Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We Hiking!

This past Friday Don had the entire day off, which was a miracle in and of itself.  Lucy and I had been going nuts staying indoors during the past few days of cold, rainy weather, and Don had been going nuts from working working working and having really awful and terrible and soul crunching cases.  Thank God the sun decided to show its face again, and so after a lazy morning at home we threw some backpacks and some snacks in the car and headed to Whitewater State Park.

OK, well, that's not entirely accurate.  We did have a lovely morning at home, sipping coffee and eating egg sandwiches for breakfast.  But I wouldn't exactly call it lazy.  I spent most of the time making snacks and sandwiches and cleaning old water bottles and musty smelling camelbacks and packing diaper bags into backpacks and doing my thing.  Which, you know, is to ensure that we have, in excess, everything that anyone could ever possibly need while hiking.  Knowing that we were only going to be hiking for a few hours.  Unless some disaster hit and we needed to stay at the park for several days, thus necessitating three Nalgene bottles and a camelback.  All with ice and a slice of lime.  Because that's how I roll.

So by the time I have everything anyone would possibly need prepared, Don is ready to go and we bundle the Boss and the Lucy into the car and get on the road.  Thirty minutes later, I am circling the county on tiny little farm roads trying to entertain Lucy by passing as many cows as possible while still staying in cell phone range so that Don can finish an important phone call with a colleague who just got back from a trip to Haiti.  As the clock inches and then starts to stride past 10am the acid production in my stomach  starts to ramp up, and I become incapable of logical thought.  "I'm almost done honey," he whispers, so I turn back onto the main road toward the park.  Two minutes later he shakes his head at me and hisses "pull over!" so I turn into a precariously situated turn off leading to a pasture just around a curve.  Lucy and I comment to one another on the passing cars and the many colors of cows and sing the alphabet while I try my very very best not to glare back and forth at Don and the clock.  This phone call is important.  Lucy usually naps at 12:30pm.  Its not 10:20am.  That means we get less than two hours of hiking before she becomes a noodly legged scream monster.  Breathe, Crystal.  Breathe.

Luckily for Don, his phone call lasted another three minutes, which was exactly the time I needed to convince myself not to grab the phone, throw it at a cow, and run into a field screaming my irrational rage at the blue Minnesota sky.  So when he hung up and said "I'm sorry honey, that was really important.  Thank you." I smiled back and replied "I know, love.  It's ok.  I'm fine now."  And two minutes later we were parking.

The first climb is a steep one, up a series of wooden steps to the top of a ridge.  We always let Boss off the leash while climbing up or down, because his mode of climbing steps or trails is kind of a just get to the top as fast as possible one, and that can be slightly hazardous on slippery stairs.  The top of this first climb is always very rewarding, and I couldn't help but think back to last spring when we made the same hike, when Lucy was so much smaller.  And quieter.

May, 2011

April 20, 2012.  Same spot!

Last year, whenever we hiked, Lucy would sit quietly in the backpack for about ten minutes.  And then she would need a snack.  And then she would pelt Don on the head with the snack for ten minutes.  And then she would spend the remaining time wanting to get down.  At all costs.

This past Friday, we hiked for about an hour in complete familial bliss.  Boss ran up and down the trail, tried to chase rocks off of cliffs to his imminent doom, and generally exhibited an astounding level of Labrador-ness. Don carried Lucy in the backpack ahead of me, setting the pace and singing some very merry renditions of the alphabet song and the Hail Mary punctuated by some very complex, humorous and positive vocabulary lessons.

"Lucy, can you say empathetic?"
"I'm pathetic!"

This level of happy noise making doesn't contribute to good wildlife spotting conditions, but does have a lot to do with overall morale and super hiking fun time.  True to form, in about sixty minutes, right as we were descending to a little picnic spot by a little bend in the river, Lucy began to declare her independence from the backpack and her need to move around.  As soon as we reached the little bench we liberated her from her suspended prison, broke out some snacks, and Boss immediately jumped in the river and then shook himself off all over everyone.  We had a few sandwiches and some fruit.  Boss tried to eat a piece of cheese out of Lucy's hands.  We sat on the bench by the river and read an essay in Michael Pollan's Second Nature: A Gardener's Education about planting great trees while looking at the many oaks and maples in the surrounding forest.

