“Be One with Nature,” They Said

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hiking

It was Sunday, April 5, 2020. Our family was 23 days into sheltering in place amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. I woke up that morning antsy, eager to do something besides watch Frozen 2 for the 40th time.

Before breakfast, I took a quick peek at the weather and saw that it was supposed to be sunny and warm. This may be an opportunity to spend some time outdoors, I thought. Woah. I don’t regularly have thoughts like that. Something to make clear right away: I am not one who willingly chooses the outdoors. Why? 1) Bugs freak me out. 2) Yes, nature is beautiful, but see point 1. And 3) Frankly, I’d just rather not. However, being cooped up indoors for long periods of time changes a person’s heart. Here I was, ready to suggest the unthinkable.

Over breakfast I nonchalantly said to my husband Matt, “The weather’s supposed to be nice. We should go for a hike!” Matt, extremely surprised because of my up-until-this-moment disdain for the outdoors, prudently agreed.

We loaded the kids in the car and headed to a park about 30 minutes away. With social distancing in mind, we wanted to get there early to avoid any crowds should there be any. It was a good plan as we were only the second car there. Perfect. We unloaded our four year old, Gracelyn, two year old, Maeva, and eight month old, Isaac, strapped Isaac into the carrier and headed off.

Have I ever been that excited to hike before? Never. Did I know what I was doing? Absolutely not. But we were doing it! The kids were excited. I was excited. Matt was rightfully cautious.

The first sign we came upon told us the name of the trails we could embark on and the rating of each trail. Coyote Point Trail’s rating was difficult. Oooo, that could be a real adventure. Exciting! Discover Loop Trail’s rating was easy. Meh. Why wasn’t there something in between?

“I think we should stick to Discover Loop,” Matt said with a smile, “its rating is easy.”

“Okay, that’s a little lame,” I said, “because I won’t feel like I’ve hiked-hiked, you know? But I get it. Three tiny humans are with us. Discover Loop it is.” And we set off.

Girls walking Discover Loop
Discover Loop – nice and flat

We were hiking Discover Loop, we were excited, the girls were running around, the sky was pretty, nature was green and beautiful….and then Matt saw a snake. And my happy-to-be-outside feeling was gone. I was ready to get out of there. I should’ve heeded that warning and rounded up everyone to go.

As this internal debate was happening, we came upon a bridge of sorts that crossed the creek. All of a sudden deep down within me, a sense of adventure was rekindled. I felt brave. I felt adventurous, I felt young again, not like the 31-year-old mother who always had her kids’ best interests in mind. I mean, it was a smallish creek–I felt myself justifying this rekindling–and the stepping stones weren’t that crooked. My goodness, Mamisoa. We had three tiny humans with us. What was I thinking?

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Matt, who is the best person I know and who kindly supports my crazy schemes said, “Okay, let’s do it,” after I spent a good few minutes convincing him that we could do it. He held my hand as I took a step onto the first stone and off we went to cross this creek. Was it the smartest decision I’ve made? Nope. Especially since 3/5 of us did not know how to swim.

While crossing, I almost slipped only once, thank the Lord. Matt, my hero, carried Maeva over, then went back to get Gracelyn and carried her over, too. We made it across safely and it was right around this time that Maeva wanted to go back and “be done.” I should’ve listened to her. Little did we know that the adventure was just starting.

The next 1 1/2 hours — yes, 1 1/2 HOURS – was a steep climb, and it was muddy in so many spots. (Note: we did not pay attention to this route on the map because we weren’t going to do it, remember?) Did the mud deter me? Of course not. I was doing the thing! I was being one with nature. I was being adventurous and getting fresh air and all of that! I am African woman, hear me roar. Also, what helped in my naivety was that the scenery was absolutely gorgeous.

Sometimes, the girls led the way; most of the time though, Maeva insisted on taking things at her own pace and hanging in the back. About thirty minutes into our ascent, she was ready to be done. We bribed her by telling her she could have applesauce and goldfish crackers (that Matt grabbed at the last minute thankfully) once we reached the top. If I haven’t said it before, Matt is my hero. Gracelyn was in her element. She loved the hike. She was the line leader for most of the hike, scouting the path, telling us where to step and which spots to avoid. Thankfully, Isaac was perfectly content in just hanging out in the carrier.

