By Abby Lowell
Timber to tideline
It was one of those days that felt perpetually bathed in twilight — clouds moved easily on a breeze and hung so low they seemed to surf the tree tops. Rain fell in short bursts. It is June; but summer felt like a world away.
Despite this, our family was out amid it all. The kids were layered up, waterproofed and snuggled down in the double-jogger. One slept, while the other chattered away, like a busy (and slightly ruffled) red squirrel.
Two weeks ago, my husband and I made a promise: Get outside more — no matter what. Whether raining or pristine, blowing or snowing, we decided a little time in Alaska’s wild can only do us good.
It’s a challenge we’ve rallied behind and promoted with exclamation points around the household.
“It’s outside tiiiimmmme!”
Oh yes, it sounds so simple; there's the front door, now open it and — well — walk on through.
Wrong. If it involves anything more than the front yard, the word “simple” just doesn’t compute.
There’s at least a full hour of planning and packing … then packing spares. Then, adding a few more things, including snacks and those items that cover the “what-ifs.”
Sometimes, when the house is neatly organized, we can shave off 10 or 15 minutes, but frankly, when that happens, all I want to do is sit down and enjoy it … maybe even take a picture. (The house rarely stays in this state for long.)
Despite the effort it takes to prepare a 4-year-old and his feisty 9-month-old sister for an outing outdoors, all of it — every whine, every de-railed push to move toward the car and each minute spent preparing — pays off big time. Once we’re out in the wind and sideways rain the smiles come out. It’s the outdoor “wow” factor and it’s easy to find around here. Take one day, for example, when we hiked up Salmon Creek Trail. Both kids were in the jogger being lazy and I started to talk about how I like the trail because porcupines like it, too. We talked about how they must like the trailside dandelions, the nearby river and the safety of the big trees. A few minutes later, there he (or she) was … waddling through the shrubbery, snacking on (you guessed it!) dandelions. My son was ecstatic.
For five minutes we silently watched the porcupine eat, shuffle and sniff. We talked about the quills on its body and what they are used for. We listened to the sounds of its munching and reiterated the importance of eating right.
There were many lessons to learn and they all sunk right in. Miss Mother Nature is a fantastic teacher.
And so we have continued to uphold the promise.
The few hours spent hiking on the Salmon Creek Trail also included puddle-jumping, dandelion-whacking and even an uninterupted conversation between husband and wife while the little ones napped — now, THAT was a treat worth repeating!
Next weekend, we’ll study up on salmon and how to catch the big one. Hmm, guess I better pack extra snacks.
• Abby Lowell is editor of the Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire. Look for it every Friday in print and at juneauempire.com/outdoors.