Sunday, November 22, 2009

A family weekend

Beginning in June, this ended up being the busiest year ever in the Bailey household! Summer vacations, weddings, weekend getaways, camping trips, and lots of time with friends and family have made this a very blessed year. This trend isn't ending with the holidays coming upon us. In two days we're heading to Jacksonville to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, in-laws, and hopefully see some extended family and friends while up there. Then we're leaving straight from there to West Virginia to celebrate an early Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law, and my brand-new nephew! A couple days after getting home, we're celebrating Rosemary's second birthday and before we know it, it'll be Christmas!

We've also been making the most of our down-time. After almost two years of searching, I finally found a baby hiking backpack on craigslist for only $15! I didn't want to buy a new one because I figured we'd only use it a few times and couldn't justify the price, but I've been aching to get back on the trails (Joe and I were occasional day-hikers before embarking on our parenthood journey and our recent camping trip has made me all the more determined to get back out there!). We picked it up yesterday and tested it with a couple walks around the block. Rosemary loved it. No, you don't understand. She LOVED it. She repeated "I love it" over and over and over as we were walking and refused to get out when we got home! So we decided not to waste any time trying it out. We found a local 1.5 mile trail (it might take some practice carrying a 27 pound child around and we didn't want to risk going on anything longer) and headed out to Brooker Creek Preserve in nearby Tarpon Springs. I didn't check the weather forecast before leaving the house and noticed some clouds on our drive up there. Joe said, "Yeah, it's probably going to rain. I checked this morning." Um, given our track record (our last hike found us huddled on a picnic table surrounded by very threatening-looking owls and critters in a booming, earth-shaking thunderstorm while at Hillsborough River State Park. It made for a great story for my 4th graders at the time, but is not something I want to relive, especially with an almost-2-year-old in tow) I was a little miffed that he had not shared this bit of research with me. But all was well and it didn't rain a drop and we enjoyed an easy hike- well, easy for me, Joe had the backpack with the little one on!- in a beautiful, peaceful setting.

The trail starts with a nice boardwalk leading to an education center (which was closed on Sundays, but don't worry, we'll be back!). There are interpretive signs describing the Tarpon Springs watershed and some of the local flora and fauna, and really cool artwork. My favorite had symbols adorning a half-arch. My interpretation was that it showed the relationship between humans and nature. There were symbols showing humans (a fingerprint), animals (one that looked like a fish scale to represent aquatic animals, and one that looked like a wing), plants (symbol that looked like branches), and one to represent the sun (a series of circles). I'll have to take a better picture next time. It was really cool. We headed out to the trail- the trailhead starts where the boardwalk ends. We chose to go on the 1.5 mile Wilderness Trail, though there were both shorter and longer trails to choose from (actually, the longer trail was currently closed due to flooding). The trail we went on wound through several ecosystems and there were some interpretive signs explaining the differences. Rosemary kept asking "What's that?" so we made a game of pointing out and counting pine cones. That little girl has a good eye! She found pine cones hidden underneath brush that Joe and I could barely see! After finishing our hike, we headed to the picnic tables to eat some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apples before heading home. Rosemary did so well that she got a lollipop. And we learned that she takes after her father and doesn't like butterscotch, so mommy actually ate the lollipop! It was a gorgeous day for a hike (one of the benefits of living in Florida is that it's the end of November and it was in the high 70s- if you can make it through the nasty, humid summers, it's actually pretty nice this time of year!). Here are some pictures to enjoy if you've sat through all this!

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