Laying in bed this morning not wanting to get up (but I had to because Dan was leaving and the Baby Girl was already up and playing downstairs), I remembered that it was hiking day and my eyes literally popped open. I jumped out of bed to start the day. I love hiking with the kids. Sure, there are still a million things to do around the house. Sure, my garden isn't all planted yet. But to a road trip fan who doesn't get to go on as many road trips these days, even a day trip to a State Park is an adventure.
I quickly packed up all of our stuff and made our lunches. It's still a long list of stuff to bring (regular diaper bag stuff, sun hats, water, multiple layers in case it's hot or cold when we get there, toys to clip on the backpack for Amelia, lunch, snacks for before and after lunch, my hiking boots, change of shoes for Jackson for when he inevitably destroys his hikers or gets them soaking wet) but I'm getting better at whipping it all together faster now. Jackson slept until 8:40 and Amelia was ready for a nap by 9:00. It was my goal to leave at 9:45 and after my flurry of getting everything and everyone into the car (after making sure all bellies were sufficiently filled with breakfast) and I finally sat in the driver's seat thinking we were going to be SO late meeting our friends, I was more than proud to see that the clock read 9:45 on the button. Whew.
We listened to the new U2 album on the way out (love it) and I held my ground when Jackson told me he didn't like it (tough, I'm tired of Laurie Berkner right now). The drive took us about 45 minutes. There's still a nice, winding drive from the main park building down to the trailhead parking area and I loved hearing Jackson quietly say "Hey look Mom, we're back in the woods now. We're going hiking here, right?" I rolled down the windows, turned the music off and soaked up the smells of "the woods" (and the prairie). It was a gorgeous day.
After meeting up with our friends, we all packed up and set off on the trail to the beach. It's a short trail (3/4 mile) but can take a while with the kids. Which is funny, because the kids (Jackson and his buddy, another 3yo boy) were always in the lead. I think we just hike more slowly with the kids because we're always talking about stuff and pointing things out to them. There are a lot of sticks to pick up too, of course. So many perfect hiking sticks to find.
Have I told you that the day was beautiful? Oh my. This is the type of weather Minnesotans live for. Somewhere between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit, slight breeze off the river, blue sky with a few wispy clouds, and--most importantly--no bugs yet! We found some shade under a few trees down on the beach and parked for lunch.
The boys instantly went to the river's edge and started throwing rocks and sand into the water. It's like there is a pre-programmed chip inside them that requires them to pick up a rock and lob it into the water. They did eventually break for food with us (and also eventually took off their shoes, rolled up their pants and *really* got into it, if you know what I mean), but there was always an eye on the river and the need to pop up quickly and throw another rock in before eating the next bite. My fellow mom friend pointed out that Jackson's sandwich was floating in the water a little ways out. Yeah, he didn't care or notice. Nature was way more important to him than food. (And some lucky duck got some lunch out of it too!)
My friend spotted a bald eagle soaring directly above us and not that high up, either. We all just gazed at the beautiful bird for a minute. I'm not positive that the boys saw it, but that's okay. They were totally getting filled up in other ways.
It wasn't the best idea to have Amelia just sitting on the sand and eating her food since she kept grabbing handfuls of sand each time she tried to pick up a Cheerio from the bag that tipped over, but oh well. She only cried when I took her sandy apple away. Other than that, she was just as pleased as the boys to be out there by the water. The youngest member of our hiking party (7 weeks old!) stared intently at the tree limbs swaying above while her mom rocked her and all was well.
It was a little more difficult to get back to the parking lot since we had to get ourselves (and our getting-a-little-tired kids) up the stairs/hill we just went down, but we managed. My pack was also heavier for Jackson's river-soaked jeans that were jammed into a plastic bag and the Baby Girl who must have gained 10 pounds when she fell asleep. Another snack back at the visitor center, a stroll through the grasses and we were finally back to the cars to open all the windows, take off our hikers and drink the water we left in the car (we'd already consumed all of what we brought with us). It was still gorgeous, the kids were still happy and we were nearing naptime for both of them. Life was definitely good.
But it got even better when I noticed a deer hanging out a little ways off the road on our way out. I stopped and pointed it out to Jackson who noticed it with quiet awe himself. The doe, Jackson and I (Amelia couldn't see it, unfortunately) just watched each other for a little bit until she deemed us satisfactory and resumed eating. Jackson's eyes danced when she flicked her white tail at us and he smiled.
We stopped for a Caribou pretty soon after hitting the main Interstate (tired hiking moms deserve frozen coffee drinks on Friday afternoons, yes?) and the kids were out like a light when we got back on the road.
I love hiking with my kids.