Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Senior Outing at Devil's Lake State Park!

My wife grew up with mountains and I grew up amongst bluffs.  So, on our visit to Wisconsin I wanted to show her what a bluff was and let’s be honest, there really is no better way to do that then hiking the world famous bluffs of Devil’s Lake.  I have many fond memories of hiking and swimming at Devil’s Lake when I was younger and I wanted to share it with my own family.  I’d informed my dad of these plans weeks before heading to Wisconsin, and every time we talked on the phone afterwards he’d throw in “You know, one thing I’d really like to do when you’re here is go to Devil’s Lake.”  After a while I started to think it was his idea.  Either way, we were off and ready for a great day.We had parked the car at the entrance to the East Bluff and were preparing the last minute things before we started the hike.  I was strapping Rory onto my back in his Ergo carrier, when Kim began fretting about not wanting to carry the whole diaper bag.

“It’s too much to carry that whole bag.  Do you think I need to bring wipes and a diaper?” 
“You’ll probably want to,” I say.  “There’s not a lot of places to change him, but it’s almost two miles just going one way. 
“I just don’t want to have to carry the bag,” Kim says.

“Here!  Put it in my pants!” Grammy Kay shouts, lifting her shirt to her waist and pulling the waistband of her extra stretchy pants open. 

“What?” Kim and I say dumbfounded. 

“These pants are super comfortable and they have lots of extra room.  I already have a roll of toilet paper in here in case nature calls!  You know nature and I have a special relationship.”

“That’s just weird,” I say, “But totally you.”
“Sure!” Kim says dropping the items into Grammy’s pants. 

“I bet you’re so glad you married into this family, aren’t you?” I say.

Meanwhile, at  Grandpa’s car:

“Do you think I need a sweater?” Grandma Jo asks.  “Do you think I need these chips?  Should I bring five or six bottles of water?  Are you going to wear that?  Do you feel okay?  What color socks does Rory have on? ”
Grandpa nods and heads towards the trail.

“I think I’ll just bring all of it!” Grandma Jo says and stuffs everything into her plastic attaché case.

As we head into the woods, Rory zens out.  He has always loved nature and the sounds and sights lull him into a trance.  His big blue eyes seem to be watching everything.  All the grandparents are smiling and full of excitement because we get to spend this time together!

Five minutes into the hike:

“Wow!  We’re really climbing,” Grammy Kay says. 
“It is pretty steep,” Kim says.  “In Florida we don’t have steps of any kind and I don’t think elevation exists there.”

Fifteen minutes into the hike:

Grandpa is huffing but leading us through the menagerie of rock.
“I need a little break,” Grandma Jo says.  She sets her attaché down.

“My knees hurt!” Grammy Kay says, sitting down beside her.  “I can’t believe how old I’m getting.  We used to hike this all the time, but it’s been at least 20 years now.  I guess I forgot how steep this was.”

“Hmmm, don’t you have knee braces?” Grandma Jo asks.
“Yeah,” Grammy Kay says, “I use them when I’m going to be walking for a while…oh… yeah that would have been smart huh?”

20 minutes into the hike:

“It’s so beautiful!” Kim says.  “I can’t believe how much you can see.  With mountains you hike and hike and you only get to see the beauty when you reach the very top, but with this bluff you can see how gorgeous this place is with each step we take.”
“Yep!” Grammy Kay says, “I think we should be turning around now.  It’s about time to head back.”

“No way!  We just started.  We’re not even halfway down the trail.  I would hate for you all to miss the most beautiful part of the trail because you turned around now.  We have to get to Devil’s Doorway,” Grandpa says.

“Okay,” I say.  “We’ll keep going.”

Personally it didn’t matter to me if we turned around or not, we had seen a lot of beautiful things and Rory was getting a little bit heavy.  It’s not every day I hike a treacherous 500 feet straight up with a baby strapped on my back.  Little tiring.  But Grandpa promised beauty and so onward we went.

45 minutes into the hike:

“Where is this Devil’s Doorway?” I ask. 
“It’s around here somewhere,” Grandpa says.

“I guess it’s just ironic that everyone that has passed us in either direction has no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Yep,” Grandpa says chugging on.

“You okay?” Kim asks.

“I’m dying,” Grammy Kay says, “My legs are going to be locked up for days at this rate.  I think we should turn around.”
“NO!!!” Grandpa shouts, “Devil’s Doorway is just up ahead.  I’m almost positive.”

A group of young girls that are giggling come up behind us.

“Sorry we’re so slow!” Grammy Kay inhales, “This is the senior outing.”
The girls laugh.  “It’s okay.  We can use a little break.  Are you having fun?”

Grammy Kay grunts in a high squeaky dramatic yawp, “THIS IS THE HIKE OF MY LIFE!”
“Wow!” one of the girls says, then spots Rory.  “Aww.  Cute baby.  I should get a sling like that so my friends can carry me.”

Little Rory puts on the charm and coos, but I don’t know if it’s the cooing or  just me but I feel like he’s getting heavier.  I’m inclined to agree with my mother.  It may just be time to turn around.  Grandpa keeps walking and spouts off something about Devil’s Doorway.  Grandma Jo has streams of sweat pouring down her brow, but lugs her attaché case and follows Grandpa.

 1 hour and 45 minutes into the hike:

“Okay, I’m tired now,” I say.  “The baby is done with this hike, my back is covered in sweat, I don’t care anymore about Devil’s Doorway, and I haven’t seen anything more pretty than what we’ve already seen so far.  This is just getting ridiculous.” 
Hey there’s a map!” Grandpa says. 

Everyone gathers around it.  Grammy Kay is praying for a rescue helicopter, Grandma Jo is praying for a shortcut home, Rory is praying he can stretch his legs out, Grandpa is praying we will all keep walking.  Kim is just going for the ride.  Me.  I know how to read maps.
“Look!” I say.  “There’s a forest trail that will take us right back to the car.  It’s a cross country skiing trail so it’s going to be a gradual decline.  That’s perfect for your knees mom.  We’re going that way.  Dad you can decide if you want to keep going to see Devil’s Doorway.”

In the end, Grandpa took a few steps further and got right to the door but didn’t want to trek down another hill so he didn’t get to see it, my sweaty back did dry, Grammy Kay didn’t need to use her toilet paper, Grandma Jo drank 5 of the bottles of water, and Kim, Rory and I had a fantastic and crazy day with our family.  But in this family, I don’t expect anything less. 

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