Hiking in the Dark (with Kids!)

Dare we give up our secret spot? The spot with no parking lot, at the head of a spindly little trail leading to the secluded beach with the weird sea creatures and island views leading to the greenest, grassiest bluff, alive with towering tufted terraces and slippery seals swimming below? The destination of the surprise hike & picnic Chris led me on on our “Three Hour Date Night” when I was 8.975 months pregnant, nearly four years ago? That place long withstanding in Chris’ boyhood memories? YES, I suppose we’ll share it. 

Perhaps you’ve been there. Perhaps you were one of the couples we passed, drawing hearts in the sand. Perhaps you were with the young group wrapped in blankets trudging along the trail in the opposite direction, your backs to the setting sun. Perhaps you were the family with grumpy faces running past us back to the car before dark. You missed an epic sunset. Perhaps you’ll be back. Prepare to be amazed.

We caught the tail-end of winter sun at Deception Pass, parking just before the bridge along State Route 20. Having fallen asleep in the car, Alex woke up angry, as three-year-olds often do in situations like this. Chris wrangled her into her coat and joined the rest of us on the narrow descending trail. Two minutes and a vibrant leaf later, she happily bounded along in nature with her two sisters and big brother. Reaching the Puget Sound shore, the remainder of sunshine shimmered off the water and steadily flowing tributaries, contrasting with the dark and compacted, waterlogged sand. Sensitive to the odor of rotting dead-somethings, I caught one whiff and gagged, a familiar source of amusement for Chris and the kids, who ran around searching for shells, crabs, and the occasional white rock.

“Let’s get going! The sun’s about to set.”

We followed the trail behind the beach and up along the opposite hillside, arriving at another cove featuring a whale rock, a shallow cave, and a variety of impressive boulders. Our two “Bigs” clambered up a cliff side and announced they’d found a future perfect picnic spot. We proceeded on the trail until the trees opened up to an expansive green bluff dotted with hairdo tufts of wild grass before abruptly dropping off to the frigid and turbulent saltwater below.

To the children’s delight, Chris pulled out his trusty green thermos filled with hot chocolate, and we sipped it from paper cups as the sky turned yellow, and then orange, pink, and deep blue. Below, a large tugboat pulled a wild assortment of giant logs seemingly floating freely on the water’s surface. We danced upon the hill with our flashlights, and the boat’s bright light flashed back once to greet us.

An older gentleman, who we’d observed in the distance on an adjacent bluff, came down to meet our family. Animatedly, he shared stories of his grown children, their infamous bear video on “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” and the importance of true reflection. He’d driven up from Seattle, as he had often throughout the years, to breathe quietly in solitude. Only this time, our family disrupted the silence, and brought back the days when his own family visited this spot. Rekindling his old Irish accent, the man asked if he could place an Irish blessing upon our family. We obliged without hesitation, and he blessed us twice, right there, right at the bluff’s edge, right at sunset over turbid waters.

He left first, just past dusk. We offered to light his way, as he had brightened ours, but he politely declined saying he was gone longer than his wife probably expected–he just could not bring himself to leave the beauty any earlier. We supposed his wife just may know him best after all these years. 😉

Leaving no trace, we lit up the path, and Jonah led the way, his new orange hiking backpack glowing with confidence. He took his role seriously and it warmed my heart. He’ll be thirteen in a few months, teetering between boyhood and adolescence, and I cannot help but hope these family adventures will guide him sure-footedly toward becoming a good man.

Following behind Jonah, my path lit with a child’s headlamp, I was thankful for the useful Santa gift our oldest two kids received this past Christmas. The younger two each held a skinny flashlight, and stepped carefully over roots and rocks until the trail narrowed, and I guided Ryann’s hand while Chris hoisted Alex on his hip. Lights pointing out and down, we single-filed our way through the woods while Alex scoured the hillside for bears. 

“I’m just making sure they don’t get me and eat me all over,” she said shocking and amusing us (at 4:39 on the video). Approaching the highway, we shut off all lights to not distract drivers, knowing our van was just a few feet away, and celebrated with snacks once safely inside.

We followed the sun, beheld the sunset, received two blessings, and followed our way out of darkness. 

***

An Old Irish Blessing

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

May God be with you and bless you;
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings,
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.

May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.

***

May there always be work for your hands to do
May your purse always hold a coin or two; 
May the sun always shine on your windowpane; 
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain; 
May the hand of a friend always be near you; 
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

***

Have you ever hiked in the dark? What’s your most adventurous escapade with kids? Have you ever come upon a BEAR? Do tell!

Until next week,

~Angela and Chris

 

 

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