Monday, January 20, 2014

The Quarry

It's Martin Luther King Jr. Day (and Rosie's birthday—Happy Birthday, Rosie!) so both Rachel and Andrew had the day off. We had a rather relaxed morning: the girls played in their room, Benjamin followed me around the house while I attacked the mountains of laundry waiting to be washed, and Andrew did some reading for his classes.

At lunch we had a discussion about what today means and what we can do to keep making the world we live in a better place for everyone. We've made some pretty good strides in civil liberty but we're still not perfect.

We filled our afternoon with a hike along The Quarry. We'd heard people talking about this place but had never been. It's a trail to an old rock quarry that was abandoned fifty years ago and has since filled up with water to create a four-acre waterhole. There's no wading into this waterhole—it's sides are sheer rock, jutting down nearly sixty feet deep—but it's become a rather popular place to do some cliff-jumping into the murky waters below.

With our little ones in tow, we weren't interested in cliff jumping (besides—it's January) and our girls were terrified of the prospect. We talked a lot about water safety while we were hiking (Andrew mentioned a time Uncle Matt was hiking in Zion National Park with a scout troop and they found a body of water and wanted to jump in and swim but they didn't know if it was safe or not so Uncle Matt volunteered to assess the jumping in. Turns out the water was only shin-deep and Uncle Matt broke both of his legs and had to be carried out of the canyon). People have died jumping into this quarry and I know of people who've had tragic accidents bridge-jumping in Alberta (our town had a train bridge that was a popular jumping spot, though it's being dismantled, thanks to damage sustained during the unprecedented flooding this past summer).

Anyway, it's January so the water's far from warm. Also, we're not about to toss our children off a cliff into sixty-foot deep water. We were just there for the hike, which was beautiful.

There were a lot of fallen trees along the way. The girls thought their roots were rather interesting.

We weren't sure we were going to the right way (we should have read this first) but we ran into someone on the trail and asked them for directions. They were happy to help, noting that just before you get to the quarry there'll be a stream with only stepping stones to get across.

"It's like the test to see if you can handle the quarry," he said. "But I think they've put some bigger boulders in so it shouldn't be too hard for your kids."

And it wasn't. Rachel was a little nervous at first...

...but she made it across just fine.

I had to basically drag Miriam across, and Andrew had Benjamin in the backpack. We all made it to the other side safe and dry.

Miriam was not impressed with the hike at all. She didn't like the stepping stones and she really didn't like that after the stepping stones we found ourselves on a relatively narrow path, flanked on one side by the quarry and the other side by the stream. And the path was slick with mud, too!

She thought we should all sit down and have a good cry about it.

In reality it wasn't that narrow or muddy (though you could see water on either side of you as you walked). We told Miriam to pick herself up and "walk it off." She walked off many troubles on this hike. Every time she fell down or got scared we all chorused, "Walk it off!" And she did, brave girl.

The stream, we found out, flows right into the Eno River (The Quarry is now part of the Eno River State Park, so that makes sense, I suppose). We spent a little time playing on the river bank.

Next up was one of the few places where the water in the quarry met what qualifies as a "bank" rather than a cliff. I'm still not sure how steeply it drops off at the edge here, but it seemed to be where all the debris of the lake collects so it was relatively shallow, comparatively speaking, with sludge and algae and logs making a rather disgusting-looking ramp into the quarry.

Everywhere else was pretty cliff-like.

The girls found a fun climbing tree to play in. It had branches sticking out every which way!

It was fun to watch them climb. They thought they were going so high!

We had to stop to throw a few rocks into the water, of course. I considered getting Benjamin down but then...we didn't. We decided we'd let him out for the last bit of the trail so he could do some hiking on his own two feet, safely away from the water's edge.

Here are my cute girls posing by the water one last time:

And here they are excitedly marching up to the trailhead again (or at least the trailhead of the loop around the quarry itself):

Here are some selfies I took while waiting for them to hike up to the top of the hill. I can't decide if it's vanity or practicality—if I don't take pictures of myself then no one will and I think it's important to show everyone who came along. I can't always be behind the lens. If only selfies were easier to take (and they are...with a smart phone, I suppose, when you can turn the camera and see yourself in the screen—it's not so easy with an actual camera).

Here's everybody else up on the cliff. I told them I'd take their picture from the bottom.

With all the hiking, rock-scrambling, and tree-climbing we'd done around the quarry, the girls weren't nearly as afraid of the stepping stones on the way out as they had been on the way in.

They still weren't entirely comfortable with them, but they were a lot braver. Miriam even went the whole way across by herself (only misstepping (and soaking her foot) once).

We did a lot of tree climbing on our way back out of the park.

Rachel wanted to climb up a tree like a pole but said it was too difficult.

Andrew challenged me to show her how it's done:

Andrew took out his phone to check the time and noticed that he had a missed call from his dad and a missed "FaceTime" as well. He mused that he wished he could call him back because it seems like every time we get a phone call from home it's because someone has died. Two missed communications in a row seemed desperate to Andrew, so I told him to go ahead and call his dad back.

"But we're in the middle of no where!" Andrew said. "Just kidding. We have more bars than we do at home!"

So he called him back. That's how it is hiking in the middle of Durham. It feels so secluded but really you're just minutes away from suburbia. (By the way, no one died.)

Benjamin didn't get to get out to walk at the end of the hike, however, because he fell asleep. He was having some very giggly dreams on Andrew's back—his sweet baby snores were occasionally interrupted with a little fit of giggles. It was pretty funny.

When we got home we sent all the kids into the backyard to play (and even acquired a few neighbours as well) while I did more laundry and Andrew did more reading. This play set is like the best thing that has ever happened to us. The kids have been loving it (and so have we)!

It was so warm today (mid-60s) that Andrew even decided to barbeque for dinner! In January!

But don't be too jealous of us for too long—our high for Wednesday is supposed to be in the 20s.


  1. I like all the crying pictures :)

  2. I love the playset picture! And the ones of you all in the trees! Andrew walked in here and said, "Who's in the tree?" (It was you). "Wow, she's a pretty good tree climber."

  3. Nancy is the best pole climber ever! I loved the time at cubs when all the boys were trying to climb the rope and doing pretty badly, actually, and little Nancy grabs the rope and shimmies all the way to the ceiling. That was a proud moment...all the boys at the bottom gawking at her!