We wanted to give our son and daughter-in-law a much needed break. So on a hot, sunny day a few weeks ago we picked up their children and headed out to Cunningham Falls State Park. They have a decent beach there on Hunting Creek Lake that we’ve taken the grandchildren to before.
Kids in water can occupy themselves for hours! We have witnessed this over multiple generations, in many locations, and with all types of bodies of water. Even without toys, shovels or floats they seem to find long term contentment with rocks, sticks, sand and mud.
But this hot Saturday afternoon, with much of the population having their summer vacations eliminated due to COVID, the beach was at capacity early and we were turned away along with hundreds of others. They even had signs saying: “No Walk Ins!” I guess we weren’t the first to think of parking somewhere and finding a trail through the woods to the lake.
NOTICE!! “When plans fail – look around.”
Maybe it’s my optimism. Maybe it’s just a belief in the kindness of God. But I always feel there’s a solution, an answer to my dilemma somewhere close by… If only I can find it.
This one was not that hard. We had hiked previously along Hunting Creek, which flows from the lake, and knew there were some ideal resting spots. But we were constrained by two toddlers, stuff to carry, and competition with many others who were also looking for options.
But there was an opening in a small parking lot on the side of the road, and as I stayed in the car with the children, Yvonne hiked a short distance down the path to scope out possibilities. She returned soon with a promising report. Tossing on backpacks of food and various necessities, we started the short hike down the path. It is surprising how heavy a 20 lb. child become in just 100 yards.
A short downward slope to the river had to be navigated, as well as a few fallen trees, but I didn’t drop Aurora, and Jay didn’t seem to mind clambering over rocks clutching Mimi’s hand.
The next two hours were amazing. We had a measure of solitude, plenty of shade, cool water gurgling over rocks, and paradise for a playground. Sure enough, sand, rocks and sticks became cities, boats and barricades. Jay could not get enough of walking upriver holding my hand, and would have kept going, despite the slick rocks and occasional knocked shins, if I could have kept up. And resting on a rock later on, I remember thinking – “I’ve never known Aurora to be so content as sitting on my lap listening to the water.”
I share this because, given time, I could probably share 100 similar stories. Some of our best memories over the years were alternative plans, simple in construction, and minimal in expense. The outdoors especially can be a treasure trove of sensory engagement and soul restoration. Life can be simpler.
Look for the opportunity. Work with what you have. Enjoy the moment.