It was a Saturday. A sunny, 80-degree Saturday. And if Walden Pond State Park and Wachusett Mountain State Park were any indication (surefire favorite exploration places for our family), surely Mt. Grace would also be packed.
Teeming with people!
Hard to find a parking spot!
But when we arrived at the parking lot, there were two cars. Two cars and approximately 148 empty parking spaces. I didn't even bother to lean over towards the glove compartment and grab our nifty MA STATE PARK PASS, which allows us to visit any state park for free. No parking fee!
Here at Mt. Grace, though, there would be no parking fees.
Ben woke from his nap, yawned, and then yelled out, "Ball!"
Even though there were no actual balls around, part of the surface of the parking lot must have looked a bit like one. Tyler took off his seat belt and leaned forward, inquiring, "We're here?"
"We're here!" I replied in my jovial Dad-voice, trying to hide the confusion I was already feeling--and the question: But why isn't ANYONE ELSE here?
We all climbed out of the car, and proceeded to read a disturbing sign that informed us of the following (paraphrased):
HUNTING IS ALLOWED IN MT. GRACE STATE PARK. IF YOU DECIDE TO HIKE HERE, KEEP IN MIND THAT YOU MAY BE SHOT AT, AND POSSIBLY KILLED. WHILE THE LIKELIHOOD OF BEING SHOT (AND KILLED, MAY WE KINDLY REMIND YOU) IS NOT EXPANSIVELY HIGH, THERE IS A CHANCE. THUS, WE THUSLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU WEAR BRIGHTLY COLORED CLOTHING AND TRY YOUR BEST TO ACT AS HUMAN-LIKE AS POSSIBLE--WHATEVER THAT MEANS TO YOU. IF YOU SHOULD SEE OR HEAR HUNTERS, WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU SHOUT OUT, LOUDLY, "WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS ON A HIKE! DON'T SHOOT US PLEASE!" WHICH SHOULD ALERT HUNTERS TO THE FACT THAT YOU ARE NOT TARGETS. HAVE FUN! ENJOY YOUR HIKE!"
After chasing Ben down--who was gleefully on his way towards Rt. 78--I turned to Tyler and said, "Maybe we should hike someone else..."
Tyler inquired why, upon which time I re-read the sign, aloud, to him.
Now Tyler was nervous too. And Ben seized the moment to dart towards Rt. 78 again.
We began heading back towards the car, when I saw the sign, "SUMMIT," and an arrow point up a steep path. We had already come this far. Shouldn't we at least try?
This could be a very stupid parenting move OR a decision to not let fear overwhelm my parenting. Aren't there dangers inherent in anything?
We began hiking. I listened intently for gunshots or any sounds of walking as I imagined hunters might walk--stealthily and slowly. I listened for the slow snap of branches, the steady crushing of leaves.
After 20 minutes of hiking, we had seen or heard nothing and no one. I began to shake the fear. Tyler did too. Ben merely looked for ball-shaped objects and Rt. 78.
We eventually did see another human being (and not one with a gun in his hands). Two, actually. A couple were hiking down with their dogs, one of whom frolicked in a particularly goupey muddy puddle. Tyler, Ben, and I laughed.
It was going to be alright. We were safe.
An hour later, we were all wiped. The temperature had risen, our legs ached, and Ben grew heavier on my shoulders. Tyler asked, "Can we go back down without reaching the top?"
My first thought was NO! We've got to summit! And we're so close! But then I remembered that the hike today was about getting out into nature and having fun--exploring, have space to roam and run and be loud. The night before had been a rough one for sleep in the Reynolds home, and we were all wiped.
"Yeah, we can go back," I said and held Tyler's hand as we made our way back down the mountain.
At the bottom, I was grateful and happy about two things: 1) We hadn't gotten shot. 2) There was a huge field just off the trail, where I put down the backpack with Ben inside. And then we all proceeded to play numerous rounds of tag.
And Tyler seemed to forget how tired he was. I did, too. Ben giggled as he watched us run, trying his best to keep up (and even seeming to forget about balls and Rt. 78 for a while).
We stayed in that field by the foot of Mt. Grace for over an hour--running until we were breathless and happy.
And walking back to the car, I kind of felt that climbing Mt. Grace wasn't really ever about reaching the top for us: it was about two things: 1) Not letting fear stop us; 2) Enjoying the journey.
Sometimes, playing and laughing at the feet of Grace is good enough, which is particularly potent for me right now. Maybe 'good enough' is okay--even better--than struggling for a standard that breaks our backs and pushes us beyond joy.
|Tyler and Ben hiking Mt. Grace|