Jun 12, 2011

Hello Mississippi River

6/12/2011 — cori
I just love flying by the seat of my pants. Not literally, cuz that would mean I'm on some type of steep incline going downward at a super fast pace and that is not fun (for me). But figuratively, not knowing how a day will turn out (in most instances) is very rewarding and exciting. If you have no expectations, you can't be disappointed, can you?

That was what our Saturday looked like. We knew we wanted to go on some type of hike. Around these parts there's only like 5,894 different trails to try out. How do you know which one to start with??? We had seen a sign as we were driving that said "Mississippi River National Recreation Area". Hmmm....that sounds like a great place to start, at the headways of the great Mississip.

Too bad for us we chose such a 'vague' sign. An area is just that...a large space that isn't denoted in any particular way, it's just there. We got off the highway and followed the signs for what we thought was the 'area' we were in search of. We were in St. Paul. We ended up in Minneapolis (20 minutes away). I have no idea how. Evidently, we just kept following the road and the river until we saw a place to park that actually looked like it led to some trails. We ended up in a place called "Minnehaha Park" (I am not joking).

Come to find out, we landed smack dab in the middle of one of Minneapolis' oldest and most beloved parks...on accident (because we thought we were still in St. Paul). Funny how that happens. We parked near a dog park and seeing as we brought Ninja with us, we thought we hit the jack pot. It only felt fair to let her go get some energy out since we ended up driving around the Twin Cities aimlessly for the past hour. But hey, we're flying by the seat of our pants and this is fun, remember?

So here we are in Minnehaha. We head towards the dog park only to discover that it's not really a trail, just a huge open free space for dogs (which, by definition, is what a dog park is...it just didn't look that way when we were walking up to it). We were a bit bummed cuz we had high hopes of walking on a trail right along the Mississippi River, not on some paved sidewalk high above it or within the confines of a chain link fence watching Ninja play. What to do?

But what do you know...just a teeny, weeny bit away from the dog park, behind another chain link fence and past some thick over-grown brush, looks to be a dirt path back in the woods. Aha! That's what we're looking for. But no one else appears to be enjoying this little secluded path. All the better for us. We hop the fence like we knew what we were doing and set off on our next adventure...off the beaten path.

Let the adventure begin! The whole entire hour and a half that we were on this trail (that was not denoted in any way) we passed one other person only. It was perfect, all except for the super steepness of it and the whole fear of heights thing making my legs a little jello-y during much of the adventure.

We traversed our way down the path until we got to the bottom and were finally able to achieve our goal - actually walk along the Mississippi River. It was beautiful. Until I looked down and saw this:

I was just standing there admiring the view when Bennett cautioned me, "Mom, look at that!" as he pointed no less than 6 inches from where I was standing. A little scream and freak out was a totally appropriate reaction in my opinion. I also ran away a little bit (several yards). But once my heart-beat returned to normal and I got over the fact that a huge dead fish was starting at me blindly without my knowledge, I had to return to document it with a picture. Gavin thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the prodding and poking procedure with a stick.

We continued on down by the river enjoying the sounds of the water lapping on the shore, the serenity of the secluded, wooded path, the light trickling through the leaves. It couldn't have been more perfect or picturesque. We came to a clearing and saw the cliffs that we were walking on before we made it down by the river.

Of course we also did a little rock climbing, tree climbing and tree hugging. But I'm saving the best for last. Remember, this is us...nothing EVER goes according to plan or is ever easy - that would make a boring story if everything always worked out perfectly.

So then there was the little matter of finding our way back to the car from the trail that the rest of the park goers didn't seem to know existed. Plus, we had the added stress of timed parking. We paid for only an hour and knew we were pushing our luck in that department. We saw no signage that would aid us in our uphill adventure. So we used good ol grit and Chuck's innate sense of direction (that sometimes comes in handy - you know, the kind where you never need to ask for directions because you already know....that kind). We knew we had to go up at some point real soon, but there was never a path going up, it just kept following the river. Which was good if we wanted to walk home, but not good, if we didn't want a ticket. So, Chuck picked a random cliff, tried to scale it, decided whether the rest of us would be able to follow and we all made a go of it. Typical Mallott fashion.

Here is the order of the hikers up the steep cliff, Chloe, followed by Chuck, followed by Bennett, followed by Me and Ninja (we are one), followed by Gavin. Chuck is verbally directing Chloe and Bennett which roots to grab a hold of to help heave themselves up the 70 degree incline we're all simultaneously trying to climb. We learned that Ninja is part mountain goat. That is good. However, she didn't want to be separated from me. That is not good. She doesn't understand the command "go" or "forward". I made a mental note to teach her when (if) we get off this cliff and get home. Bennett literally had mud under his nails from grabbing at the dirt to try to pull himself upward. Chloe kept saying, "I know what my perseverance story is going to be tonight." Gavin kept verbally assessing the grade of the slope we were climbing and giving us a play by play. Bennett kept reliving another similar adventure we had back in Massanutten. Chuck is busy pushing little people up by the seat of their pants. I'm in some zen state and am climbing like I do this every day. Not an ounce of fear or thought that we can't accomplish this. It's amazing what you do when you HAVE to do it. There was just no other option. We all miraculously make it to the top and looked back down - WOW!

Next time the paved path might be a little safer, but I'm not sure it could give us more fun than we had 'off the beaten path'.

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