The direction sign was clear but my mind was apparently not when we turned right instead of left on the trail. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Sarah Simpson Column: Mistakes will happen but kindness prevails

You know those jerks who always follow the trail directions wrong? I humbly acknowledge that, recently, my family were those jerks.

You know those jerks who always follow the trail directions wrong? I humbly acknowledge that, recently, my family were those jerks.

During social distancing.

On a boardwalk trail that couldn’t be more than three feet wide.

You guessed it, we were out on the West Coast doing one of the famous Rainforest Trails in Pacific Rim National Park. Life cooped up at home got the best of us one day and we woke up early the next morning and opted to get the heck outa Dodge. Just another one of our quick family trips: roughly 34 hours of jam-packed quality time. That’s really all our schedules (and pocketbooks) will allow for.

Our first full day we headed from Duncan to Ucluelet and showed the kids where their mom and dad were married. Masks in hand (read: on our faces), we also stopped at the new brewery (dad) and the ice cream shop (mom and the kids).

After our time in Ucluelet we headed to Long Beach where the kids frolicked about in the waves and dug in the sand and had an absolute blast. It was the best time of the entire trip. It was also there, though, that my son took off down the beach, and with a healthy head start, tested my husband’s fitness and stamina in what’s likely the most epic round of catch-me-if-you-can in the beach’s history. I’d venture to say my six-year-old made it at least a quarter mile before his dad was able to wrangle him. A stern lecture about the dangers of the sea later, we were back in the car and headed into Tofino proper.

After some wood fired pizza at the local pizza shop, the day ended quietly in our night’s lodging, with family reading time. Everyone was tuckered right out — especially Dad as he kept falling asleep while reading aloud. It was a really nice day and one we’d desperately needed to have together as a family.

The next morning, however, did not go as smoothly.

We awoke to a somewhat soggy day but the clouds parted just enough for us to get in some time at the pirate ship play park and a hike. But first, I needed to get some computer work done.

To give me an hour to myself after breakfast, my husband and kids walked to the coffee shop for some hot chocolate. What happened next only he could describe. So I’ll let him do it:

“The boy was NOT HAPPY on the walk to the coffee shop. I don’t know what his deal was, but something was bugging him and he wanted to make sure I knew it. This continued the whole time we were lined up at the coffee shop, and as we waited for our hot chocolates. Within seconds of getting our drinks, his sister dropped hers on the floor, spilling the entirety of it. He immediately handed over his own hot chocolate to his sister, doing a complete 180 from how the day had been going thus far. While we waited for the guy to come mop up the first hot chocolate, the second hot chocolate was dropped, too, doubling the size of the puddle on the floor. Still, no tears or pouts from either of them. We were provided with free replacements for the dropped drinks, but I waited until we were outside and half a block away from the coffee shop before I handed the kids their new beverages.”

No doubt embarrassed at his daughter’s slippery grip, the staff at the coffee shop were nothing but kind to my husband and our children despite the hassle they’d made. We were grateful for that.

The kindness would only continue later in the day.

We pulled into the parking lot for the Rainforest Trails and the children were overtired and unhappy. There were other hikers around but not so many that we were uncomfortable. We were, however, uncomfortable with our whining children so we wanted to get beyond the people and into the trail as fast as we could.

Everything on the West Coast had exceptional COVID-19 precautions — including their one-way-only trails. In my zest to get the cranky kids into the woods, I unknowingly misread the direction sign. It wasn’t until we were about 400 metres in that we met our first obstacle, a young couple, and realized my error.

We all made efforts to pass each other safely with the typical “excuse mes” and “sorrys” you’d expect. When it happened again it was confirmed. We’d made a huge mistake and we’d be paying for it regularly for another kilometre.

What jerks we were!

But something funny happened along the way. In the middle of a global pandemic, on a three-foot wide boardwalk trail at the edge of the country, our cheeks red with embarrassment and our apologies flowing fast like wine at a wedding, all we got were comments like: “It’s OK,” and “We’ve all done it,” and “mistakes happen”.

Braced to be called out as unsafe jerks who think the rules don’t apply to them, all we got was kindness. So, next time you’re out on a trail and see somebody headed in the direction opposite to yours, don’t assume they’re jerks. Maybe they’re good people and just got a little mixed up along the way.

Cowichan Valley Citizen

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