The Taste of Tramping

Early on in our New Zealand hiking, probably back in June, the kids adopted the common phrase “bite it” for falling. The hiking trails we have been on over the last 3 months have, without almost without exception, included moderate to high levels of mudiness.

Our hikes in the Peel Forest last weekend were no exception; although it had not rained in the past 24 hours, chunks of the dirt trail were squelchy, deep-brown mud. As we tramped, the kids would yell things like, “whoops! almost just bit it!” and “Look out, this is muddy. Don’t bite it!”

Spoiler alert: one of us did bite it. In a big way.

Peel Forest hike 1
Big sister and little brother; Allans Track sign with mud in the foreground

To start the hike, we parked near the trailhead. Spying a picnic bench, the kids all started mewling for a snack. Gah!

James and I had picked a waterfall trail for the first portion of the hike, Acland Falls, and we promised they could have a granola bar when we reached it in about 35 minutes.

Evelyn and Calvin cheerfully started the climb. Charlotte lagged behind, groaning, whining, moaning, dragging her feet and kicking at things. To see one of her many unhappy expressions, check out the upper lefthand photo below.

Peel Forest Hike 3
Char’s “dead fish” face; happy hikers by the waterfall; the track sign; and Charlotte finally pleased at her perch in a waterfall grotto (she’s clapping)

Still glum after reaching the pristine waterfall, Charlotte trailed behind us a bit further back up the side of the hill, where we reached a junction with Allans Track. It wasn’t very long before the inclines grew steeper and some mud showed up.

our day: trail 6, 5, 10, and back on the Fern Walk. Totalling 4.7 miles.

Earlier that morning, Calvin had gotten his hiking shoes wet by partially falling into a stream at the campground, rendering his last pair of dry socks and his shoes too wet to wear without risking blisters. Instead he wore his other pair of shoes: rainboots with Iron Man on them. Inside, a pair of Evelyn’s dirty socks. (Note to self: next time bring more socks.)

Amazingly, Calvin was a tremendous hiker. Again and again I was impressed with his bravery, nimble-footedness, and rapid decision making. And strength!

By this point, Charlotte had cheered up a bit–a snack and some “obstacles,” as Char and Ev call them, made her happier. I think it makes them feel like it’s a true adventure and not just a walk in the woods.

Several hours into our hike, we started a bit of descent after mostly ascending. In my limited experience, I have found that descent through mud and obstacles is often harder than the ascent, at least for me.

At one point, James, Cal and I paused to decide which of two ways down and around a curve looked better. James took the slightly longer and muddier way to the left; I helped Cal over and down the right, which was less muddy but much steeper. James helped from the ground, lifting Calvin down to safety.

And in that moment, I decided not to ask for help but to go it on my own. As I took a small step down the incline, my feet started to slip. I don’t know how much the condition of my hiking boots (caked with mud and grass and moss on the bottom and sides) contributed, but I couldn’t stop the slide.

I fell about 4-5 feet down and out from the mini-cliff I was trying to climb down, landing hard on my left hip, shoulder, and arm. (I have photos of the bruising, but believe me when I say that you don’t want to see them…)

Thankfully the ground was muddy and there weren’t any branches, rocks, or nasty hard things under me. But it was still a painful, nasty fall.

I really bit it. 

To make things worse, I already have elbow and shoulder pain from an old injury, so I even though nothing is broken, the fall I took definitely exacerbated some routine discomfort I already deal with.

What I learned from biting it, though, is that a muddy descent isn’t something to mess with, and if James is there to lend a bracing hand, I should take it.

hard to see from this photo, but that's quite an incline--that's Char at the top, squatting to wait; pausing for a couple selfie with the plains behind us
hard to see from this photo, but that’s quite an incline–that’s Char at the top, squatting to wait; pausing for a couple selfie with the plains behind us, before my fall

At 3:21pm Calvin went into a meltdown after having done an awesome job for the previous four hours. James handled him while I continued on with the girls. We reunited in an amazing old growth fern forest before making the final push back to the car.

Another triumphant tramping day with Ev (11.5 years old); Charlotte (8.75 years old); and Cal (almost 5 years old). And, as ever, new things to learn!



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