But here we go...
DAY 3 of our trip started in an amazing way. I was nursing Baby Bear in the tent when I heard a clunk of hooves and then something hit our tent. Now, we were in bear country, so this was not entirely a calming thing. But, bears don't have hooves, so I peeked out the tent window :)
And saw two deer! RIGHT THERE! Not even 5 feet from the window of the tent. Baby Bear and I watched them, they didn't mind her occasional yelps at them, but if I made any sounds of movement, they would jump. Then along came two more deer - it was a whole family! A buck, a doe, and two baby deers. So incredible. Baby Bear and I watched them for a good 10 minutes, hoping that daddy and Blue would come back (they had gone to store, I believe).
Later in the morning, we got our gear together, and then we trekked out on Tokopah Falls. Here we encountered the (common - we've discovered) memory issues of hikers. We started off on this 3.4 mile trail (1.7 miles each way) with another small group of people behind us. The trailhead is right out of Lodgepole, so a lot of campers trek out to see the waterfall as just an activity to do around the campground.
So the group behind us consists of two women and two children - both toddlers. They catch up to us as we stop on one of our many many breaks and we chat for a minute. They had done this same trail just a few days before, with the kids (much to the cheering of Mr. River who was very much "they could do it!"). They insisted we were about halfway to the waterfall.
Thirty minutes later, we run into someone else, who says we're about a mile away (hmm). Twenty minutes after that, the next person tells us we're a mile away. Now either we're unintentionally going in circles (hard to do when you're following a trail) or people had no clue the distance! Oh wells. It became fun to ask people just to see what they'd say. We ran into this same memory-issue when we hiked to Crystal Lake up in Yosemite. It took us several hours to get up there, walking UP huge steep hills - which the Ranger had described as "Just a little hill at the beginning," etc.
But, the point is, you don't pay attention to distance or time when you're hiking. Or well, you don't when you don't have short little two year old legs with you. You just enjoy it. Take it in, stop for pictures, smell the flowers, sit and watch the butterflies, listen to the stream. You enjoy every moment.
Our enjoyment was punctuated with a lot of "I need to go potty" and "can you carry me, please?" but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Tip: when hiking with a potty-trained toddler/preschooler, bring their freaking potty seat haha.
We have learned that our hiking has slowed down now that we have a mobile preschooler (whereas before she was in the Beco - like Baby Bear was this time around). But you know, that isn't such a bad thing :)
I also learned that yoga pants are the best hiking pants EVER. Well, for short hikes like this.
The trail was gorgeous and I recommend it to anyone staying in Lodgepole. It started off as a lot of rocks/cliffs along the stream but turned into beautiful meadows and hiking through big shady trees. It was wonderful. There was an elevation change of, I think, 400 feet or so. But it was very well done for kids - with the trails just gradually sloping up. We did NOT make it to the waterfall. By our own judgment, we were probably 10-15 minutes away. But we were tired, and Blue needed a nap. But it was still a great hike and gorgeous.
another of our hiking/camping favs - Camelbaks, perfect for hiking but also for drinking around camp. We've had ours - the same two - for 5 years now and they're still going strong.
The afternoon consisted of a nap for Blue while Baby Bear and I headed to the general store for a banana, laundry, and showers.
When Blue woke up from her nap, Mr. River told her she could lead the way to the general store (about a 20 minute walk if you follow the road, maybe 10 if you cut across the stream - which is just a trickle at this time of year). So she led him down the sandbar and across the stream (via rocks). Circled a rock a few times, and up the opposite bank. There they saw two deer! They were able to follow the deer for a ways, with Blue being super quiet as she watched them in awe. I'm so so happy she got to see the deer :)
Here she is showing her small rock "bunny" the deer
That night, after we had dinner (at the Wakupah Lodge - a splurge), daddy busted out the glowsticks he bought. The girls had an amazing time waving them around the tent, giggling and yelping. It was a great way to end the night.
Looking upstream - can't beat it.
We then returned to Pinewood Picnic Area for lunch and then went back to the Big Trees Trail - can you tell we loved it?
And truly, how amazing it would be to experience the magic of nature as a child again. Little Blue would often stop and watch in amazement as the ants trekked across the trail. Things we completely forget to notice as adults and don't appreciate when we do notice.
That night we had spaghetti for dinner, at the recommendation of another mom who recently went camping. It was a good easy meal, and the girls of course loved it (Baby Bear just had the noodles).
The next morning was Day FIVE. And we were heading out. It was bittersweet. I looked forward to my own bed and shower. But also really didn't want to get back to "life" where we are expected to be nonstop connected, always working, always needing to do some errand or another. Where the important things - the moments of just sitting and watching your child track an ant, your 2 year old nearly bursting in pride at being able to lead the trail, the baby watching in amazement as a glowstick flashes through the night - those important things often fall to the backburner as the phone buzzes and a text message comes in, the social networking site has a new message for you to check, you're frustrated by so-and-so, or whatever else we get caught up in far too often. We do not go camping as often as we should, but I am always reminded - upon leaving - that the valuable things that come from camping can be carried on at home. Slowing down. Focusing on things that matter. And enjoying them.