My niece kept forgetting where we were and saying how excited she was to be at Mt Everest, and she asked me once every seven minutes about s’mores — “Can we make s’mores now? Can I make a s’more to take back to my mom? How many s’mores can I eat tonight? Can we have s’mores for breakfast tomorrow?” This, my friends, is what it’s like to camp with a seven-year-old. This, in fact, is one of the best parts of being an aunt.
My sister has this ridiculously awesome job that sends her to cities around the U.S. to meet with research partners, including twice yearly trips to Seattle. Last September and this September, she’s also brought along my niece on her business trips, and I’ve driven over to the west side of the Cascades and hung out with Patience in the glorious fall sunshine of Seattle while her mother works. Last year we went to the Pike Place Market at least twice a day (my niece is such a hoot — she doesn’t ask for candy or toys, she begs for fresh fruit and flowers), hung out in various coffee shops (this kid really loves coffee shops, I think because she loves talking to new people and coffee shops are full of people), visited the children’s museum, stood at the bottom of the Space Needle and stared up (because this aunt is afraid of heights and wasn’t about to get on that elevator), took the ferry to Bainbridge Island (twice!), and walked the streets of downtown Seattle hand in hand while Patience sang at the top of her lungs and garnered applause from delighted strangers (no tips, people? come on!).
On this year’s visit I decided we should venture outside of the city and see Mt Rainier National Park as part of Patience’s trip. Her parents and I took her camping last Easter in North Carolina, the grandest adventure of her young life, and I figured she shouldn’t miss an opportunity to see the tallest mountain in the Cascades. The weather was fine, so in addition to driving out to play at the park, we also decided to camp for a night on the Ohanapecosh River. We pitched a tent, built a fire, cooked “the best mac and cheese ever in the world” (according to Patience, and who am I to argue?), and read library books by flashlight. It was wonderful.
The visitor centers at the park are open for a couple more weeks, until they close for the season at the first of October, so we also spent a little time talking to a park ranger and finding out what Patience would need to do to earn her Junior Ranger badge from the national park. The ranger gave her an activity book and instructions for which pages to complete for her age level in order to earn the badge. Over the next afternoon and morning, Patience completed a scavenger hunt, worked on sentence scrambles about wilderness safety, logged details about our hike through Grove of the Patriarchs, and told the story of our camping trip through her own artistic interpretation in colored pencil. She learned about the “10 essentials” to take along on a trip into the wilderness and insisted that I carry a bag of nuts and bottles of water on our 20 minute walk to a hot spring the second morning, just in case, because the book said you should always have extra food and water. I decided it would be easier to fill my pockets with nuts than to explain that if something happened to us that morning we were still close enough to the campsite that I could holler for help — better to reinforce the rules of the “10 essentials” at this stage.
Thank you, Suzie, for bringing along Patience and allowing us to have a fantastic adventure at Mt Rainier.