“Not all classrooms have four walls.” Quote unknown.
I watch my eleven-year old daughter haul on my 38-litre backpack. I almost laugh out loud. She looks so small. I bite my lip as she stands there so proud of her self. We are heading off a 20 kilometre overnight trip to Sealers Cove at Wilson’s Promontory.
She walks ahead of me, bouncing along the track, smiling and talking about everything and anything. We are completing hours for her Duke of Edinburgh Program. We could have done something much closer to home, and easier, but she wanted the challenge. Who I am to deny that, especially when it’s outdoors.
We hit the mud, much to her delight. There are no concerns about her straying off track contributing to soil erosion, she goes straight through. She is laughing and sloshing about. What a joy to be watching her, giggling at herself the whole way.
She’s never done an overnight hike before, she doesn’t have a feel for what it’s like carrying some weight and hiking 10kms in a day. I pack some of her favorite sweets for those moments we all have on the trail, tired and in need of a boost. When it comes time to pull them out, her eyes light up and she savors each one.
At camp, she darts around checking if her older siblings were in a particular spot. Picturing where they have been, I can see she is chuffed as she is now doing what they have done.
When I am cooking dinner, dehydrated bolognaise, she climbs a big rock. Finding a space with her pocket knife and a stick. She sits there for a long time in silence, carving. Every now and then she lifts her head, breaking her concentration, and says “it’s so peaceful here Mum.”
Later she runs across the beach at low tide. I marvel at how incredible it is to have the wilderness as her playground.
Next morning, we have to cross the inlet, and the water is almost waist high for her. I give her some guidance on how to walk and where. I offer to help but before I know it she has her boots in hand and is making her way to the other side. Smiling the whole way.
We have breakfast on the beach. Just the two of us.
Hiking out she becomes weary, asking how long it will take. You know as a hiker that can be difficult to answer…well that depends I say. Suddenly, some hikers appear. We chat. I tell them this is my daughter’s first overnight hike. They load her up with admiration for being outdoors. This lifts her spirits.
We reach the car. Accomplishment is written all over her face as he takes of her pack. I know that feeling myself. Hiking provides exactly that opportunity, where only you can find what it takes. I’d call that boosting her self-esteem. She’d just call it fun.
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