By Rebecca Hoffman (heresagem)
I was hungry, but a picnic seemed like a lot of trouble for a meal. I looked down at my daughters face, willing myself to not crumble at the sight of her pleading expression. I couldn’t do it. The doe eyes, comical pout and picnic basket in her hand were impossible to resist, but what sealed the deal was the angelic glow of sunshine on her blonde head. It was the perfect day for a picnic.
We had heard about a great picnic spot from some friends, talk of this spot is what had put the idea of a picnic in her head several days ago. There was a grassy bank by a small pond with ducks to chase and trees for shade. Just follow the trail map, they said, it’s not too hard to find.
We drove to the park nearby and quickly found the trail map by a cluster of trees and bushes. Entry to the trail was obvious, but the view from there was obstructed, so the map was crucial. The main trail set off to the left and crossed over a stream just a short way out. Follow the stream to the left and it lead to what looked like a pond. This must be our trail. There was also a small trail off to the right which met back up with the stream and the main trail, cutting the trail loop in half. Hmmm…
The main trail was the obvious choice. Why would it be the most popular route to travel if it did not lead to the best spot? We passed the little trail on the right. It was rugged and shady; it turned downhill fast, so it was impossible to get a good view of where it led. The main trail, however, was wide open and led uphill into the warm sunshine. We started out. Before long, the sun’s warmth began to burn. Gnats began to get in our eyes and we figured we must be near water. We continue to follow the trail markers and sure enough, within minutes we were crossing a stream… if you could call it that. Hidden in a thicket of trees and bushes, the water was a mere trickle, the mud dark and deep. A few water bottles were hung up by a rock, tossed by hikers with little regard for the ugliness of litter. The coolness of the shade was refreshing, but the smell of stale water and mud did not invite us to stay.
We crossed the rickety wooden bridge and were excited to be nearing the pond, but our excitement faded fast. The trees cleared, but our feet were in mud. The trail led to a mass of reeds and more mud. The pond. We had arrived. Tummies grumbling, foreheads covered in sweat, we looked at the trail with trepidation. Do we REALLY want to keep going?, my daughter asks. Let’s just go back to the car and eat, she suggests, the look of bitter disappointment on her face.
Off to the right I spot what appears to be a trail. It is unmarked and shaded by trees, so it is impossible to see where it leads. Could this be the small trail that cuts the trail loop in half? Should we try it? Why not – we don’t have much to lose. My daughter and I reluctantly head down the narrow trail, hoping it doesn’t lead to a dead end, hoping it will get us to the car quickly so that we can finally eat. After pushing our way past a scraggly bush or two, the trail opens up and the sun beams down. There, directly in front of us, is a grassy area with a small pond… or is it a stream? Ducks sit in the shade of a nearby tree and a hawk calls out from the sky. Smiles spread across our faces and my daughter runs out onto the grass laughing. Here it is! Right here! Right down that little unmarked trail!
We spread out our picnic blanket and dive into our feast. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bananas have never tasted so good. As soon as we are done eating, my daughter runs off to feed breadcrumbs to the ducks, and I stretch out my legs in the sunshine. THIS is what we needed. A quiet little picnic, just the two of us. Sunshine and ducks and puffy white clouds to watch. It couldn’t be more perfect. As I tell myself our adventurous little hike was worth it, my eyes scan the trees along the stream. There, just a ways out to the right, is a trail marker. There is a small trail, but I can’t tell where it goes… it’s hidden by trees. I lie down on my back and close my eyes to the sun and I hear the faint sound of a car door and children’s voices. I look back toward the trail marker and I know… we must be near the parking lot.
This perfect little picnic spot was right at the beginning of the trail, right down the small trail, hidden by trees.