Monday, September 17, 2007

Shhh! One of Rochester's Best Kept Secrets

Can you keep a secret? Our family discovered a great hiding spot this weekend and I hope our next visit brings just as much solitude and escape as our visit did yesterday. We went to Willow Creek Reservoir, not far from home, but instead of just walking down to the fishing dock as we have in the past, I showed Troy and the boys a great hiking path that has been one of my favorite getaways. In past months, I have walked or jogged a portion of the trail, but I have never felt safe enough to walk around the whole reservoir by myself. So yesterday afternoon, that is just what the four of us did. During the nearly three hours we spent there, we encountered two joggers, one biker, and one walker on the path, and we observed fifteen or twenty people fishing along the eastern shoreline.

The reservoir was built years ago as part of Rochester's ambitious and mostly successful flood-control project, and it's one of several reservoirs around town. People use the area for fishing and canoeing, and a walking path traverses the perimeter of the reservoir. A golf course and a few subdivisions border the northern and easter edges of the water. The lots with the best views in those neighborhoods boast two-story windows and price tags in excess of a hundred thousand dollars just for the land. I feel sad about the development, as rooftops dot the landscape that had once been tall grasses and cornfields, but I think I would be one of those people spoiling the view if I had a huge bank acoount or the desire to assume massive amounts of debt. For now, I'll just exercise there for free.

In the middle of the reservoir is a large island of trees and tall grasses. Yesterday, for the first time, I saw the back side of the island that has brought me my first glimpses of green in spring, picture-perfect shades of autumn, and frozen branches of ice and hundreds of geese on winter's prettiest days. All four of us were very curious what it would be like to explore the island.

We began our walk around 4:00, and after walking just a few hundred feet, Mitchell said, "I'm thirsty," so I ran back to the car for the ice water jug I had brought, and thank goodness I did, because we heard about fifty more I'm thirsty's on our adventure. Max brought the butterfly net and spent most of the hike chasing after small butterflies and large dragonflies. He caught three butterflies but all of them escaped during their transfer to his miniature backpack. Near the end of the hike, I caught a small blue dragonfly for him, but the winged creature escaped at home when I tried to transfer him to a Ziploc bag (poor thing) and he's still on the loose somewhere in the house, hopefully devouring those flies that are trying to move in as autumn approaches. I thought he was injured in the backpack, but he definitely was not!

During the walk, we encountered milkweed pods and some other interesting seed pods of which we don't know the name. We picked some crabapples from a small tree and found apple trees, too. There were two or three times during the hike when we encountered the remnants of August's heavy rains, low-lying areas that were still very muddy. In the middle of all this natural beauty, I couldn't help but think, Thank goodness I wore my old, washable canvas Nike's instead of my new, light-colored running shoes. I should have left my white Gap hoodie at home, though, because somehow, I splashed mud on the back of that. Luckily, it happened near the end of our hike, so I didn't have much time to worry about it, laundry freak that I am. Guess what I did as soon as we got home? I pre-treated that stain with Bac-Out, one of the best stain fighters ever, and this morning when I removed it from the washing machine, my white hoodie was snow-white again!

My camera ran out of battery power very early in our walk, so I missed the chance to capture some of the prettiest images, but I did get a handful of great shots. Throughout the whole hike, which I estimated at four miles, the boys were super-troopers: no whining, no crying, no fighting. That was unbelievable! About halfway through our walk, Mitchell said conspirationally to me, "Max was having a tough day before we got here, wasn't he?" It was like having a conversation with another adult, until Mitchell mocked Max in his little-boy voice, "Mommy, you're just making it worser!" and then laughed in naughty delight. Luckily, Max and Troy were ahead of us, and Max was so engrossed in his quest for butterflies, that he didn't hear Mitchell's humorous remarks.

Troy and I took turns carrying Mitchell when his little legs grew tired, and when we came to shady areas (or when he decided to lick us or bite us "just for fun") we set him down to walk. When we came to hills, he eagerly ran up the steep slopes as I called, "Shake-and-Go Mitchell!" in reference to his new battery-powered crashing race car that he got for his birthday party this past Saturday.

My favorite memory of the afternoon was when Mitchell asked Troy, as they both listened to an earphone of Max's Disney Incredible's MP3-style pocket radio as the Vikings neared the end of the game, "If I 'pit into this earpiece, will it 'pit on the Vikings?" That was too cute, and of course, Classic Mitchell.

Feel free to check out this great local hiding spot if you are one of my Rochester Readers ... but please, don't tell your friends!

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