As part of my quest to have a fun-filled summer vacation locally, I recently headed out with the kids to Belfountain Conservation Area in the Credit Valley. Just an hour from Toronto, this beautiful spot offers an easy hike of about 20 minutes that is perfect for even very young kids. The terrain is intricate with gnarly roots and elevations, but the hardest of these are addressed by steps, and because it’s short, no one really gets tired. The hike rewards participants with a waterfall, suspension bridge, and generally captivating views. It feels a world away from city life.
I’m going to level with you. I knew this was not the show-stopping easy sell that our recent Wet N Wild trip was. I still insisted that we go, because I want us to be able to enjoy slow, reflective activities too. While my daughter was a good sport and great company, I had to cajol my 9 year old son to go, and he was a regular complainy-pants during the hike.
But afterwards, we found ourselves gravitating towards the water, where we saw fish and other life. We snacked near a stream, where a handful of children were dipping their toes. I didn’t have the foresight to bring swimsuits, but that didn’t stop my daughter from slowly and carefully crossing the stream. She tried at first to keep her pants dry by rolling them up as far as she could, neither of us knowing that in order to cross the stream, she would have to wade chest deep. (It was a fairy slow-moving stream, she can swim well, I can swim better and watched closely, so I felt very confident letting her explore.)
She made it!
Something about this shifted the energy in my son. He silently got into the water too, and started looking for skipping stones. I soon stepped in and was surprised at how cold it was. Like I wouldn’t go in past my shins cold. It was only then I fully realized what my daughter had accomplished by crossing it the way she did. When I congratulated her, she said, “You know why I went in, Mom? ‘Cause you can beat your fear.”
Then the three of us were scanning for flat stones. We also tried our luck with round and jagged and small ones, and shared the ones we found. My daughter discovered a heart-shaped one, which she gave to me for safe keeping (I still have it). At one point, two apples floated along, and I brazenly urged my son to grab them because I didn’t want to go in that far. He indulged me and to my delight they were Russets, my favourite. I haven’t eaten these in almost a year, and because neither child wanted any, I got to have both.
We skipped and skipped and skipped. My mind turned to departure a few times, but I didn’t want to mention it before they did. In the end, we skipped for over an hour.
Slow activities like these take time and patience and optimism, but that’s what we hope summer is for, and the rewards are great.