozen. The wind stops pinching our cheeks. Boys and pup tussle in the snow, small hands turn red and itchy and the trek has to end soon or else. It’s been a long morning of many steps through snowy woods where traps of dead-fall lay shamelessly thick and cumbersome at times.

We woke up early because early morning often turns drafty and cold in old cabins, when the fire decides to snooze some too.

The boys were snuggled up in the loft for half the night. Then the air got too hot. Nighttime crawling with sleeping bags is but part of it all. They snuggled with us and pup, close to the stove; there were whispers and shushing and pup barking at times because the woods are never silent at night and she knows that better than us.

We had played games before bedtime and candlelight was sweetly enveloping us with soft light but it was hard to see the pieces and writing on cards. So we turned to stories; some were spooky, some had tiny pups and adventures in them, some had rhymes and laughter and continued all the way until we all stepped outside, pup too, and stared at a sky that had stars exploded all over it. Every time we find ourselves under the night sky where numbers lose their meaning, we’re in awe and silent, aware of the privilege of seeing it all and together. The moon was a bright crescent, a scythe that harvests heaps of magic for us to hold in thick, heart-filling bouquets. Forever may exist after all.

We put out the candles when words turned lazy and slow. The fire was still on in the stove and we curled up with sweaters and jackets for pillows, and the pup allowed to nestle next to us. Loaded with hugs and giggled, the boys crawled up into the loft, and their whispers became soft breathing and neither of us could tell who said what last because somehow all became quiet until the pup stirred and growled softly, which was in the middle of the night when all is but shadows and whispers of dreams. We were safe, we always are. Togetherness has something to do with it.

A Taste Of Canada

Originally published as a column on September 5, 2014 in the Armchair Mayor News. 
SilentIt was Saturday morning and the sun was the brightest in a few days. We were planning an overnight hike to a nearby lake, the boys’ first if you don’t count a canoe camping trip we did a while ago.

Six of us, as we had two of our relatives from Europe, hiking enthusiasts who have never been into the Canadian back country. In a very subjective manner, we might’ve mentioned that British Columbia has the best of it. Subjective with a side of love if you will.

We loaded backpacks, fishing rods included, and somewhat delayed by an afternoon storm, started our trip later than planned. We took a forest trail that saw us chat two by two, drenched by sudden rain and amazed at the sight of tiny forest frogs, chipmunks and squirrels. Sudden wing flaps made room for guessing games about the birds we could not see, and so did crunching noises coming from farther away.

We kept our path and hit the lake two hours later. The adventure that followed included hiking through a swampy terrain and finding our way through thickets, thus helping the boys understand what bushwhacking really means. Rain continued, feet dunked occasionally as we stepped over slippery logs, mud abounded, but all six of us kept going.

The youngest of us got to ride on shoulders most of the way because small feet can only do so much in moose paradise. It really was. We found a moose bed and though we didn’t get to see a real one, we knew they were near. Wild and proud, Canada made us mucky travelers humbled to be there.

Our guests loved it, the boys did too (more so after we reached the cabin we were headed to) and we all had the unmistakable feeling of victory as we approached the cabin in what could be described as complete darkness.

CelebrationWe peeled off drenched clothing, the boys huddled in a sleeping bag together for warmth and us adults made a big fire and got dinner going. Restaurant dining and a walk through town would’ve never made our guests see what we truly wanted to show them. Canada at its finest: colours, textures, smells, simple beauty that if seen and felt for real, would make anyone not only proud but willing to work their hardest to keep it like that.

A bucket of stars spilled on the night sky, and we found the brightest ones on the lake surface as well. The chilled air of the early fall was drawing steam from summer-warm lake waters and because dinner was taking a while anyway, we went for a night swim. Try it at least once.

We toasted to great adventures, resilience and togetherness, and then we had a sleep guarded by far away loons and a harvest moon that fit perfectly above tall pines.

Soup for breakfast, pumpkin bread and coffee, complete with fishing and exploring the surroundings. Then we were ready to head back, hoping for a boat to take us across the lake so we can avoid swamp trekking.

Out of the blue, a boat came. We called on it, asked if crossing would be possible and the man graciously obliged. Two by two, we were deposited to the other side, leaving the swamps to the moose, because they do it better anyway.

