Step three in teaching Cameron that forests are good places, not places one goes to die in the jaws of a bear, was getting him out into some real woods, on a real hike. Amazingly enough, he seemed okay with this idea, given that he suggested a hike when I asked what he wanted to do. So, Betty and I planned out a trip to a place he’d been a year before: Mystery Lake in Mount Seymour Park. It had been a good trip for the most part, but back then Cameron was accustomed to riding in the ergo, and was not keen on walking. He was also already firmly entrenched in the “forests are scary” camp.
Hiking with a preschooler is much different than hiking with grownups. Thankfully, Betty understood this, and seemed to enjoy ranging ahead of us, then finding a pleasant spot to sit and wait until we caught up. Cameron, already slow and unaccustomed to uneven terrain (darn sidewalks are so predictable), was thrilled to point out every mushroom we walked past and comment on it. Every hole in the ground was named a chipmunk hole, and he’d try to put a door on it. But still, we picked our way up, up, and up through meadows and forests.
Oh – Cameron remembered quite a bit once we got there. He saw the chairlifts, and remembered sitting in them, remembered the map, and more or less recalled the boardwalk/bridges. When we neared the lake, I pointed out that we could hear the stream below us, and he recalled that this meant we were close.
Mystery lake was breathtaking. I loved sharing that with Betty and Cameron. I wish I knew more about the name – what’s the mystery? We went partway around to find a quiet spot to have our picnic lunch, and spent some time goofing around and just having fun.
Then it was time to explore! We found our way to a lookout with an incredible view of the city and southwards, and picked our way up to the top of some rocky outcroppings. I’ll admit, there were times I wasn’t keen on where Cameron climbed to, but oh well. My little love was exploring, and without fear.
One of Cameron’s memories of the hike last year was clearly the blueberries. He still talks about the time he stood in a blueberry bush, and I picked him. This year? Seriously? I’ve never seen so many blueberries. Some were just merely good. Others were explode in your mouth with delicious flavour amazing good. So we picked and picked and picked. I ate so many that my mouth hurts. We brought home lots too. We kept talking about going to see somewhere else, but … continued to pick. Betty announced that we should walk a hundred steps before we picked more, but not ten feet away we came across bushes so laden that there was no way we could walk past.
We did eventually stop picking blueberries. We headed around the other side of the lake, and decided to do a little scrambling up some rocks. Carefully, step by step, we got Cameron up quite high. He’s a totally natural rock climber, finding places to put his feet, not seeming to need to think about where to put his hands. Cool! Now, before anyone yells at me for putting my child in danger, it wasn’t the kind of climbing where we should’ve had ropes and I was ever so careful. He’s great about following instructions: stand here, don’t move until I say so; step here; stop.
Eventually it was time to head back down. This was a little faster than going up, though Cameron did need more help at places. He was also tired – very tired. The whining picked up a bit, and he announced that he was afraid of lions. We did have a brief discussion about how bears don’t really want to eat us. They eat blueberries, and there were still lots of those left.
Cameron is now so much not a little boy. He’s a hiking boy, a blueberry picking boy, a pooping-in-the-woods (lovely) boy, and a rock climbing boy.