12 years old and 12,465 kilometres

In just a few days (on July 15), Anna Sierra will turn 13. 
We’ll be in Whitefish, Montana, a hub of bike touring, with several of the Adventure Cycling Associations cross country trips passing through, so we’ll be in fine company with lots of other bike travellers at the Whitefish Lake State Park and in town. 

We’ll go for a big hike on her special day and plan to take her white water rafting when we’re back in Ottawa and the Rapids are fun but the rivers aren’t glacial!

We feel so lucky that we were able to spend her whole 12th year with this incredible young lady, our amazing daughter, Jasper’s amazing sister. 

Together we’ve ridden 12,460 kilometres – more than 1000 kilometres for each year of her life! For a kid who loves riding her bike as much as this one does, it’s been a great way to spend her 12th year.

Thoughtful, kind, generous and funny, she is wonderful company. I feel so grateful that we’ve ridden close together almost all year. It is such a privilege to be with her, sharing stories and experiences and just watching the world go by as we pedal along each day. 

Both kids now officially know all the funny and interesting part time jobs Derek and I have ever had – from my tree planting, book store and day camps to his pizza delivery, house painting and golf course watering. 

We’ve told these stories to pass the time or when the landscape we’re riding through brings back a memory. I’m glad we’ve had all the time in the world for these stories, for the kids to learn our histories. 

Like the mountains she is named for, Anna Sierra is strong, solid, fierce, beautiful and loyal. We call her our mountain goat because she’s first up every pass, dancing on her pedals. 

The only real conflicts we’ve had on the trip is over how much weight she’s allowed to carry – she always wants to take more than her share of the heavy stuff. This is really helpful when we’re fully loaded after a grocery store stop, but even though she’s powerful, her young body is still growing and we want her to be able to enjoy it pain free for her whole life. There’s always a balance.

And for capable, ambitious, hard working young women, learning how much is actually your part or your responsibility and learning to be happy with good enough are some of the most valuable lessons for living a happy, less stressed life.

These may be lessons she’ll need to learn herself – most important life lessons are. But we’ve had lots of time to talk about them and to demonstrate them this year. And along with our celebration of good enough, Derek is always up for going with his girl right to the top of a peak or to squeeze in a lap around a lake. Because sometimes you do want to push yourself and do it all.

Anna Sierra loves hiking and picks the most challenging and breath-taking hikes for the whole family to enjoy. We’ve seen some of the most stunning views in Jasper, Banff, Waterton Lakes and Glacier Park because of her. I love her deep appreciation for wild places and the way her soul soars when she’s moving outside.

This girl loves animals. I’m so happy we’ve been able to ride to a seal sanctuary in the Netherlands, a crocodile hatchery in Cuba, a beach full of farty elephant seal pups on the California coast, to campgrounds frequented by harbour seals on Salt Spring Island and to endless gorgeous hills and mountains in Washington, BC and Alberta where we saw so many bald eagles, ground squirrels, mountain goats, big horn sheep and black bears. So far our black bear count is 8 and every sighting has been safe. It is an honour to see these beautiful creatures in the wild.

And of course our repertoire of “Why did the chicken cross the road?” jokes is extensive after passing by all the free range hens and roosters in France, Colombia, Cuba and parts of the States.
Unlike the rest of us professional chatters, Anna Sierra would mostly rather ride than stand around getting to know random people – even if they are interesting. Lately when she’s felt impatient with the rest of us standing around chatting while the open road is calling, she bikes off and waits for us at the top of a hill or the first fork in the road. We get the hint and wrap things up. I can tell she’s going to relish more freedom to go at her own pace when we’re back home instead of always travelling together. 

But whenever we have a chance to stay with old friends or new friends and especially whenever there’s a chance to get to know a little one, Anna Sierra forms a deep bond. I love this playful, creative side of her. She has endless patience for imaginary trips and tea parties and rereading favourite books. Those are her favourite visits.

A gifted storyteller, Anna Sierra keeps us all rivited when she makes up tales while we’re riding or hiking. She and Jasper love nothing more than scampering off on a hiking trail ahead of us, telling each other stories. 

It’s awesome how these two monkeys get along and look out for each other and love sharing adventures. 

It has been magical watching both kids learn and grow. During our time in France it was fun to see them using their French so fluently and in Cuba they quickly picked up Spanish. These languages they’ll be able to draw on and grow all their lives to connect with and understand folks all over the world. 

While we were in Jasper, Anna Sierra noticed all the businesses were hiring and plans to return someday for a summer to this glorious land of mountains she has just started exploring. 

She loves delicious, healthy food. After several days in Glacier National Park where what we had marked on our map as grocery stores turned out to be gift shops with a few convenience items – way too many individually packaged bagels and jam, chips, eggs and even Mr. Noodle – she was over the moon to find a real grocery store with yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, beans and crunchy veggies here in Columbia Falls. Tonight she picked out pasta salad (cooked by Jasper to perfection) with colourful peppers, three different beans, celery and fresh dressing – so delicious! 
The world is wide open for this amazing girl. She’s really looking forward to catching up with her dear friends, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. 

Exploring the magnificent rocks of Utah with Grandma Barbara and biking around Portland with Grandma Pat and Grandpa Wayne were two big trip highlights for this adoring grandkid. 

But I know she’s just started exploring and I’m so happy we all got to be such a big part of her adventures during her 12th year as she moves gracefully from childhood towards adolescence. But no matter how big she gets, she’ll always be our girl!
We wish her the happiest of birthdays and look forward to all the magic 13 will bring. 

Happy birthday darling!

We love you so very much!


9 thoughts on “12 years old and 12,465 kilometres

  1. Happy Birthday, Anna Sierra! What a beautiful tribute to an amazing young woman.
    Small mathy note: This is currently Anna Sierra’s thirteenth year, going into her 14th. I guess you don’t call me Mathasha for nothing … sorry for nerding out on your blog.


  2. Kathleen, Anna, Jasper and Derek
    We are so proud you. We love the way you have shared your great adventures.
    The depth of your love for each other, others, and nature is an inspiration for us.
    I believe the trail of friendship, bonding with others, your love of nature and sharing
    is what this world needs most. It provides a model of love, peace and deep understanding of humanity than is rarely seen.

    The zest for life and living that you all have brings joy to our hearts.

    Pat & Wayne


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