Over the weekend, we hiked a section of the 6 foot track, in our beautiful home territory, the Blue Mountains, NSW Australia.
This track is around 42km in its entirety, from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves, however we opted for a kid-friendly 7.5km section, leaving from the Megalong Rd/Aspinall Rd interchange, out to the Eco Lodge on the Coxs River.
One of my parenting goals is to have my kids be comfortable walking for longish periods, and for them to have happy memories of our adventures. So, a few weeks back when a friend suggested a few familys walk with the kids on an overnight hike, I’d already said yes before knowing any details. Grimace must have also felt inspired, as he took a rare Saturday off. It meant, that after the 9am soccer match for Giggles Magoo, we could all jump in the one car, and head as a family of four to our overnight adventure. I enjoyed every minute of our Saturday together – it was uncomplicated, and just nice.
Arriving at the agreed starting point, we ate lunch and were soon on our way. The excitement was palpable – and everyone needed a walking stick. As the metres turned into kilometres, it became clear that Little Mate was going to be the end of our group for the entirety of the hike. Initially I found this frustrating (as I wanted to be walking with Grimace, Giggles Magoo and all our friends), but remembered that as Little Mate was the youngest in our group by a whole year, he was physically going to struggle if I compared him to the others. I found my patience, and with that remembered how nice it felt to be out hiking. Little Mate settled into the walk and we soon began to enjoy the scenery together, just the two of us plodding along.
The time of year meant we lucked into perfect hiking temps – warm in the sun, yet a cool breeze across the bare arms. Not being too hot, or cold meant the kids were all happy enough to plod along, chatting about all the things that are so important to 7, 5 and 4 year olds. I do love over-hearing segments of conversation, wondering where the thought has come from, or the fact that has been espoused.
The walk itself takes in passages of National Park and private farm land, requiring us to get over fence-ladders (I’m sure these things have a name, I just don’t know what it is!), gates and cattle grids. It was so lovely to watch the kids garner an odd-level of excitement at the simple act of opening and closing a gate, or rush to the fence-ladder when just moments ago they had been lamenting how their legs couldn’t possibly walk any further.
Perhaps though, the best part of the entire walk was crossing Bowtell Swing Bridge to get to our evenings lodging. Approaching the swing bridge, I was in total awe as I realised the two people crossing ever so casually were two of my loves: Giggles Magoo and Grimace. Step by step, Giggles Magoo confidently got from one side to the other. I was oozing pride, and my heart sang a little more as Little Mate cheered him on, some 500m back down the track. Watching his big brother cross the bridge inspired him to run to take his turn. As we waited in queue (it was peak hour!), I realised that this crossing would perhaps be the bravest thing Little Mate had ever done. I spoke with him quietly about how his worry brain would probably want him to stop walking across, to turn around and go back, to get off the bridge and to find another way across the river. We spoke about how it was going to be hard, but we could tell our worry brains that everyone else was safely across and that we wanted to ger across too. I was refusing to acknowledge my own anxiety about crossing the swaying bridge, some 20metres above the river. Heart in my mouth, I gathered all the courage I could to put on my brave and patient voice and took off with Little Mate, heading as slowly as we could to the other side. It probably took us close to 5 minutes to get from one side to the other, but when we got there, our entourage was there cheering us on. Little Mate beamed with pride; at some point on the crossing he had quietly turned, given me the proudest grin and said “Look mum, it’s finally my turn to be the leader. I’m out front”. Swoon.
We cheated a little by not camping and staying at Eco Lodges, who provided fire, food and water – it meant we could minimise what we needed to carry. We spent a wild (the children) and chilly night at the Eco Lodge, revelling in someone else cooking delicious food, doing the dishes and stoking the fire. The kids ran around in the dark, eager to use their torches to blind us, I mean, to see whatever they could see. After a few hours and a few rounds of stern words, they were all crashed out in our dorm room. Once this occurred, we cracked a few wines and switched between watching the fire and watching the shooting stars.
The next morning was cold, but couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm. You see, cooked breakfast magically appeared! After scoffing a million servings of breakfast, one thousand gallons of coffee and packing our bags, the kids were eager to start the 7.5km hike back to the car. Waving good bye and promising to come back one day soon, we hit the trail.
Kids being kids, they don’t always look where they are walking or putting their tired feet, which meant that most of the kids in our group took a tumble at some stage, but nothing that was too drama-filled. One of our 7 year-old crew slipped on the river embankment and fell into the cold river (after many warnings from the parents to step back). I think the embarrasment outweighed the cold and wet shock, and he carried on quite admirably considering.
Again, Little Mate lagged behind, however Grimace took a turn to walk with him. This gave me the opprtunity to walk with Giggles Magoo and one of his besties. We were traveling, playing a few alphabet games when I hear the unmistakeable slither of a snake. I looked down and saw a giant Red belly black snake heading off the path. It seems the weather was too nice for everyone not to enjoy!
We made it back to the cars for lunch, with only the one meltdown from Little Mate – and I think that was mostly due to tiredness and not having a friend his own age for the weekend (he was sadly the little brother to the 5 other kids). After scoffing down our sandwiches and scroggin, it was back down the highway for us – my three passengers all soundly asleep for most of the way!
It was such a lovely weekend adventure, I can’t wait for the next overnight hike!