We asked the man for his contact details so we can repay his kindness. Smiling he said ‘Not to worry, just pay it forward.’ We smiled back and promised we will. We do often; random acts of kindness are the best way to feel yourself human.

We trekked back. Rain and bright sun accompanied us and when we reached the car we knew the trip had become more than we ever hoped it would be. Our guests got to see what Canada is made of. Beautiful wilderness and kindness to start with; two valuable assets we should keep on guarding because they are part of the foundation we build our identity on. It definitely made us proud to say ‘Welcome to Canada!’

Ice, Boys plus Dog = Perfect Day

Today’s late morning is exploding with sunshine.
“Should we go see a frozen waterfall?”
The boys agree. Today we hike in Peterson Creek Park.

We explored part of the park in the fall. It was hot, dry and challenging. A first steep hike for the boys.

Now it’s different. The creek has icy sideburns and the sun stomps its bright feet in it like a giant millipede. It’s easy to feel blessed in such a place. And hope it will stay like this. For ever sounds about right.

We walk alongside the creek and watch the sideburns grow to cover it. We hear the water gurgling underneath. The heart of the creek drumming away…

“A wolf! Mom, is that a wolf?”
Perfectly matching the shade of bushes, a fluffy light grey Husky is watching. He runs ahead of us, then stops and waits.

The boys are elated. We call him Buddy and delight in his lively company. He jumps all over, runs up and down the trail, bumping my little guy off his feet more than once but there’s no protests. They’d love to have a dog, I know that. I would too, but not yet.

We hike towards the waterfall, and though slippery and gnarly at times, the trail reveals surprises too.
“A cave! Mom, a cave!” We’ve been hunting for caves since we got to Kamloops and as spectacular it is to find one when you set for it, it’s even better to find one when you don’t expect it.

Buddy follows us inside the cave. The darkness is both tempting and scary. We’ll bring a flashlight next time. Out again and to the waterfall.
Buddy leads the way, we follow.

“Can we keep him, Mom?” I knew that was coming. We can’t, but we’ll get one soon.

We reach the waterfall. Frozen and guarded by tree-studded rock walls, it dwarfs us. I take photos but like so many times before, I know the photos cannot catch the very soul of it. Amazing, frozen beauty with a water heart drumming away.

The boys explore the surroundings, and so does Buddy, clearly in his element.

A man reaches the place we’re at and we greet. He tells me how he used to come up here when his children were my boys’ age. Photos of the kids standing by the waterfall, he has some too. We chat about how precious it is to show kids the beauty of a place like this.

We’re new to Kamloops and already sold to its beauty, I tell him. He laughs: “You could go out 365 days a year to explore around here, and not get bored or run out of places to discover.” I had a hunch that was the case.

Our impromptu chat reveals that we share common ancestry, the Romans, and we speak a common language too: environmentalism. I have always reveled in meeting people who change their ways to protect the planet, knowing that our lives and the planet’s well-being are intertwined that way.

But changes do not always come easy. Where to start? Changing our perspective, I’d say. Needs versus wants, it should not be hard to stick to “needs” mostly… That would keep the above mentioned 365 places pristine.

“Wants” ultimately lead us towards an environmental sellout. Searching for what really matters should start within us, to be complemented by nature’s primal beauty.

The boys explore and stick their hands in the “eyes” the creek opens through its icy cover. Their happy voices hop from one side of the rocky walls to the other, much like their temporary furry friend.
“Mom, my boots have water in them, I stepped in the creek.”
Same as always then, just like it should be.

We say good bye. I am grateful to have learned that this year is Giuseppe Verdi’s two-hundredth birth anniversary. As a kid, I used to snuggle with my mom and watch Verdi’s operas. My first realization that music transcends language and the reason my boys know Pavarotti’s music.

We make our way back to the car, sliding down the trail with no mercy for the bottom of our pants. The creek sings under the icy surface.

Buddy left. He’s likely found his owner. I didn’t want him to get lost; I know about that heartache. But he made our hike that much more special. Thank you, Buddy!

At home I make hot chocolate and we look at the photos I took. Buddy’s in there too. We spend the rest of the afternoon reading. Feeling blessed is but one way of saying thank you.

Originally published as “‘Wolves,’ caves and adventures await in city park” in the Kamloops Daily News on Saturday, February 2, 2013

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