While on vacation this past week, our family hiked at Coker Creek Falls in eastern TN. We chose this day trip from a local book about daytrips near Murphy, North Carolina. About 3/4 of the way there, our oldest, Ella, started asking questions about the hike. She had been on some hikes before with her dad and her YMCA Indian Princess tribe, but she did not know what to expect from this place that no one in the car was familiar with. We gave her the booklet so she could read about Coker Creek Falls to see if that helped at all. We tried our best to answer her questions, and give her encouragement, but things went downhill quickly..
"What if I break my arm or leg?"
"How will we find crutches in the woods?"
"This says rock ledges! My mind is not running away with me! I'm gonna die!"
*major meltdown ensues* We talk. We reassure.
Papa: "Ella, do you trust us? Have we ever taken you somewhere to do something that we knew was not safe?
Mama: We brought Annelise and Teddy with us. Would we bring the little ones to someplace we thought was very dangerous and where one of you could die?"
She becomes slightly more rational...
"There are a lot of bad things that could happen that I'm afraid of. I was all excited till I found out what this hike was!"
We reflect her feelings.
"I know we have never been to Coker Creek Falls. I know it is a new experience and that can make you nervous and scared. I know that you are afraid that you could get hurt. But we are here to keep you safe and to make sure nothing bad happens to you"
"You can do it! It's an adventure! Come with us!"
By the time we got to the parking lot, I was emotionally exhausted already and my ears were hurting from her crying and yelling. Seriously. I did not know how I was going to hike, let alone have the resources to help my children.
Our first stop was this first waterfall section, where Maddie took a picture of me, and I took a picture of her.
Not long after these were taken, we came to a manmade set of stairs and railings meant to help you descend to an area recommended for going out onto the falls and even hiking up the rocky crags in the falls! Maddie, Annelise, and I scampered down to the bottom, but realized that we needed to have worn crocs or water shoes, as well as swimsuits, to enjoy the falls that way. We scampered back up, and attempted to continue on our hike.
Ella was having none of that. She took one look down the path, as it narrowed and curved downward, and started absolutely freaking out.
She started stomping her feet, clinging to her father, and screaming to have someone stay with her or take her back to the car. The Doctor and I discussed things, and decided that she needed to be brave and come along, because the rest of the family wanted to take the hike. He worked with her for a while, and then let me try.
Ella "I can't go on any further!"
Mama: "Yes you can, I know you can do this."
Ella "I'll just stay here"
Mama: "Ella, you can't stay here."
Ella: "Ground me from everything, just please don't make me do it!"
I felt badly for her. I knew she was really really terrified. But I also knew that this was a teachable moment, and that if she would come and have the adventure with us, that she would be proud of herself for doing it.
I showed her that her little sister Annelise was ambling up and down the trail ahead of us. I reminded her that I had done a scouting mission ahead of us to check out the trail. I asked her if she would hold onto me with her hands around my arm, and showed her that I would hold her around the shoulders, and that we could go a little ways. We took baby steps, but we made some progress past the manmade railing point. She was still hiccuping a little, and shaking and clinging to me, but we started down the path with no more verbal resistance!
A few times we even got to the point where she was just holding my hand and not clinging to me!
We started on our return trip about 20 minutes later, and she had relaxed enough to converse and look around. I suggested that we each take a small quartz-looking stone from the path to remind us of our journey, and she agreed to do that.
Annelise was hiking ahead of us, and chirped "We hiking in the magic rainbow forest!"
Ella deadpanned: "Magic Rainbow Forest? More like plummeting to my death!"
I have a ray of sunshine and a little black storm cloud, don't I?
Before the end of the hike, Maddie and Ella both came out into the middle of the waterfall with me, a HUGE success for Ella! See the death grip on my arm?
Afterward, she did say that she was glad she had hiked, that it was very pretty, and that she appreciated that I had my hand on her the whole time.
Here are some other pictures from the hike:
Have you had a family hiking experience? What was the first one like? I would love to hear about it!
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