Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Gates of Lodore VS The First Day of Kindergarten

A few months back we were invited on a 4 day River trip through a section of the Green River called "The Gates of Lodore." I immediately said yes, without realizing that the launch date August 19th, was also the first day of Kindergarten. Once this fact was revealed to me, I immediately withdrew from the trip, my social programing screaming "you can't skip the first day of Kindergarten, it's the first day of Kintergarten!" Well, I beat myself up over it for a while... a few weeks actually, so I started asking other Moms, other River Moms, other boaters that aren't Moms, Moms that are Kintergarten teachers... they all said "GO!" Slowly I broke through my cultural programing and came to the realization that I remember nothing about my first day of Kindergarten, but I sure as heck remember everything about every multi day raft trip we did when I was a kid. And so, we were back on board & ready to roll, with the schools blessing and gratitude for an early absentee notice even. So, we started off Charlotte's school career right, truant! Truant in lieu of the educational pursuit of life and adventure, and what an amazing learning adventure it was!

A facebook meme a friend posted just after we returned from our trip.

Even before our launch day we found great learning experience! While spotting the trailer backing down the boat ramp, my attention was distracted just like I was a curious Kindergartener,  by a small hopping motion out of the corner of my eye. Immediately leaving my post as trailer spotter I squatted down to pick up the tiniest little toad I have ever seen! I showed it to Charlotte and we talked about amphibians & how tadpoles turn into frogs & toads. She continued to play with her new little friend, hopping along the shore while the trailer got parked & unloaded.
Charlotte playing with her tiny amphibian friend.

Day one Charlotte kayaked the whole day! OK, so it was only a 2 mile day, but it was perfect for her to kayak! Nice "real" flat water, unlike the "flat" (not) water on our home River. Charlotte & Alan (aka Daddy) practiced eddy turns, talked about paddling technique and reading water. When we got to camp she parked her own boat, pulling it all the way up onto shore & out of the way. She was very proud and made sure I saw her great parking job.

Kayak lessons with Daddy.

Sand castle erosion & geology lessons!
That afternoon, the three of us went exploring down stream from camp and found the most amazingly beautiful little beach where we frolicked for hours! Splashing, playing, jumping, running & rolling, building sand castles upon the cliffs of Dover only to watch the lapping River waves reduce it to rubble, calving glaciers of sand off the edge of the little beach with our feet. We talked about geology, erosion, how the water affects the sand, how the canyon we were sitting in the bottom of was formed, how the gates of Lodore (which we could still see from our camp that night) came to tower over the low fertile fields which the Green River meanders through before entering it's cataract. Somehow I don't think Kintergarden covers geology, but we are simply rolling with the curriculum of life!

Leaping into Life!
I am not a tent person. I just really like sleeping out and don't really like messing with tents. In fact I don't even own a tent. Charlotte owns one though, and quite enjoys the little kingdom within her tent. Night one I told her that if she wanted to sleep in her tent then she had to learn to set it up herself. Super excited about the prospect, she was an eager student and did quite a remarkable job of learning to set up her tent! In fact, by the end of the trip Charlotte was setting up and breaking down her 2 man REI backpacking tent mostly all by herself, and was so very proud of her new found ability!

Day two was a big rapid day, with a class IV in it... I'm comfortable with Charlotte running class III, she has done allot of it, and a "very" little bit of "very" low water class IV. But the idea of "Hells Half Mile" made me nervous, even though I was assured by a friend who guides there and is a Mom herself that it is fine at low water (our trip was indeed low water,) and that they take 6 year old's commercially. The scout seemed relatively straight forward, though I knew that all the water was pushing where I didn't want to go... I implored  my friend Michelle to ride on my boat just so she could grab Charlotte if need be. Running the rapid I was so gripped! More gripped than usual... something about having my little one on my boat in a big rapid that I don't know like the back of my hand (much of the whitewater Charlotte runs are rapids that I DO know like the back of my hand.) Tempering my overly amped heart in throat- was Charlotte; giggling, squealing and saying"Weeeeeeee!" Of course we made it just fine, and honestly, I think Mommy was the one learning this time.
The crux move in "Hells Half Mile"

Charlotte spent a good portion of day three in her kayak again. This time tackling some class I and easy class II wave trains, still practicing catching eddies and exploring all of the fun little coves and crevices where rafts can not go. She was Rocking it! She seemed so comfortable in her boat, getting it exactly where she wanted it when she wanted it. Wave trains became an object of delight instead of fear, I could hear her shouting "Weeeeeee!" while paddling through them. All in all Charlotte paddled a full 5 miles of the trip, and loved every minute of it.

