My siblings and I were always getting kicked out of the house as kids. The six of us must have driven my Mom to her wits’ end every day by 10:00, because that’s precisely when she’d make us “go outside and play.” We had no objections – our backyard was a magical place with a pool, a big jungle gym and a small patch of bushes we referred to as “the woods.” (Typical city kids.)
One afternoon, I snuck inside the house to see what my Mom was doing and found her quietly folding laundry in the living room, watching her ‘shows.’ I remember feeling bad for her. Inside, we were forced to sit still, be quiet and behave. Outside, we were free to shout at the top of our lungs, get dirty and literally run ourselves ragged.
Now that I’m a grown-up, I spend a majority of my day trapped inside a big, glass box overlooking other big, glass boxes. If I push my face against the far corner of my office window, I can see the trees of Northeast Minneapolis in the distance. It’s strangely comforting, but also breaks my heart a little bit. This winter’s gloom and lack of snow have further complicated matters. It takes a lot more motivation to bundle up and trudge through dormant foliage than frolic around a winter wonderland.
As we round the corner on the darkest days of the year, my need to get out of the damn house has reached a fever pitch. It’s gotten so bad, I’ve started looking for excuses to go to the Mall of America, which is a terrifying place to be this time of year.
This past weekend, Luke and I decided to take control of the situation. He found a state natural area that neither of us had been to before and I channeled my 1980’s Mom and kicked myself out of the house for the day. We layered up, threw some essentials into our daypacks and set out to explore new lands.
Yes, it was cold; 23 degrees to be exact. Yes, we miscalculated the amount of daylight available to us. And yes, I’m slightly out of the habit of spending all day outside and drank way too much water before entering a port-a-potty free zone. But we did rediscover the many glories of visiting a place in the off-season, like plentiful parking, empty trails and pure silence.
Once we acclimated to the cold, there was no stopping us. We hiked all day, exploring an area big and wild enough to require the use of a trail map. The daylight ran out faster than our willingness to go home. We returned to our car at dusk with windburned cheeks, tired legs and happy hearts. Turns out, the best way to beat the winter blahs is to look ’em square in the face and tell ’em to take a hike. Literally.