Who goes to Arkansas for spring break anyway.
We decided to take a chance and piggybacked on a trip planned by our friends Chris and Nina, and their children who are Vivian and Evan’s age and have known each other since pre-school (Jo stayed back to help Carol with her knee replacement surgery). Monday morning found us waking up in an Airbnb at a racehorse rescue stable. Then we arrived at the southern end of the Ouachita National Forest and embarked on a 18 mile three day backpacking trip.
We were never far from a babbling brook, and often in the middle of a fast flowing creek. On any given day there were several creek crossings where the water came up to Evan’s knees. Spring had not yet arrived. The valleys were full of naked trees and the trail was covered in a carpet of leaves. Our pace was purposefully slow – we hiked about two miles an hour and between four and eight miles a day. The little ones’ packs weren’t too heavy but the two older kids carried full packs. However, having water available next to you all day meant that all our packs were relatively light.
Being beside a creek also means that there’s entertainment for the kids all day. Free of their electronics and devices they skipped rocks, read books, sketched, chatted, had mock sword fights, played 20 questions, and explored. They were also pretty helpful without asking. Evan made fires for the evenings, Vivian cooked, they pumped and filtered water, set up and took down their tents, and packed up their camping gear. They also learned the right way to poop in the wild.
At home, Evan and Vivian only have to walk as far as the fridge or the pantry if they want a snack. On the trail I had got enough food but not extra, and Vivian seemed acutely aware of that. If she ate her cheese and her Kind bar right after breakfast she’d have only one helping of salami and crackers to keep her going till dinner. We discussed that 20% of the world’s children face some form of food shortage and live with hunger every day. Though having to pick between when she got to eat her expensive and highly nutritious snacks is in no way similar to living in hunger, she understood something about hunger in a way she hadn’t grasped before.
On the long drive back to Austin, I asked them what they’d like to eat when we got back. Vivian carefully considered her culinary options one by one. But Evan said with a smile “ramen noodles and Swedish Fish”. It’s what he had for dinner while camping every day!