Swan Creek Hiking & Salmon Spawning

One of my favorite phone calls of 2014 was one from my nephew, Andrew. I was just getting down from the mountains and had a message on my phone, “Hi, Aunty Beth. I was wondering if you could come over so we can go hiking.” I called him back and reminded him that I live in Colorado which is far away so I couldn’t come over today. He was very understanding and matter of factly said, “Okay, then we’ll go hiking next time you’re here, right?”

Andrew and I almost had conflicting travel schedules and only overlapped in Tacoma for one day so I was sure to follow up on my promise and get him outside. Andrew’s hiking requirements go as follows: “We get in the Jeep, drive to the woods, and hike.” (I found this out when I tried to convince four year old Drew that a walk in the neighborhood counted as a hike… he was not impressed.) Luckily for me, my mom lives near an awesome green space: Swan Creek Park.

I’ve taken Andrew hiking here several times now and he loves it. Its big enough and the woods are dense enough that it really feels like hiking even if you are a 5 minute drive from downtown Tacoma. This time, when we got out of the car, there were signs announcing that the annual salmon run was happening. I was skeptical about there being much to see until we made it to the creek—the smell of dead fish was unmistakable.

Andrew was totally fascinated with the dead fish (“Aunty Beth, all of their eyes are gone!!”) and almost as excited with the few live fish still working their way upstream. I mentally changed gears: I was pretty sure we weren’t going to actually go hiking that day but instead would spend the whole time watching the fish and learning about them.

Much to my surprise, after wandering back and forth in the same area of the creek, Andrew was still interested in going for a hike. As a matter of fact, after hearing that he’d already walked a mile according to the GPS on my phone, he declared he was going to hike five miles.

The trail was just muddy enough to be exciting but the sun was shining—an absolutely perfect day to be out in nature.

I’m so excited that he’s getting older. Even after learning about the salmon, he was still excited to learn about ferns and how they can help soothe stinging nettles.

We learned that this is called lichen:

We saw big stumps that showed evidence of springboard logging and talked about that. We even learned the importance of silly selfies:

We didn’t make it five miles but to my surprise, we did three miles—no crying, no whining, and all fun.

Andrew even had so much fun that he was sure to tell his brother Junior that next time he just has to come hiking with Aunty Beth.

On The Page: Small Feet, Big Land

Trekking across Alaska’s glaciers is a difficult feat. Trekking across an Alaskan glacier with a two year old and a baby is something that, to me, seems a bit unfathomable. Erin McKittrick and her husband, Hig, accomplished just such a feat. This adventure is detailed in Small Feet, Big Land: Adventure, Home and Family on the Edge of Alaska along with stories of their life in Seldovia.

Small Feet, Big Land meshed with some of my interests: simple living, outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship but I don’t read much about adventuring with children. McKittrick tells of the struggles and triumphs of living in the outdoors with her son Katmai and daughter Lituya in a very honest way. In a way that never seems like complaining she discusses how the division of parental labor between mother and father affects her. She talks very honestly about evaluating risk as a parent in the outdoors. Furthermore, struggles with discomfort in the wilderness are discussed quite candidly.

Sometimes I wished that Small Feet, Big Land was divided into a couple different books. There were two essential components to the book: the life that Hig and Erin were building with their children in Seldovia, a small town of about 400 residents, and the adventures they took with first one, then two children. Both aspects of the book were really interesting but I often found myself longing to hear more about each of them. McKittrick seems to structure her life as a series of expeditions linked together by home life which is probably what drove the structure of the book.

I enjoyed reading Small Feet, Big Land but I feel like I’m a little bit outside of her target audience for the book. It was fascinating to hear about how she and Hig were able to figure out how to take some pretty serious adventures with children in tow but a parent (or potential parent) would probably enjoy this even more. Outside of children, I heard a lot of myself in McKittrick’s voice and am looking forward to reading her other book A Long Trek Home: 4,000 Miles by Boot, Raft, and Ski about traveling from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands by human power.



Small Feet, Big Land was provided by Mountaineers Books to 3Up Adventures for review. All opinions are Beth’s.