I don't know what the girls would have said if I'd asked in advance, because I didn't. Last winter my mother-in-law asked if the girls would be able to handle a 12 mile hike to see the Burgess Shale, and I impulsively said yes, without asking them. They'd never hiked that far before, but why not? Plus, with a lunch break and a fossil hunting break in the middle, it should be OK, right?
As it turns out, the kid-led (with adult supervision) kids' hike to the Burgess Shale, one of the most diverse sites for fossils from early in the history of life, was a gorgeous, well-run trip, and easily within the kids' capabilities. Hazel and her cousin Thea were the youngest on the trip, but Hazel was hopping along even at the last mile. The adults were, well, a bit sore in the knees and toes by the end, but nothing beer and Advil couldn't fix (or simply cold packs, for my MIL, but that sounds less fun, doesn't it?). (The photo at left, alas, was not from the Burgess Shale hike, because we weren't with them for the hike - we were staggering along 30 minutes behind, since only 10 or so people can be on the Burgess Shale at once - that's from Mt. Revelstoke instead.)
I think for Brian and his brother, who knew best what to expect, the fossils were perfect. For me, as for the girls, they were a bit, shall we say, subtle - smudges on rock, easily enough mistaken for chalk drawings or rock fracture lines, at least to the uneducated eye. Emily said afterward that the hike was great, but the rocks were not worth all the effort. No one argued with her on that point, though she did acknowledge that the mountain goats, at least, were pretty cool.
I often wonder, during these family vacations, what the girls will remember. Will they remember the roadside grizzly, grazing shrubbery, or the view of Emerald Lake from the Burgess Shale? Will they remember the hotel pool at Lake Louise, or the stream behind our campside on the Kicking Horse River? I know I have ideas of what I hope they remember, and I'm sure that these ideas don't always match up with the reality.
This summer, though, I think what all of us adults noticed was how capable these kids are (our two and their two cousins). We hope that what they remember is that they climbed a mountain, crossed rockslides with ease, and scampered down afterward with nary a scratch. I myself had to take deep breaths and control my fear in places which they didn't think twice about. And maybe, whether they remember it or not, they'll carry with them a sense of physical capability. On the way down the mountain, Emily told her younger cousin about what a good job she'd done that day, and asked her if she knew the word "endurance." I don't quite remember how she explained it, but she explained it well, and when she finished explaining the word, she told her cousin "You had endurance today. You were tired but you kept on going anyway."
I think it might have even been fun, too, but I didn't try to convince them of that at the time.