Walking in the Woods on a Snowy Day

I woke up Saturday morning to a snow-covered world. I headed outside to shovel around 7:30, delighting in the quiet calm of the early morning as well as the light snow. Keenly aware of changing weather patterns and the havoc they're wreaking upon us, it was nice to experience winter as it should be. I was the first person in my neighborhood to have a clean sidewalk and driveway, a rare accomplishment at Chez Moldofsky.

After cleaning off my car and moving it out of our single lane driveway so hubs could drive his vehicle to a morning meeting, I decided to head over to a nearby patch of woods. Filled with a childish desire to be the first to leave my prints in the freshly fallen snow, I parked the car and I hurried over to the nearest path.

Only to find this: 

What? It was barely past 8 in the morning and already the cross-country skiers, deer, nature lovers and dog walkers had mucked up the path and my delicious fantasy. The deer are the only ones that get a pass. If the early bird gets the worm, then... I'll have to work on the analogy.

In the meantime, here's a look back from just over 7 years ago. The following post was published on this blog on January 27, 2006, when my now big boys were in kindergarten and second grade. (Sniff.)

Last weekend, the boys, their friend and I went on a trek through the snow-frosted woods. It was delightful, refreshing and exhausting all at once.

I should explain that by woods, I mean a .25 X 1 mile stretch of forest preserve set in the heart of Chicago's first wave of north suburban sprawl. About 80 years ago my grandma and her sister used to take a trolley from the city to this then-rural area for hiking and picnics. Despite the fact that these woods are now in the midst of suburbia, one can wander alongside the Chicago River feeling far from the strip malls that are actually just a healthy walk away. One can imagine roaming these woods even before my grandma's time. I told the boys that Native Americans used to camp along this river.

"Perhaps," the friend said, "we should imagine ourselves to be Native Americans making our way to the next village." But somehow his idea quickly turned to building a shelter out of every available branch they could manage to uncover from the snow and drag to the designated spot. I took great joy in watching these boys, boys who so willingly plug in to their electronic games and tune out the world, excitedly collaborate on their construction project.

Splinter asked if they wanted wallpaper in the shelter, but the older boys ignored him. "How would you do that?" I asked. He showed how to scrape the outer layers of bark from the branches to create a more interesting look for the walls.

But it wasn't just the building project that captured them. They explored little hills, puddles of gooey muck, footprints and animal tracks, branches and rocks of every size. They packed handfuls of snow into great clumps and threw them into the river to hear loud ker-plunks. They tossed small handfuls of snow that instead ker-plinkedwhen they hit the water.

I'm sure my boys would tell you that the "outdoor voice" is a myth because they noticed long ago that even when they're outside they're often asked to turn down the volume. This outdoor adventure was no exception. At one point, I convinced them to quiet down enough to listen to the sounds of snow and ice bits falling from the trees, but just as important, I was hoping to give the other handful of hikers some sense of tranquility.

Once home, I realized that the walk was almost as draining as it was rejuvenating. My job as sole chaperon included keeping the boys from straying too far from the trail or getting too close to the riverbank and preventing them from climbing on slippery logs as well as quelling their inexplicable urges to crawl through mucky puddles.

I was also on constant lookout for off-leash dogs. People don't take small dogs for walks in the woods. Most people leashed their dogs as they saw us approach, but as an enthusiastic Golden Retriever headed our way I remembered that a friend's son nearly lost his life due to an attack by this breed...or was it an Irish Setter? No, definitely Retriever. Thankfully the dog retreated on his own.

And what about that man standing alone over in the trees? Nature lover or pervert? If we took the path less travelled would some sicko jump us?

My karate sensei would be proud of my keen awareness of my surroundings, but I was exhausted. We ended the adventure back in the clearing by the parking lot where the boys set about making the world's largest snowball- "2/3rds the size of a house!" they promised. But I ruined their plans by insisting we leave.

DH was a star. Not only did he have hot cocoa waiting for us when we got home, but, even better, he let me nap while he took charge of the weary boys. 
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