It started out as a great little adventure. The children had visited the playground, saw the farm animals and were beginning to settle in after their lunch. We were out with the cousins at a local park when we decided, “Sure, let’s walk a short trail before we head on home.”
The trail was littered with a few old carnival items, remnants of bliss hundreds of years ago. So with our plotted map of distractions, we set out.
I’d like to take a moment to list the items we left for our walk with because they will matter as the story goes on.
First of all, there were 7.5 of us going out on this adventure. Five children were age almost 5 down to Abi, 21 months. Then there was pregnant me, bell pepper baby and my sister in law, Ellen. Ellen and I have laughed about “mating season” because out of her three children, my two nephews are each 3 weeks older than Rachael and Abi. So that put pregnant me, bell pepper baby, Ellen, five years old, two three year olds and two a-few-month-shy-of-two one year olds. Ellen brought a single umbrella stroller for Josiah (her youngest) and two water bottles. I brought the diaper bag, two sippies and a water bottle, and our single running stroller (which I now love even more than the first day we were so graciously given it).
The walk began with a small melt-down via Rachael about her desire to hold the nap and the fact that we were getting close to nap time (sigh). But since the map’s course was only a little over a half hour, I still decided that an adventure rubbing up against nap time would be okay for today. Rachael came around in two minutes of boundary confirmation and we were good again.
They all started off with a bounce in their steps, excluding Abi and Josiah who rode contently in their strollers.
Shortly into the trip we noticed that the path colors and indicators were not quite matching up with where the map said we were. But the colors still matched where the map said we were headed, so we went on cheerfully.
We found our first wreckage find, the base frame of two old cable cars. Great excitement erupted form the group of “pretty easy to entertain” kids. And with a few cute pictures of smiling faces we marched on to our next discovery.
A little ways up the road split with pink and orange branching off and purple and orange going on ahead. We stopped to check the posted map provided by the park at the fork. The sun had faded that map into uselessness. So out came Rachael’s map again and we came to the realization that we had been on the very part of the trail we were hoping to avoid. We then plotted “the best way back” route while still seeing a few more remnants along the way. Feeling confident in our ability to entertain and have a realistic walking distance for three small and seatless preschoolers, we went on to the orange and purple pathway.
Then a hill came – taking a lot of the wind from the children’s sails. We struggled to find a nearby stream, some purple flowers and a big hollow tree to distract them into their second wind.
We found the remnant of a push car at the top of our shaded forest trek in just the nick of time as the children were quickly losing the joy of the walk. Feet were getting heavy, nap time was upon us and the walk was turning into a bit more than desired or planned. Rachael asked to ride in the stroller, so I set her in the jogging stroller straddling the front fixed wheel, thankful for the wheel shield providing the security away from the entrapment of the rotating wheel. Abi was unfazed. But Ellen was in a different predicament, poor thing, with only one seat in the umbrella stroller and three kids wanting to ride. She did what any resourceful Mom does and stacked two in the seat while one walked.
We then hit a second fork in the road, at this point our adult joy was beginning to reach it’s peak. The path again split, this time both paths were labeled with the same colors. Back to the map – only this time it was a guessing game. Should we go left straight up the crazy big hill and risk taking an extra detour? Should we go right over the pretty-straight path and hope it was not a facade for the longer path. I chose right. My back and shoulders liked the idea of the non-hilled version. And I hoped I was right.
Shortly after we were faced with a second fork in the road with both paths marked with the same colors. This time the choice was made for us – one of the paths had a log across it and non of us desired to lift 5 kids, two strollers and ourselves over that log, no matter how do-able it could be. I was grateful later to have avoided the straight up-hill path and the log path because we later found out that they were connected to a loop and were the same path. Thanks, Lord, for sparing us.
At this point we looked at the map again and took a stab that going back would actually be further than going forward, though at this point forward appeared to be a bit more unknown.
We continued on.
Then the path started getting rocky with dried clumps of dirt that proved hard for an umbrella stroller loaded down with “completely done” kids. Rachael and Abi had abandoned their socks by then and resided to riding/balancing (dear Rachael) in the stroller for the rest of the trip. Abi started to get fussy since at this time it was PAST nap time (sweet), so I busted an extra park guide from the stroller tote and introduced it to her as a book. Her spirits instantly changed and she began reading the book aloud to us.
As time and heat and spirits decreased from the overall group, I started walking ahead of the group with my girls in hopes to shout back good news as we came across new signs. Hard thing was… we weren’t coming across new signs. We were just lost. On a trail. In the woods. With a map. And five nap-time kids. And draining water rations. …. hmmm.
There came a point in which we just had to suck it up – I mean what really are you going to do? We certainly weren’t camping there and stopping wasn’t helping. Ellen, poor thing, alternated from carrying Josiah on her hip and the two older kids riding in the stroller to all of them walking while she trudged over a rocky spot to two walking and one riding to two riding and one walking. You do what you can to keep the “obviously so done” herd moving.
There was hope when we hit the road and the map FINALLY lined up with the trail markers. Pep returned to our steps a bit when we saw the “small” stretch before us to the parking lot and our “so glad to see you” cars. Small felt long at times, with fatigue starting to set in for the whole group, but my girls began singing songs to their maps/park guides and I tried to stay ahead to call back signs of hope. Alas we hit the parking lot’s edge…. 45 minutes later than desired. That made the total trek to be an hour and a half.
I don’t even think we made it out of the parking lot before Abi was out cold – such hard work riding in a stroller. And the girls slept long and hard in their beds when we got home. Ellen’s kids perked up with a packet of crackers rationed out in the car. And our adventure ended with a hug and a “never again” smile.
I called Matt on our way ojt of the park and announced in my most desperately wild voice possible, “We were lost in the woods, baby…. LOST! (dramatic pause) but we found our way out… and no one needed a tourniquet…. or medical attention…. (dramatic labored breathing).” To which came the reply, “Ok, good, honey.. I’m glad to hear that… would you mind sharing more when I get home, I’m in staff meeting.” I snapped back, “Oh yeah, sure. No prob. Sorry to bug ya, babe.” “It’s okay. See ya in a few hours. Love you.” hehehe. My bad. =)
Honestly, despite getting lost in the woods… and the hills…. and the tired kids… and the shortage of water… I really enjoyed the afternoon. The walk was nice in many spots. And I’m proud of my girls for holding it together when we all knew there was nothing we could do to change the circumstances.
And I’d probably do the walk again… just not before nap… and not with limited water rations… and not without a double jogging stroller…. and a strong husband to trade off on pushing. 😉
Actually, I think our 2 mile walks recently have conditioned us all to enjoy the outdoors more, even if we have to exercise. They proved good training for today’s episode of survivor!
– I’ll sleep well tonight.