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“Moose, daddy, moose. Big moose.”
“Oh, I think I see it. What color is that moose?”
“Blue moose, big blue moose.”
I wish I had the imagination of a 2-year-old. A mind so innocent and willing to visualize bizarre and magical creatures and ideas is something to admire. Perhaps by forgetting the list of to-do’s and stepping inside the mind of my son I could escape for a day. Perhaps by doing so, a better philosophy would emerge.
With the frozen ground lightly littered with snow and the mercury flirting with temps in the 20’s, it was high-time to beat back a mighty case of cabin fever and get outside. The lure of wearing his green and white striped snow-pants was enough to get my son excited for a morning of winter exploration, and so we loaded up with extra layers, a thermos of hot cocoa, and what seemed like a year-long supply of pretzels. Though we were only traveling a few miles to Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek, his enthusiasm spiked with the idea of packing for an adventure.
We rolled past dozens of kids sledding in brightly colored snow gear on hill 17, and parked about a mile up the road at the trailhead of Eagle Bluff. I briefly considered experimenting with the giant sledding hill, and call me overly cautious, but I ultimately decided to not expose my two-year old to sledding on such a large hill – there will be plenty of time for that in the years to come. Besides, this day was about us, and about adventure. And so, we ventured forth.
The Eagle Bluff trail winds its way through the woods in a series of natural rock steps. As a result, we spent our time alternating between Arlo’s fearless feet first sliding technique on his tummy, and me just simply carrying him over the more technical sections. Once we reached the water, the trail opened up a bit, and offered exposure to some small ice shoves that have formed around Eagle Harbor. As we explored, my son turned into a guide of sorts. He provided a constant narration pointing out the rocks, trees, ice, and yes – herds of blue moose. It was as if some sort of primal connection awakened within, and he found himself in awe of his surroundings. He was so excited to hike, scramble, tumble, and fall upon the trail, and while observing and listening to him I realized just how rejuvenating a simple hike can be – especially through the eyes of a two-year old.
The second half of the hike winds back up the bluff, and after what can best be described as a combination of piggy-back rides, fireman-carries, and sitting-atop the shoulders, we reached the top and found the warmth of the sun to be a welcome reward. I popped the hatch of the car and we crawled inside for some cocoa and pretzels and talked about our adventure with smiles upon our chocolate-mustache faces.
Since our hike a couple weeks ago, I’ve thought a lot about why this particular experience stands out. Perhaps it was because it wasn’t planned, but rather a spontaneous outing that offered something different and exciting. As much as we seem to lament routine, the fact is that life as a parent turns into a routine. We tend to follow the same patterns partially out of necessity, and sometimes for the sake of sanity, however sometimes the worn patterns can turn into ruts. As a result, the question becomes – how to step out of a rut? I try to expose my son to as much as possible: books, museums, all manner of activities. Our hike was different, it wasn’t forced, it wasn’t planned, it didn’t cost money, nothing was plugged in, and we certainly didn’t have to stand in line.
I wanted to snap a photo of us in the back of the car, but alas even with the mild weather on this day, my phone would not function in the cold. I realize it’s better that way now, instead of trying to capture the day in one frame, I have the whole reel in my mind.
The next day Arlo and I painted a giant picture of our hike, complete with a big blue moose in the center. I look at this picture every day and remind myself to imagine something fantastic in the face of blinding responsibilities. I remind myself to escape for a second here and there, and think like a 2-year-old.
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