During the weekend, I like not having to go anywhere, but I don’t like not having anywhere to go. There haven’t been many free, family friendly events in my area since the holidays. That’s why I took Philip to the county landfill this morning.
Okay, okay. It’s not currently a landfill. It was one the last time I was here over twenty-five years ago. That was before it reached capacity, was closed and then turned into a park. This morning, the county park district held a winter hike here.
When I was walking the dog this morning, I didn’t think Philip and I would go on the hike. I could see my breath but not feel my cheeks in the cold air. Still, I packed Philip’s snowpants and boots in the car before we left.
Our first stop was the monthly pancake breakfast at the Masonic Temple. Philip ate his entire serving of scrambled eggs (with his fork!) and a sausage link. He tried a piece of French toast, but I think it was too soggy for him.
Thoroughly fortified, we next traveled to the library. As we walked in from the car, I noticed that the sun had warmed the air. I looked at the time: we could spend fifteen minutes here and still have time to make it to the park.
It was easy for me to find the entrance to Byers Woods. I had grown up just down the road on the other side of the state highway. But I had not been here since the one-hundred and thirty acres had been converted into a natural resource.
When we got out of the car, we were greeted by a chocolate lab. And then a black lab. And then what I thought was the same chocolate lab but wasn’t. The three dogs were running to and fro, tongues lolling from what looked like smiling faces.
A handful of humans were gathered outside a barn. A small fire was burning for visitors to keep warm. Philip and I walked over; a woman said “hi.”
I asked her, “Do you know how long the hike will be?”
“Oh, I’m not sure. About thirty minutes? We’re here every day, so I don’t keep track.”
I hadn’t told Peter about the hike. When we left the house, it had seemed much too cold. I thought about calling him, but I decided not to bother. He knew we were going to the library. He also knows I might make a few other stops to keep Philip occupied and wear him out. I figured he wouldn’t notice a few extra minutes.
It wasn’t until the group had assembled and headed toward the trail that I saw the handwritten sign:
10:00 am – 11:30 am
Free bean soup lunch provided
“Oh, boy,” I thought.
The hike was led by a volunteer who is quite knowledgeable about birds. One of the participants is an arborist. All of the other hikers were frequent visitors. By chatting with and listening to each of them over the course of the walk, I was able to pick up some interesting facts.
- The park is home to the second largest ash tree in Ohio.
- The most commonly sighted woodpeckers in this area are either downy- or red-breasted. After hearing the distinctive knocking, I was a downy-breasted one take flight.
- I saw a praying mantis egg case.
- Plum trees have a similar bark pattern and are often mistaken for cherry trees.
Philip was the youngest hiker. In fact, he was the only child. Everyone remarked on what a great hiker he was.
“I like that you getting him out into nature,” one man said.
I have to agree. Philip has only ever lived in the city. I want him to know that there is life beyond sidewalks.
Several ladies asked him questions that I answered. I explained this only as, “He’s not much of a talker.”
At what I estimated to be the half-way point, I snapped a picture on phone and sent it to Peter.
The group was extremely friendly. People pointed out sights to each other. When Philip and I were behind the group, someone always looked back to make sure we were keeping up. The dogs would check on us, too.
Philip didn’t seem to tire out despite the length of the hike. He was too busy kicking the weeds along the trail, cracking iced-over puddles and playing in the scant snow. Toward the end, he did start chewing on twigs and branches. I realized he had gone a long time without an oral input. I’ll have to make sure if we go again to take along a chewy.
When we did finally finish our loop, I thanked the leader and said our goodbyes. I knew that Peter would begin to think we had gotten lost in the woods if we didn’t head home. We weren’t permitted to leave, however, until Philip had a cookie. One of the men in the group, seeing the single sugar cookie in Philip’s hand said, “You need to give him more cookies than that!”
I knew that one was enough even if Philip was cheerfully saying, “Cookie! Cookie!”
By afternoon, it was colder and snowing. The weather had been perfect this morning for a winter hike. Weather permitting, I think Philip and I will have to go on another one some time soon.
I’m linking up with the Yeah Write Weekend Moonshine Grid. Stop by to discover some new blogs.