Yukiko and I headed out early in the morning to Treetop Trekking: Huntsville. I've been to Lafleche before, but was eager to check out the Huntsville location. This was Yukiko's first time. I'd forgotten how much exercise this is! We were a little concerned that we forgot our bug repellant watching other participants give themselves a bath in the stuff but the staff assured us it wasn't going to be a problem (and it wasn't!) Huntsville starts you out with a pleasant hike to the "base camp" from which all the climbs begin and end. This meant we could put our stuff on a picnic table and easily get back to our water / food / car keys etc. I really appreciated this!
They offer gloves for sale and we declined after the staff member on sale basically told us that it was unnecessary ("I never do", she said breezily). The gloves are used to brake at Lafleche so I was somewhat concerned but we decided to save the $2. I'm quite sure they would sell more gloves if they had them available at base camp... Next time we will know better!
We started out with the training, and if the location has a weakness this was it - we spent a long, long time standing in line waiting to be trained. If you go, stand near the ladder during the opening spiel so that you are one of the first trainees!
We climbed rapidly through the various levels of aerials. The ziplines are designed so you don't need to brake - just hang on tight and off you fly. Yukiko confessed that she thought the requirement to double-buckle yourself to the tree at all times was slightly overkill until we got up to the higher courses. Then she was glad for the habit! We soon made it to Dragonfly, a course consisting of seven ziplines in a row. Two were quite long (and fast). Lafleche's lines are longer and faster, but the big difference is that you cannot slow yourself down so I'm sure that I actually hit a higher velocity here in Huntsville. Yukiko got all turned around and slammed backwards into the tree - luckily it was padded. The staff gave her an impromptu steering lesson after that and then she was able to turn herself around.
Then we were invited to try Tarzan. The giant swing looked fun from the ground but I was having serious second thoughts by the time I sat down and was ready to go. "Is it safe?" I asked. The first few seconds I wished fervently that I could rewind and change my decision to do such a crazy thing (this is definitely the closest I will ever get to bungee jumping!) but then I slowly realized that I was going to live. The staff even convinced me to let go of the rope, and to unclip the extra harness so I could be lowered to the ground. Yukiko says she was too shocked at first to even scream but from my vantage point on the ground you couldn't even tell she was nervous. She let go of the rope to mug it up for the camera almost immediately.
Zip lining over, Yukiko and I headed to Lumina resort to join up with the rest of the family for the RegattaBrendan was only two the last time the family was here at the same time as the regatta. Grandma, Erika and Uncle Chris participated in the three generations paddle. Chris and Brendan did the men's doubles race, while Yukiko and I participated in the women's doubles. Then I headed out all by myself. Many people had great difficulty steering; we experienced serious interference in most of our races. We are definitely going to have to practice and try again another year though (I definitely ran out of steam half way through, so interference wasn't the only problem...) Yukiko and Erika and Elizabeth and I participated in the all ages mixed doubles race. Elizabeth was super excited until she saw how many boats capsized during the crab race (sit on the bow facing the bow and paddling). Then she wasn't so sure about canoeing. I had borrowed a canoe from another person so was not in the mood to let her back out. She sat in the bow very carefully holding her paddle. "I'll just use this to push any boats that get too close away", she offered. By the end of the race she decided it was safe enough to paddle. Unfortunately her "help" paddling was in the wrong direction. Most of the other paddlers in the race were much, much older than her (she and Erika were clearly the youngest) so I didn't feel bad in the least about finishing last! It was a lot of fun. Elizabeth enjoyed it so much that she wanted to go again. I contemplated doing the upside down paddle with her but thought Maria should be offered a turn. By the time we got over to ask Maria, Maria was asleep and someone had taken our canoe without asking!!! The last race Elizabeth was eligible for was a "war canoe" for under 11s. We got hooked up with a boat who was willing to take Elizabeth and Erika but Elizabeth suddenly changed her mind and Erika wouldn't go without Elizabeth. Unfortunately the boys waited long enough that they couldn't go either because now all the other available partners had paired up. We were very unimpressed - the girls wrote apology letters later which I hoped softened the disappointment they obviously felt.
If zip lining and a regatta weren't enough excitement in one day, Squeegee offered pony rides at Bondi in the afternoon. (Have I mentioned that Bondi is awesome?) Despite looking forward to this moment all year, Elizabeth wasn't too sure about staying on the pony once he started moving but a few times around the ring and she started enjoying herself. Such a difference from a couple of years ago when the little girls were just big enough to sit on his back for a few minutes. Erika is big enough to climb on and off all by herself! (More or less)
It was pouring bathtubs of rain when we woke up this morning, so it was time to pull out the crafts.
In the afternoon Mr Bear obligingly hid his treasure and we had great fun locating all the clues. Elizabeth checked several times to be sure that no REAL bears were going to be involved. Just in case. The weather cleared up as well, so we didn't even get wet this year! I made the girls alternate who got to be the "leeter" (aka clue finder). Then they put the puzzle together and turned it over to discover the secret message.
It poured rain again shortly thereafter, but it cleared briefly so we went for a five minute swim. Then spectacular thunderstorm chased us back into the cottage. But by the time round two of crafting was over the sun was shining again.
Some other cottagers were flying their kites in between crash landing them into the water. They took the kite for a paddleboat ride and then very nearly lost the kite altogether in the trees. "They had better be careful", said Elizabeth. "I don't think they brought a monkey to fetch it out of the tree" Later they did tree the kite, but we don't know how it got in or out because we were too busy canoeing. Canoeing with a small child on your lap is not as easy as it looks...
Matthew helped Mommy and Elizabeth wash dishes for the very first time. Then we headed off to visit cousin Lauren and Donna (Elizabeth's second cousins Lindsay and Anna). We've been to their cottage before but this was our first look post-renovation. It was fun before but now it is lovely.
Elizabeth wasn't too sure at first but soon warmed up to Lindsay who showed her how to somersault over the sides of the couch and play "doctor" with her dolls. Then they decided to play construction. Lindsay put in windows with the same hammer she had been using to "check" Matthew's reflexes.
Grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch, then stories and naps / quiet time before the kids begged to go swimming. It was a little chilly for Matthew but the girls splashed around happily and made sandcastles on the beach. Then we warmed up on the end of the dock with peaches and brownies.
On our way out, Elizabeth asked if we couldn't stay "forever and ever, or at least have a sleepover. Or maybe her (Lindsay) could come to my house for a sleepover". I guess she had fun!
It was wiener roast night at our cottage when we got home, and first corn of the season for Bondi - YUM! I brought my own gluten free graham crackers. Elizabeth wasn't too pleased to see the loud potato guns but forgot her annoyance in the excitement of her latest "spit" competition.
The girls survived all sleeping together on the back porch, despite a tug of war over blankets in the evening. All the same, Maria decided to sleep with Mommy and Daddy the next night in order to have more space!
One of the more popular beach activities: dig trenches and pour buckets down the hill, creating rivers, pools and waterfalls. Then we played in the water until everyone turned blue. Warm baths all around afterwards.