Sunday, October 19, 2008

Shenandoah National Park

It had been on the calendar for weeks; we skipped church for this; yet we nearly called the whole thing off. We were scheduled to go to Shenandoah National Park for a morning of hiking and enjoying nature and drinking in the gorgeous fall colors in the mountains. But it was cold this morning. And we had so much to do. And Aidan's behavior this morning was pretty awful - it seemed he was determined to thwart our adventure, despite his love of hiking. He is, after all, still the F-word - FOUR.

Amid the shouts and screams and squabbles that constituted our attempts at getting ready and out the door, Jeff and I looked at each other in total desperation at one point - desperate to leave, and desperate not to seem as though we were rewarding the very typically-behaved but very frustratingly-behaved four-year-old monster that seemed to have complete dominion over our normally functioning parenting brains.

Somehow, we made it into the car, equipped with diapers, wipes, sandwiches, waters, apples, chocolate chip cookies, and many, many layers - the current barometer reading was a chilly 45 degrees. The hour-long car ride passed remarkably quickly, without the usual "Are we there yet?" interrogation that often begins at the top of the driveway. The ranger who greeted us at the park entrance suggested a short, kid-friendly, highly enjoyable hike about 20 miles into the park. It sounded perfect to us.

The hike was all we had hoped it would be. Aidan was enthusiastic and energetic throughout, pointing out the trail markers, cool leaves he found, and interesting caterpillars and trees along the way. He was in his element. Meanwhile, Leo contentedly munched his pretzel while riding in the Ergo, pointing at the airplanes that occasionally flew overhead. At the halfway point, a gorgeous view of the mountains awaited us, plus an enormous mound of boulders that the boys were fearlessly, eagerly ready to climb. We ate lunch - PB & J never tastes as good as when it's devoured outside - and eventually made our way back to the car. Leo "hiked" a good deal of the way back, with Aidan leading him by the hand at some points. Away from the distractions of toys and books and stuff over which to squabble, they seemed to revel in the company of each other, the huge mountains, the plentiful sticks and colorful leaves.

Our to-do list for the weekend was a mile long, with only a few things checked off. I thought of forty-seven different reasons why it would actually be better to stay home and get those things checked off, to not have to drive way out of the way to hike, to stay warm and cozy indoors. But the little voice inside me nagged me, "Go! Go!" and of course, that voice was right. We delighted in the mountain, the weather, the colors, each other. A day that would have otherwise been unremarkable, forgettable, had we stayed home, instead became another memory etched in our family album.

"Climb the mountains and get their good tiding. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." -John Muir

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