Sunday, January 1, 2012
Happy New Year!
My family and I headed out for our annual New Year Day hike at Sky Meadows State Park today. I always really look forward to starting the year hiking with the family through our favorite park. We’ve hiked on unseasonably warm New Year days. We’ve hiked in ankle deep snow. We’ve hiked with nutty families who inspired our oldest son to request a “no non-family hikers on New Year” rule. It’s always fun starting the year with the family.
This year, we headed out a little later than usual. When we got to the park, we were stunned to find the park so full that we needed to use the overflow parking. Usually, we’ve got the park to ourselves for our mid-winter hike, so it was quite a surprise to see all our fellow hikers. In what turned out to be not one of our best decisions, we brought two of our dogs along for the hike. One of our dogs, is what they call “dog aggressive.” To protect his identity, we’ll just call him “Cujo.” Hiking with Cujo is actually very pleasant, unless, of course, he meets another dog. Since everyone on the trail brought at least one dog on the New Year hike, our peaceful annual hike quickly turned into a “before” scene from the Dog Whisperer. Our fellow hikers gave us the stink eye as we yelled apologies for Cujo’s behavior. People with golden retrievers shouted “training tips” at us. In our defense, Cujo has been to doggie obedience classes (he passed, thank you very much) and we do work with him regularly. He’s just what they call in sports “un-coachable.” In my opinion, if the toughest dog you’ve trained is a golden retriever, you should probably keep the “tips” to yourself.
Moving along the trail, enjoying a few quiet moments, we encountered someone whom my son recognized – the cafeteria lady from his school! We chatted for a bit, and then kiddingly I said, “Well, I hope my kids are behaving in the cafeteria!” In a fit of honesty that her husband found embarrassing, she pointed to my son saying, “He’s good in the cafeteria,” and then pointing to my daughter, “Her……sometimes.” What a proud parenting moment I had, standing in the woods with the cafeteria lady, my family, and Cujo. Off we went, wishing them “Happy New Year!” and wondering how to avoid any other hikers or dogs over the next 2 miles.
Fortunately, we managed to avoid too many more hikers, and we moved into the area of the park that provides unbelievably beautiful vistas of the Virginia landscape. I always feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders, as I stand at the top of the hill, gazing down at the Piedmont region, saying to my husband, “that’s where we’re going to live when I win the lottery!” Ah, the peaceful New Year hike had returned! Then the wind started to blow, the skies opened up, and we enjoyed a brisk hike back to the parking lot, cold rain pelting our faces.
It’s still my favorite way to ring in the New Year! Even a so-so day hiking with my family is better than most other days anywhere else!