Saturday started rather mundanely. Henry had an hour of taekwondo from 10:20 to 11:20. Home for lunch and then it was the girls' turn. Their scout troops had a self defense class put on by one of the Senior Girl Scouts/Black Belts at the dojo. They were back by 2pm. It had actually snowed for the first time in months (or so it seemed) so I was itching to go play. I tempered my excitement figuring it was too much to ask the kids to go straight from their workouts at the dojo to the mountain. Even if they wanted to go, I worried they would melt in spite of the cold temperatures.
Oh, me of little faith.
We left about 2:30 and were at the "trailhead" by 3:15. I say "trailhead" because it's more of a rest stop with a gap in the fence than an official trailhead. This was our favorite close-to-home trip last season and I hoped for another winner.
Plus, I had some new snowshoes to test. I know what you're thinking. Jumping Jiminy on a pogo stick! You don't need any more new snowshoes! True. And technically, these weren't new snowshoes. In fact, they were old. Even older than me, if that's possible. Neighbor Matt had acquired a set of tennis racquet-style 'shoes and I just had to try them.
Here's the short story: They had incredible flotation due to their enormous size, but I'm sure glad we live in an age when technology has improved bindings, traction, durability, and the need to walk like you just got off a horse. Want to know more? I'm sure there will be a Tubbs post about those 'shoes soon.
We followed our normal route to the sledding hills, but due to the low snowpack there were some challenges. First up: The bridge over the beaver pond. With heavy snow, we just walked across the eight foot wide span. With light snow it was freakily apparent we had been crossing the bare skeleton of a decrepit bridge. The bones were strong, but without a decking we were crossing six feet above a nearly frozen beaver pond.
I figured the kids would balk and we'd turn back. In fact, I had to slow them down and stop them from just walking straight across. I held their hand as they jumped over the holes and realized I was far more worried than they were. They sensed this and gave me encouragement. "Good job, Dad! Almost there, Daddy!"
Where the flat trail turns to go around a hill they tromped straight up just like we had last year. This year, though, they didn't need any direction to kick their toes in up the steep slope.
As we neared the dam that was our destination and formerly a great sledding hill it was readily apparent there wasn't enough snow to sled. Instead, we turned to a couple of huge piles of gravel used to maintain the earthen dam.
Henry was the first to climb straight up to the top and although he chose the steepest slope for his first run Lilly was right behind him encouraging a slightly more sane descent. When he climbed back up he chose another line, but avoided the insanely dangerous drops for the only moderately dangerous.
We knew it wouldn't be a long visit to the snow and the kids didn't argue or whine when it was time to head back. As darkness fell they didn't get worried or frightened, they just wanted their headlamps and reminded me to turn Treen's light on, too.
From start to finish the three showed me they are becoming more and more capable adventurers. The listen to me and will take my advice and accept my help. They can work as a team and encourage others when doubts creep in. They've gained enough experience to know that the monsters don't come out just because it gets dark. (Or if they do, the headlamp is sufficient to send them scurrying back into their holes.) And most importantly, they're willing to work for their fun and make the best of any situation.
My work is far from done, but I'm proud of the way they acquit themselves in the outdoors. With luck, they'll be competent to take care of me in my dotage and pass on our love for adventure to their future friends and families.