Getting Out the Door

Chehalem Ridge Nature Park

As self-appointed nature guides and outdoor fun seekers with the grandkids, we recently drove out to a new nature park. Rosa was not thrilled by the idea. She wanted to go to a playground, or go swimming, or go to our house, or perhaps hadn’t had enough sleep, or she wanted to be in charge of making the decisions, or was just not in the mood to say yes. I promised a playground soon. I told her I understood. I said that someday she’d be in charge. Of course none of that was good enough. 

“Good luck!” her mama called gaily, closing the front door firmly, as we grumped out to the car. I may have heard the lock click.

The 20 miles was a 40 minute drive west, and we had books and snacks to ease them into it. It’s hard to stay grumpy for that long, and as we hit the urban boundary Rosa looked up from her book, stoked to see an alpaca farm, and cows and goats grazing along the roadside farmlands. As we climbed and descended on the winding road through the brilliant green farm fields, the silos and barns, she exclaimed, “These must be foothills!” and then I knew she was on board, moving her book concepts into reality, and fascinated, as I am, by the world’s beauty and diversity.

From there the day was fine. Sometimes we just have to wait it out. I’d woken sore and stiff, and was a little out of sorts myself, so I had a clue as to how she felt. Some days I have to wait myself out as well.

From forest to tree farm and back to forest

I’m always enticed by the idea of a new park. I love this part of the Portland Metro area for the continual efforts to transform the land back into forest, adding trails for the public to explore. Chehalem Ridge Nature Park had once been a tree farm, and now was transformed into a 1,260 acre trail system through forests and hills.

Portland Metro area, our “backyard,” encompasses several outlying rural areas

We enjoyed silent and mostly empty trails – just a few other hikers, a couple bikers, and even two horseback riders, though I’d heard that it could get very crowded. As usual, Ezra set out at a dead run, and mostly ran the whole two miles, occasionally walking beside me, holding my hand.

Having that connection with him always feels good, and I sometimes gain insight into his complicatedly delightful brain. Recently his mama reported that while he ate his seaweed snacks, he intoned to each piece, one by one, “This is your hour of fate.” Another recent head scratcher was when he asked about whether we “mourned GG properly,” referring to his great-grandmother. It turns out he was “thinking about the Iliad.” Sometimes we get little clues along the way, but often he leaves the talking to others.

We spoke of this and that, the trees and their possible ages (“that must be thousands of years old!”), the plants, counted benches, or just as often fell silent.

“Listen,” I said. He stopped, his whole body still, straining to hear, listening to the silence, to the slight wind, to the birdcall. When he slows his pace he often attunes with nature and observes closely, whether it’s puddles or rocks or tree sap, or something along the path. We stopped at every bench, evaluating if it was dry enough to sit on, and enjoyed the rest or view or birdsong before galloping off again.

Ezra and I find a dry bench with one of the Three Kalapuyan “Elders” that protect the park

Rosa wants conversation and connection, and kept both up during the entire walk, mostly with Alan and sometimes with me. Right now there’s a lot of computer programming in her life, and she explained her Role Playing Games and programming projects, currently attempting a clock and calendar program and a learning to type program. Alan told her about Rogue, a game from the 80s, and they were off to the races. I preferred the birdsong and wind myself and was happy to chase after Ezra, who, now that he’s older, is more willing to not get too far ahead, and wait for his old Nana.

We all stopped at a viewpoint overlooking Hillsboro and a cloudy view of Mt. Saint Helens – a thrill to have a familiar landmark in an unfamiliar place. The Cascades often give us a sense of place and direction, wherever we are.

It occurred to me there might be a Geocache in the park, and sure enough, my phone app told me there was one very near. After a ten minute search, it turned out we were sitting right on top of one – a magnetic box stuck to the metal frame of our bench.

View of Hillsboro and Mt. St. Helens away in the clouds

As Rosa’s attention flagged we did a blind trust walk. I covered her eyes and steered her by the back of her shoulders, describing the terrain before her – rocky or muddy, or steering her around holes and bumps. It enthralled her for quite a while, and I noticed things on the path I might not otherwise have seen, like the centipede we stopped to watch as it crawled by.

I’m happy when I can think of something new to do along the way, though I never quite know what it will be, or if instead they will find things for me. When I got home I looked up info about the area and was pleased to see all kinds of nature guides and information, though I wished I’d found it BEFORE we went. I don’t want to be didactic and steer them away from in-the-moment discoveries, but doing research can be useful, a delicious addition to the day.

There were plenty of flowers, though I couldn’t exactly tell which were weeds and which were wildflowers, or even what the difference was, except that some might be invasive, pushing out the natives. But they were eye-catchingly colorful and plentiful, and I’ll leave them here for you to enjoy too.

I was pleased that we covered more than a couple miles. The round-trip drive took almost as long as the hike, but it was lovely, pastoral and different, and a nice break from the city when they look up from their books, or we from our phones. 

Sometimes it’s them that get me out of doors. We can all just wait each other out, and eventually get what we want or need.

From our house, after the urban boundary it’s all farmland

11 thoughts on “Getting Out the Door

  1. Silent and mostly empty … if I saw this on a trip report I’d go in a heartbeat. And how can I not love a bit of writing that talks about “waiting oneself out”.  This is a lovely place and a perfect day and I find myself simply charmed by how you both relate to those amazing kids. I wonder what parts of these days will be locked in their memory. I wonder what parts will forever stay with you ?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Nancy, Your and Alan’s photos are so glorious. All the beauty without the sneezing. What great times you have with these grandkids. Like others have said, I hope they remember all these times with you when they grow older. I know I can still see my grandmother and remember her Emeraude perfume. These outing with you and Alan will leave an imprint and when they want a quiet moment of nature they’ll have had years of training to lean on.


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