I absolutely could not stay in the house another day. I desperately needed to get outside and do something fun. So we asked our son what he would like to do. When he responded that he wanted to go hiking, I was ecstatic. Between the frigid temperatures we’ve been having all winter and the thick layer of snow that had covered the ground for so long, it felt like ages since we last traversed a dirt trail surrounded by trees.
After church, we headed directly for Sourland Mountain Preserve. Upon our arrival, my son found a perfect walking stick. Jabbing it into the ground he issued orders. We had to step only where he stepped. We had to jump over the roots he jumped over. We had to stay in a perfect line – no excuses. The snow melt coupled with the torrential downpour of the last couple of days turned the trail into a muddy mess. My son was thrilled. Instead of trying to avoid the mud, he trudged directly through it. Within seconds his blue sneakers were a dark brown.
Every so often he would stop, study the rocks and markings in the ground and declare which way the Jedi went. Of course we had to follow. The walking stick became a lightsaber as he practiced tricks. With the way he manipulated it, if it had been a real lightsaber he’d have lost both hands and probably a foot, but we ignored this and applauded his efforts.
We like going to Sourland because our son loves to climb rocks, and there are lots of rocks there to indulge him. The higher the rocks, the greater his pleasure. One big rock sloped like a giant slide. Instead of walking down, our son decided sliding would be more fun. Before I could stop him, he was half way down, the friction tearing a hole in the seat of his pants.
We could tell he was getting tired when he stopped demanding to be in the lead and when he no longer cared if we placed our feet directly in his footprints. When I suggested that we turn around he argued against it, but luckily he eventually complied without a breakdown. Five minute into our return journey he announced that he was tired and with a sad look on his face he asked me to carry him. But at five, he is too big to be carried a long distance. With only a touch of reluctance, he pushed forward. The mud revived him. The deeper it was, the dirtier he got, the less he appeared to notice his fatigue. Though he stopped occasionally to rest, he was still in good spirits when we returned to the car.