Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Wide Open Day

Don't think -- Just GO.

Today we had a wide open day...miraculous, really.
No obligations.
No soccer.
No birthday parties.
No chores that couldn't be avoided.
As Caroline would say, "No, must-dos."

So...what do you do with a wide open day?
So many times I fritter it a dirty bathroom, putzing about the house, wasting time on the computer or just letting time play its game of endless one minute and gone the next.

Because John had something fun he was doing with a friend, I decided I wanted to try a hike.
I decided this late in the day...after lounging and putzing.
I prodded the kids along and went to my favorite deli to get a picnic to go.

In my mind we were going to go on a hike...something that is not our normal but something I'm hoping to make a real part of our lives.

I found the name of a trail,
The Independence Trail.
How could we say no?
My life vest was that it was a completely accessible trail.  
The first wheelchair accessible wilderness trail in the United States -- and it was only 2 hours from my house.
If someone in a wheelchair could do this hike, we could too.

So, armed with some bottles of water, a yummy picnic and some willing participants I started driving.

We made it about halfway when Caroline piped up that she was hungry.
Patrick too.
So, using my GPS in my phone I found a random park in a random town.

Turns out it really was only a patch of a park.
It had a path, it had a creek and some pretty fall trees...but not for long.
It was pretty tiny.

And it looked like some homeless people thought it was their park.
Of course, I had two hungry kids, both on a mission, so they just walked right passed what can only be called the homeless encampment's brunch, with a look of determination.

I smiled awkwardly...feeling super self-conscious of my random kids in a random patch of green in a random town.  
It could have gotten weird.

And that's the thing with adventures, 
you find yourself in situations that don't have clear cut lines.  
Your known world doesn't really compare to this unknown one.  
You have to navigate the blurry lines, 
take your best guess and listen to your gut.
Sometimes it gets weird.

To me, the people seemed homeless and dirty but harmless -- I made my best guess.

We chose to sit downstream from them and have a picnic.
It was quiet and peaceful and that untended spot rewarded us with dancing leaves of every color falling into a tiny creek -- playing nature's version of hide and go seek.

We could have called it a day right then.
We could have been satisfied with a smaller outing and a taste of nature...
but it was a wide open day.

We didn't think too much about it...we just kept going...looking for Independence.

An hour later we found the trailhead -- those Internet directions were right after all!
It was clearly my lucky day.
Except well...Patrick had decided he'd had enough.
That picnic was about all he needed for time outdoors.
We could go ahead and hike but he would be staying in the car.

Time was not on our side.

I put on the table his choices...including his cell phone usage in the future...and still he stayed strong.
Finally, I had to pull out his favorite outing at Christmas. 
I told him he would not be attending that if he didn't find his way to the trail.
I let it sit there and then I turned my back and walked to the trail hand in hand with Caroline.
As the trailhead I started counting down from five and somehow, someway he began to run.
With a big smile on his face he started walking.
(A true Grace in the Ordinary moment, trust me.)

We had no idea where we were going or how long the trail went or what we were doing.
You have to make your peace with looking at the world and not knowing what's around the bend.

We just started walking...without any destination in mind.

Just because we could.
Just because it was a wide open day and the sun was shining and we were together and it felt right.

We found leaves that were beautiful.
We soaked in the quiet -- like dry sponges.
We sang songs and found walking sticks and noticed things.

Sometimes we hurried...curious to see what was next.

Hardly ever does this happen...but what they saw up ahead freaked them out...not in a bad way,
in a "No Way! This is Awesome way!"

Without trying, I got this shot of Caroline...
(Notice Patrick running in the background...the guy runs for no one.ever.  He was amazed!)

This amazing trail winds its way down to the river!
You can be in a wheelchair and find yourself able to get to the river, safely and easily.  
It's incredible!

I LOVE whoever had this vision, whoever created this place and the many people who must work hard to maintain it.
Thank you doesn't seem good enough.

Of course I had to go home and do a little homework.

John Olmstead, thank you for dreaming BIG.  Thank you for tirelessly and patiently working to get the property rights and the easements that allowed this trail to become this amazing spot. 
Thank you for finding a way to get to the river from up so high.

Thank you for your belief that ALL people deserve to enjoy the wilderness...really steep in nature...
not the sanitized way that so many people in wheelchairs are forced to do it...the messy, leaf-filled, acorn-strewn, golden hued path that you envisioned.
It really exists.

You did something really awesome.
You gave people who often have something holding them back a real gift of independence.
The Independence Trail lives up to its name.

I'm so grateful I had the chance to taste your bit of the world today.
It was delicious.

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  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 away from you like the leaves of Autumn."
--John Muir

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