Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hiking with Tots: A Trip to Tortola's Sage Mountain

I'm of the belief that the natural world is a child's greatest playground, which is why you will find me outside with our kids as much as possible. Maria Montessori - founder of the renowned Montessori method of education - once said, "A child, more than anyone else, is a spontaneous observer of nature" and watching the wheels start turning when a little kid discovers a mud puddle or a giant leaf or a lizard on a branch is proof positive of this fact. There simply is no replacement for the natural world and the benefits of simply being in nature are vast. We are fortunate to live in an environment and community very conducive to outdoor play, and it just so happens that we also have a pretty beautiful National Park, Sage Mountain, just up the road. 

Scott, always more ambitious in his outings with our daughters, took all three for their first hiking experience at Sage Mountain a few weeks ago. On their own tiny legs, our trio hiked all the way to the top, and despite the fact that the hike is by no means 'difficult', we still found this impressive for an almost four year old and a pair of two year olds to accomplish with little protest. After that successful excursion, we have returned as a family two more times in the last two weeks, it's an easy way to kill a couple of hours where the kids are using their bodies and exploring in nature. Win/win all around.

Arriving at the gate of the park you are struck with two interesting sensations that are distinct deviations from those which we experience at sea level; the first is the smell. The magnificent perfume of damp earth, fallen leaves and wet moss fills the air. "Mmm....it smells so good mommy" exclaimed Isla when we stepped out of the car. It's distinct earthiness is both refreshing and energizing. The second sensation, is the temperature. The canopy of trees and foliage envelops you in it's mottled cocoon, taking you in completely. The almost impenetrable shade creates a damp coolness which is a welcome change from the wonderful, but unforgiving, tropical sun.

There are several trails you can take around the park, we opt to drive to the base and follow the well marked trails to the "highest point in the BVI". The hike can be a meandering stroll or a vigorous walk, it's up to you. There is a little restaurant at the base and the proprietor will give you a (rudimentary) map and help point you in the right direction. The paths are obvious, and while the girls and I - along with my sister - did manage to get a bit lost on our most recent excursion (were we supposed to go left or right at the fork?), it's a small enough hill that retracing your steps back to square one isn't too hard. It's all part of the adventure, and it's always an adventure with little tykes in tow.

The panoramas from the top are, of course, incredible. Vast azure water with islands dotting the horizon everywhere you look. It's peaceful and serene at the top, and with the cool forest air kissing your shoulders it's impossible not to have a feeling of calm as you take it all in. All is right in the world. Quintessential paradise. The place where the sea meets the sky. Where the forest greets the shore. Where the shade gives way to the sun. Nature at it's absolute finest. 
Mira and my mom learning about Sage at the base of the main trail.
Isla is our family "champion" hiker. Never complains, never falters. Just keeps putting one foot in front of the other.
Puddles are Mira's absolute FAVORITE. What kid doesn't love a good mud puddle? And who are we to deny them?
Checking out the unique "skeleton" of a giant leaf in the final stage of decomposition.
Grandpa and Mira
Beautiful. The light, the lush foliage, the circle of life.
Isla found this little fruit/flower. She's got the eyes of a Serengeti tracker.
Isla leading the way, and Haven found a friend to walk with for a moment.
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep" -Frost
The beauty is in the details.
This child will climb anything and everything. The world is her playground!
Grandpa and Haven. 

We bring along snacks, in this case dried mango, to munch along the way. Snacks are key when hiking with tots!
My flaxen haired wild child.
Anyone else a fan of "The Lorax?" This reminds Isla and I of a Truffala Tree!

This happy little sprite loves to hike, climb and explore. Our girls are monkey's!
One of the many incredible views from the top. 

2 comments:

MaryJo Boyle said...

Excellent, excellent post! If only more parents knew how much their children need to be outdoors and exploring nature...

Anonymous said...

Brittany,

I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again, you are one talented writer. Love reading of your adventures. Thanks for sharing...your pics, your writing, and your beautiful family.

Sylvia

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