About halfway up, Maeva was in full-on protest mode. We decided to take a break for some applesauce. We decided not to offer the goldfish crackers because we needed enticement still. I’m glad we did stop because honestly, we didn’t know at that point that we were only halfway up.

Right when we reached the top, there was 20 feet of a steep climb with pure mud. There was no way around it and we all slipped. Both of Maeva’s shoes were caked in mud and were so heavy that they fell off when Matt tried to pick her up. It was hilarious! Of course right as all of this was happening was when we came across other humans for the first time. They also slipped. I’m sure we were making great impressions all around.

Once at the summit, we finally stopped for the girls to consume their goldfish crackers and Isaac his applesauce. The decision Matt and I had to make was do we: 1.) turn around and go back (should’ve picked this) or 2.) keep going?

Of the four groups of people who passed us as we had our pause (all without tiny humans, might I add), none of them came back, so we justified that surely that meant this was a loop…. (we would come to find that in fact, it was not a loop.)

As we were talking this through, Maeva’s tiny voice exclaimed, “I went pee-pee in my underwear!”

Was it her fault? No. We were potty training her and she hadn’t pottied in two hours. Did we have extra clothes? Of course not. Is that something you bring on a hike? I don’t know! I’ve never done this before with tiny humans. And, we weren’t supposed to be gone this long!

Not only did Maeva pee her pants, but she was done walking. Since I had Isaac strapped to me, Matt had to carry her, pee-soaked pants and all. Again, my hero.

The next hour of hiking was winding through a prairie type area until we finally came across a map that showed us not only were we far from descending, we would be descending to not. where. we. parked. That was extremely excellent to discover – not.

The scenery was gorgeous.

Finally, we started descending and man alive, the descent was steeper than the ascent. Also, the drop off on either side — sometimes both sides at once — was anxiety-inducing. I am extremely terrified of heights and seeing how high we were at times gave me flashbacks to when I’d wake up in panic sweats from nightmares where I was in similar situations. I had to force myself to look forward as I held Gracelyn’s hand and not freak out because I didn’t want her being scared. Of course this was also the time that Maeva decided she wanted to walk again and our little adventurous toddler insisted that jumping from area to area was fun.

About 200 meters from the end of the trail, I was walking ahead with Gracelyn while Matt was in the back with Maeva. I hear a tiny grunt and turn around to see Maeva semi-bent over, still holding Matt’s hand. Oh no. I’ve seen her assume that position before.

“I’m pooping my underwear!”

“I’m pooping my underwear,” she said when she was done. Matt’s shocked face was hilarious. He clearly thought nothing else ridiculous could happen on this hike, but this current event was taking first place. The entire situation was hilarious. I’ll let your brain run wild with how we handled that problem.

When we made it to the bottom, we learned we were actually about 1 mile from when we parked. Fan-flippin-tastic!

At this point, the kids are clearly over it. Matt’s over it. I’m trying to stay cautiously optimistic because it was my doing that got us to where we were. I started bribing the kids with promises of ice cream, allowing them to barter how big their ice cream scoops could be when we made it back. We tried to get to the car via some trails that ended up being closed. You don’t learn that, however, until you’re about 1/3 of the way into the trails. So we had to backtrack and walk to the car via the highway. I swear we looked like that family trying to escape by walking along the road in those apocalyptic movies you’ve seen.

We finally made it back to the parking lot three hours later. Everyone was exhausted. Though if I’m being honest, overall, it wasn’t bad-BAD. I loved the adventure with my family and I think had we been better prepared, it would have been more enjoyable.

Why didn’t we use our phones to find out where we were, you may ask? Well my theory is that hiking/nature-loving people want you to be one with nature when you’re out there and clearly having reception would deter you from fully doing this. It’s a very solid theory.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! Next time, I’ll be sure to take a picture of all the maps involved. I’ll also bring along a diaper bag. And lots more goldfish crackers.

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