Sunday dawned and Henry continued to ask if we could go miniature golfing (after one last, long swim of course). I really didn't want to go to an amusement park site where every activity was charged a la carte and there would undoubtedly be video games lurking in a dark alcove. I really wanted to be outdoors, preferably on a scenic nature trail. About 20 miles west of our hotel was a large park--I remembered reading about trails and a waterfall. I googled the park name on my phone while the boys toweled off from their swim. To my pleasant surprise, the park description included...a miniature golf course! How lucky could one family get?
We hopped in the car, used the GPS and arrived at the park in approximately 40 minutes. As it happens, this recreational area is located in the town where I was born. I was ten months old when my parents' marriage ended and both moved away. Growing up, I heard plenty about this "perfect place to raise a family" and about what a "terrible waste" of a great life blah, blah, blah. Well, turns out that this big small town is amazingly friendly and picturesque. I wish I really had lived there. In fact, after spending the day, I was ready to start applying for teaching jobs at the local middle school.
As we drove on the narrow park road, I found myself regretting that I hadn't packed a picnic lunch. True, it was only 10 am, but this space was so beautiful I wanted to stay all day, not leave and find the nearest McDonald's in an hour. As the winding road opened up to the main parking lot, I notice a lot of cars. That's strange for a Sunday morning, I thought. Don't these people go to church? (The fact that our family pew was 80 miles away and empty was not lost on me, though.) It took us three rounds of the lot to find a space and I soon realized why. This wasn't just any Sunday--it was ART in THE PARK Sunday.
It's hard to explain the atmosphere of this gathering--people were so cheerful. Everyone seemed to know each other's name although with a crowd this large, they couldn't possibly, could they? The boys and I passed a pair of jolly (the only word that fits!) police officers. It looked as if they couldn't believe their good luck in landing this assignment. In fact, we ran in to them often throughout the day and each time they were sampling a different festival food. We made our way through the tented displays (and enjoyed some fresh donuts ourselves) then found the golf course. Henry focused on each and every hole. Liam cheated. A lot.
After 18 holes spent avoiding sand traps, windmills and about 4,000 bees in a feeding frenzy among the dahlias, the boys convinced me to rent a paddle boat and tour the river. The boys couldn't reach the pedals so guess who had to do all the work? By the time we reached the dock, the temperature had reached 90 degrees and I was ready to find a shady spot to relax.
There were (at least) three different playgrounds. Initially, the boys thought this one was for younger children but I convinced them to give it a try because it had the most shade. They ended up loving the pulley system above the sandbox as well as the other equipment. (See, Mama really does know best!)
Would you believe, this public park even had a carousel? We didn't ride it--the boys didn't even ask--but I think it added to the charm of this already special place.
Around 3:30 pm , I decided it was time to head home--or at least think about it. The boys needed baths and dinner; we had early plans for the next day. Only 1/4 mile out of the parking lot, I spied a waterfall atop a bluff. There were people next to it taking pictures so I knew there had to be a trail leading to it. I was too tired to get everyone out of the car and cajole them into taking a hike so I decided to save this particular adventure for another day. That way we're sure to return soon--maybe even in time to see the autumn foliage.