It’s been a few years since I have written my column. Some things have changed: Goose has a 2-year-old little brother and adventure partner in crime – I shall call him Huckleberry. And I need glasses to see to tie my flies. Some things have remained the same, like my passion for the outdoors and all of the wild trappings that exploring the mountains with my little ones brings.
As a parent of two small children living in these times of pandemic, getting outside into nature becomes even more important for both my sanity and to encourage the kids’ sense of wonder and exploration. We are lucky that we have so many opportunities to explore in the Durango area. Whether it’s your backyard or the backcountry, there are adventures to be had.
As a parent, I believe that you really can’t nurture without nature. I love the innocence and creativity with which children see the outside world. Taking children into the great outdoors provides them the opportunity to explore both the wilderness around them and to look within, learning how their environment can teach them something about themselves.
It’s easy to grow up and be afraid to be ourselves in any natural sense of the word. Somewhere along the way we gain the inhibition to jump in muddy puddles and to stop and lay in the grass and quietly watch the clouds float by, to encourage a bug to climb up a stick or to collect rocks. But there is something about being outdoors that brings me back to the authenticity where I can be myself, use my imagination freely, feel with all of my senses and realize how my presence impacts my surroundings.
If I can teach these things and impart my love for all things wild and free to my littles, then I’ve succeeded in the greatest adventure of all – parenthood.
My kids have an uncanny ability to bring the outdoors indoors. Last week, I picked up Huck and he weighed a good 5 pounds more. As I unloaded his pockets, I restrained myself from the usual, “How many times do I have to say don’t bring rocks in the house,” and instead took the moment to comment on the beauty of each one. To him, the rocks were treasure and represented pride.
Something as simple as a rock can provide an adventure. So, when I suggested we head up Junction Creek and go find some, there was not a dissenting vote in the house. Rock hunting can be an opportunity to teach kids about themselves. You don’t have to go find fancy rocks with crystals and minerals attached. Plain ol’ river rocks that all of us can find, skip, throw, stack and shove in our pockets have plenty to offer.
As we hiked along the trail and took interludes to the creek to pick up rocks, I had a plan to find a lesson in the environment, to talk about what we can learn from rocks. We discussed how people can be like rocks. From afar, they look similar, but when you get up close, some are smooth and some are rough. The smooth rocks are the ones that have been weathered, that have tumbled and rolled with the flow of the river. They have seen the most, and when someone picks one of those rocks, they are easier to hold, more comfortable in your hand.
The sharp, jagged rocks are equally beautiful to look at but sometimes harder to hold. In the middle of explaining to Goose and Huck how tumbling down the river of life builds character and shapes the rocks, Goose changed my whole perspective when I asked her what she thought she could learn from the rocks under her feet.
“I think I can learn how to be still,” she said. “I think the rocks that can remain still when the water rushes over them are beautiful. The rock looks plain sitting still and the water changes its color, making it more beautiful. It shows what the rock really looks like. Like me Mama, you are who you are, but life colors you and then people get to see what you really look like.”
And in than moment, I skipped the small flat rock I’d been holding in my own pocket, perhaps feeling in my fingers for comfort and returned it back to the river of life so it could be its true color.
Dare I say, it was a rock-solid lesson in how to find beauty in things that are both comfortable and not.
Junction Creek follows the Colorado Trail and is an easy hike that most kids ages 2 and up should be able to do. Park at the trailhead located at the end of 25th Street. Bring along water, hats, sunscreen and snacks for a family-fun time.
Jenny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org