An Amazing Winter Day

Last weekend saw some unexpected returns. I love the outdoors and would love to have my daughter share that love. The semi-regular daddy explorations on Saturdays have felt, up to this point, a force fit, filled with accommodations to small legs and short attention spans.

This trip was different. For some reason, I sat down with her to plan the trip. We selected three hikes that we hadn’t done and fairly quickly converged on one that we were both happy about. That should have told me this would be different.

At the trailhead, instead of whining about how far she had to walk, she looked at the map, found where we were, and promptly declared she wanted to do the whole four mile loop. At first I was stunned that she could read the map, but then I thought about all those times I’ve showed her the maps on our hikes. She’s learned!

We head off towards a peninsula, but the path takes us through some “rock gardens.” It was convenient at the time because that was when she announced she had to go to the bathroom. I told her she had plenty of privacy rooms to choose from! She didn’t even hesitate and wanted no help from me. Can you spot her in this picture?

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A odorous breeze told me that this was not just number one, and not only did she poop in the woods but she knew to cover it up when she was done. Wow, map reading and backwoods toiletry skills!

We traveled through a section of mud, which we always refer to as muckety-muck. She made a great deal out of making sure she went through the deepest mud, while I took the cleaner route knowing I would be the one to clean both pairs of shoes.

We came to a small creek where the bridge had been washed out, but thanks to a small tree we were able to cross it with dry socks. Evie may have been a bit tentative, but once she saw me cross by using my walking stick, she hopped right on over using her stick in the same way. Yet another skill conquered – finding a walking stick and using it to navigate tricky sections.

We were hiking near a lake, so we both felt led to bushwhack (yes, she even knows what bushwhack means) down to the shore. You can see that it was a beautiful, blue-sky day.

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We scrambled along the rocky shore for a bit before stopping and building a cairn, or ebenezer. She is quickly learning how to select the flat type of stones that make for a sturdy tower!

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Whenever we hike near this lake (this is the fourth trip to this area), we usually see a Great Blue Heron, mommy’s favorite bird. This time didn’t disappoint and I was lucky enough to spot it before we got too close. Can you see it in the shallows?

2015-01-24 at 14-51-24We practiced our stealth walking, yet another skill I’ve been teaching her as a way to get closer to wild animals, and quickly closed about half the distance between us and the bird.

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Predictably, the heron didn’t take well to even our stealthy approach as we got closer, and it decided to head to the other shore. But it is always incredible to get this close to a wild bird and Evie continues to be delighted by birds and learning more about them.

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We continued along the shore, taking the opportunity to rock hop whenever possible. 2015-01-24 at 14-43-51

Her confidence has gone through a huge leap and I actually found myself amazed at her balance and jumping skills. We also had a bit of a geology lesson as we examined the limestone rocks riddle with curious holes. Was it aliens leaving behind a few clues? Was rock-eating worms? Sometimes imagination is better than the real answer.

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She eventually got tired of rock hopping, but right as we were going to head inland, we found the remains of an old road that was abandoned once the lake was filled. We hiked along the road while imagining what it might be. The asphalt was slowly being reclaimed by nature, giving it a strange surreal vibe. Was it a secret road to a hidden kingdom? A fairy path to the elves castle? An abandoned road that led to a long-lost civilization? I half expected to meet Frodo, but instead we ended up at our goal – the tip of a peninsula. In a curious state of water level, what we found was, in my experience, the closest thing to a beach experience in Tennessee. 2015-01-24 at 15-29-03

Shaped like a sand spit, it even seemed to be affected by the waves and the tides, with a narrow stretch where you had to get your shoes a wee bit wet to get to the tip of the spit. The lake was dead quiet, with no power boats spoiling the illusion that we were at the beach on an uncommonly calm day. We even saw a few seagulls to aid in our mental journey. We played on the spit, pretending that we had found the lost civilization and that it was just underneath the water. A few sword fights with our hiking sticks combined with the requisite rock skipping and throwing brought back great memories of our trips to the California coast. The selfie we took shows that pure joy (and the blinding sun) of the moment!

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We reluctantly headed back, exploring a new bit of shore (coast?) line that we hadn’t hit before. But we needed to head inland to catch the main trail. Seeing the sharp rise, I was looking for an easier path when Evie stated that she was going to climb up the cliff!

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I did have to help her a couple of times, but she showed the ability to pick a good path and, like the rest of the day, showed no fear or desire to quit. I was feeling mighty proud of my mini-explorer. We bushwhacked again to find the trail, and once we found it, Evie proceeded to lead us back to the car. We even came to an intersection and instead of asking me which way to go, she asked for the map! I almost fainted but caught myself once she confidently told me that we needed to go to the right. And she was correct. This was turning scary.

The rest of the walk was through this surreal winter forestscape with the afternoon sun setting up some spectacular combinations of light and shadow.

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We made it back over the creek, through the muckety muck, and finally arrived back at the car. We hiked around two and a half miles but that doesn’t come close to capturing the wonder, the fun, the adventure, and the beauty that we experienced in two short hours. As much as I miss the landscapes of California, days like this remind me that great times are not limited by geography. And I think I can stop worrying about Evie liking the outdoors!

5 replies »

  1. Grandma can now sleep with a smile on her face! Loved reading of “my girl” and am sure Dora taught her all her map reading skills!!! But the amazing thing for me was to read that she pooped in the woods! She doesn’t even like to do that at home!!😘

    • She seems to love backwoods toiletry more than indoor plumbing. I don’t think we’ve ever been on a hike where she didn’t have to go. I think she actually enjoys it!

  2. Paul, you are a wonderful father! I doubt if Evie will remember what she got for Christmas this past year in 20 years, but memories like this hike you took together will stick with her forever! She’s one lucky little girl! XOXO

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