This little picnic spot is perfectly situated by a little cliff overhanging the river, perfect for fishing or just general break-taking.  The sun was not quite at its zenith yet, so we were still getting a lot of shade, and once we stopped walking we started to cool down quite a bit and notice that it was, in fact, pretty chilly in the shade of the cliff.  This fact was further brought to our attention by Lucy, who stood in the one strong patch of sunlight with her little arms tucked into her chest, chattering her teeth.  Good thing I am a supermom who packs everything anybody would need in any situation....except a jacket for our daughter on a 50 degree spring day.  Well, I guess lets just call it a day, right folks?  I mean, freezing toddler, we are in no condition to hike on!  Right?

Wrong!!  What is the title of this blog, after all?  That's right -- Everyday Degage.  So that's what we did.

Mama's scarf and Mayo Emergency Medicine fleece, and a spare pair of socks for mittens.  Now we've got a happy, and toasty, camper, and we are ready to soldier on.

It was getting closer to noon by then, but for some reason, when we get out into the woods, my freakishly high level of irrational anxiety concerning nap times and meal times and my ability to calculate the probability of tantrums and fits and meltdowns starts to ebb.  Blissfully so.  Perhaps its being out in the woods, and knowing that even if Lucy does start to break down before we get back to the car, at least we will have had another hour of being here.  Being under these trees and this sun and next to this river and up and down this ridge.  Breathing easier with this much more space around us, even when we are hiking up a steep trail, because we are out.  Out of our house, out of Rochester, out of the shadow of the hospital and all of the responsibilities and needs that it imposes on our family.  And we are together.  Really together, in a give and take, good communicating, anticipating each others needs, let me hold your backpack while you pee kind of way.

So screw 12:30pm nap-time, lets go up the longer Dakota trail and just see what happens, because I don't want to go back to the car yet.  Even though this part of the Dakota trail goes over a lame three foot section of ridge trail that tends to get washed out every spring and is really more of a rock slidey 50 degree angle mud slide than a trail.  But its just for three feet.  Its these moments that really drives home the difference between the meanings of the words "brave" and "stupid" to me. 

Being stupid is not being afraid of something.  Being stupid is our dog running over these three feet at a tongue lolling gallop, knocking rocks off down the steep ridge in the process, and then running back to try and chase the rocks down the ridge/cliff because he thinks that they are balls that someone threw for him.  He maintains perfect balance in this process, partly because he is a dog running on four clawed paws, and partly because he is unafraid.  Because he is stupid.  Being brave is being terrified of walking three feet, standing for five minutes looking at the rocks in the ground in front of you and trying to figure out which of them is more secure than the rest, which then just completely paralyzes you until you cant move your foot an inch.  And then you look up and you see that your husband, who is carrying your 26lb daughter, has not only blithely navigated this seemingly unnavigable obstacle, but is now waiting for you 10 yards up the trail because he knew that you would have a problem with this part, but also knows that you will get mad if he asks you if you need help, so instead he waits within helping distance while pretending to quiz Lucy on types of trees.  And this crushingly endearing gesture is just the motivation you need to get your ass over those three feet of death slide, whereupon you congratulate yourself on how brave you are for facing down death once again, and conquering it.  And then you congratulate yourself again on choosing the best husband ever, who starts walking again as if nothing has happened, and waits a full two minutes before casually asking you how you are doing.

And then you congratulate yourself a third time because by being brave enough to cross the death slide you have now made it into the safe zone where you got to see the awesomeness of a birch tree which has fallen and rotten away underneath the bark, leaving a hollow tube of birch bark like a sloughed off tree skin.

Tree skin.
We hiked for another hour or so before heading down to the meadow that leads to the parking lot.  There are a lot of group camping sites along this trail, but thankfully the park was empty and we could let Boss romp around the whole time.  We got back to the river and took another rest, giving Lucy another chance to run around the stretch her legs.  Thankfully the sun was higher now, and the air much warmer, and she was comfortable enough to shed her makeshift cold weather gear!

Chasing butterflies.
We are not dead!
Don even got a little upper body workout in as we finally headed back to the car.

By the time we got back to the car, everyone was surprisingly tired after only 2 1/2 hours of hiking.  Both Don's and my legs were quite noodley, Boss could barely jump into the back of the car, and Lucy asked that we just leave her in the backpack in the back with Boss on the ride home.

Don't worry...we didn't.  We threw everything into the car, strapped Lucy into the car seat, and she was completely passed out about 90 seconds after we started the car.

All in all, a very successful day off.

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