Charlotte also spent a good bit of time on the oars. She has always loved sitting on Mommy's lap and rowing, even as a baby. As she has gotten older she has started actually affecting the boat with the oars, moving it, and even maneuvering it. She now sits on the captains seat as well, as opposed to mommy lap. It's all her, no mommy hands on the oars. Night two Charlotte actually pulled the raft into camp (essentially) all by herself. I was impressed! She had to angle the boat through a wave train and *PUSH* into the eddy. She had been rowing for quite some time at that point as well, so I was surprised that she had the energy, let alone the strength to get that big heavy 14' raft into that eddy! WOW!

 Another big thing that happened on this trip was a moment that I had been waiting for for years, a moment that I blogged about two seasons ago in the post Inevitability and Fear. Well, the inevitable finally happened... Charlotte took her first swim! It was just flat water, my friend Michelle was rowing. Charlotte & I were both sitting up on the bow with our feet hanging over the side. We bumped a small rock and Charlotte did a very slow motion slide/plop! At first she looked wide eyed and surprised, then immediately began laughing! She swam right back to the boat and grabbed onto the spare oar. I pulled her in & we both tumbled down in giggling fits. I congratulated her on becoming a member of the elite "Green River swim team," and we talked all about her experience; how it felt, what she thought, how she reacted, what made it scary, what made it fun, etc... All in all that first swim was a perfectly glorious and beautiful experience, and I am so very grateful!

About to jump off the bow for a swim!
Swimming back after visiting another raft.
I felt like I was watching Charlotte blossom on that trip, like I could see her grow before my eyes. I never had one moment of regret for skipping that "all important" first week of Kindergarten. I did however have many moments of humbling gratitude for being on the trip, many moments of absolute awe at watching the strides that Charlotte was taking. Some things small, like jumping off the raft instead of slowly sliding in, swimming away from the raft to Daddy's kayak, other rafts & back again, instead of only hanging on to the perimeter line. Some things big, like kayaking miles on her own & taking care of her tent by herself. I watched her confidence grow in leaps and bounds! I mean, we learned things about the natural world around us: big horn sheep, crayfish, tadpoles, milk thistle, peppermint, poison ivy, pictographs, geology, hydrology, cartography, etc... We sang songs, counted things and read books, talked about letters and words. She also spent much quality imaginative time playing with the fairies of the canyon. I think though that what really prepared her for the upcoming massive life event of starting school, more than anything, was simply that growth of confidence and independence, that sense of accomplishment.
Cartography lessons! Where are we on the map?

We walked into Kindergarten the next week, still her magical "first day." So what if it wasn't everyone's first day, it was hers. My only trepidation was immediately quelled. I knew that Charlotte would catch on to the rules & catch up with the class quickly, but I was slightly concerned about her having that "awkward new kid" social syndrome coming into class a week late. As it turned out though, she instead pulled a "fashionably late rock star" maneuver. Some of the kids in her class she already new from daycare and other various places. They had apparently been asking about her all week, anxious for Charlotte to show up, so when Charlotte did show up, there was a chorus of "Yay Charlotte! Charlotte's here!" Whew, no awkward new kid social syndrome! I think most of my Mommy fears are completely unfounded... at lest that's what the universe generally shows me to be true anyways.

We are about to take another leave of absence from Kindergarten. In fact tomorrow Mommy & Daddy set out for a 23 day Grand Canyon trip and Charlotte, equipped with the months curriculum from her teacher, will be spending the time at Grandmas house. I am a firm believer that the "school of life" can be just as much of an education as any class room. I am sure that Charlotte will learn just as much during her visit with Grandma as I will in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and more than she would have learned in our daily routine of school & home. I think I'm a believer... "Adventure IS the best way to learn!" Oh, and the Gates of Lodore wins Hand's Down to the first day of Kindergarten!

1 comment:

  1. Sweet post Elisha.
    I got a Gates permit in this year. It was fun to read about Hells half mile
    See y'all on the hill.