I regret not taking a photo of the millipede but at the time I didn’t know it would go on to be the subject of my column. So here’s a photo of my brave momma loving life on the bridge. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Sarah Simpson column: Overcoming obstacles, and murderous millipedes

I feel like an inordinate number of my columns have to do with bugs. I didn’t mean for this one to be about creepy crawlers but it kind of fell into my lap, like so many of these stories tend to do. (And thank goodness it didn’t fall into my lap literally because I don’t really think lap bugs are a thing.)

Anyway, we weren’t going to waste the beautiful long weekend sunshine we were gifted with so, on Saturday morning, we arranged to meet my mom and step dad for a hike. More like a long walk. OK, a short walk but with small kids it felt long. We wanted to check out the suspension bridge over Haslam Creek in Cassidy. Didn’t know it was there? Me neither until Google Maps told me.

Anyway the trek to the bridge was about 900 metres, so we were looking at a whopping 1.8 km round trip. At roughly 33 minutes per kilometre, we were a little off any Olympic pace. This story isn’t about speed though. It’s about obstacles.

On most of our hikes we encounter obstacles: rocks, tree roots, hills, staircases and those types of things. Anything the kids need to navigate more carefully. With every obstacle conquered we watch the confidence of our children grow. It’s a great thing. They feel good about themselves and we feel good about that.

Anyway, my daughter has these tiny little legs and she loves to use them. Just not for very long during hikes. We always end up having to carry her at some point. As of the long weekend though, I can no longer say always. The Haslam Creek suspension bridge trek marks her new record for both distance and time because she completed it from start to finish on her own two feet with nary a whine to be picked up. In truth she’s likely walked farther, but always wanted to be picked up. So we made a big deal out of this one. She was so proud.

Also on the hike, my mother overcame an obstacle in crossing the suspension bridge not once but twice, all the while pretending she liked it. I know she did not like the height or the movement or anything having to do with the bridge save for her grandchildren on it and for the beautiful scenery. But she did it. Because moms/grammys tend to do that kind of thing.

On our way back we noticed a millipede. (Here’s where we circle back to bugs.) The six of us gathered around this tiny creature and watched as it climbed over the debris on the forest floor. First a fallen leaf then a small twig. My son wanted to see more so he put a larger stick in front of the tiny creature. We all stood hovered over watching as the millipede sussed out the situation and then went for it. That tiny bug gracefully climbed up and over that’s stick like it was no big deal, like there were not six giants towering over it. We were all impressed.

The following day, my husband, as he tends to do, began to research the bug.

It turns out it was a pretty common yellow spotted millipede. Otherwise known as an almond-scented millipede. Weird right? Well no, apparently cyanide smells like toasted almonds. It’s also known as a cyanide millipede.

You read that right.

Yup, the creepy crawler we were all sticking our noses near excretes hydrogen cyanide when threatened. (The bright yellow spots ought to have tipped us off, as bright colours in nature tend to be warning signs for predators).

It sounds like we were reasonably safe as it wouldn’t have enough poison to kill even a small human — but should we have picked it up it could have stained our skin or made it burn or blister or something generally awful-sounding. Yikes.

So I mean, yeah, I don’t wanna brag or anything, but I overcame a pretty big obstacle this weekend in escaping a potential cyanide attack. What did you get up to?



sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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