Coneflower Trail


I woke up yesterday morning to my usual Sunday routine. Throw on a pair of running shorts and a T-shirt, slip on my running shoes, leash up Rocco, and head to Tarpy for an elongated morning run.

The weather made it easy to want to run. It was the type of morning where you could feel Fall sprinting up to take the lead over Summer. I consciously took some deep breaths as we walked into the woods. The leaves of the oaks and ash and basswood created patches of light along the mulched trail. I watched Rocco sprint ahead, stop to sniff, and continue down the path.

There is a fork in the trail right before the train tracks. If you take a right, your led up a small hill that ends in the backyard of the Tarpy house. If you take a left, you go over a bridge and up a small incline to a field of wildflowers. Over the last year or so, Rocco has decided that he likes the left side of the woods more than the right side. He will take the right side loop with me a couple of times on Sunday morning but then he waits at the fork for me to finish the right side loop and joins me on the left side. It is rather precious to run down the hill and see him sitting upright, tongue out, eyes wide, waiting to take my side as we run around the left side of the woods.

As I witnessed the wildflowers by sight and Rocco witnessed them by touch (running after some critter I have to assume), I thought about what to do with the kids during the day. Back when they were young, it would have been a trip to Cincinnati or a day at the zoo. As they get older, I am lucky to get in a couple of hours before they complain that they want to be with friends or that they need to get homework done.

I have gotten the backpacking bug from going with my dad and sister a couple of weeks ago. I was hoping the kids would want to go with me this weekend but it did not happen for us. I need to just set a date and go for it but I’m really bad at doing that. Although we’d missed out on our backpacking adventure, it didn’t mean we couldn’t take a hike. I searched up Metro Parks and found two that looked good. One of the two was only 18 minutes away. The other was 28. My hatred of driving played a factor in the decision. The one 18 minutes away was the Coneflower Trail at Prairie Oaks. It was a 2 mile loop, which was about all I could get from the kids without serious whining.

I arrived home to break the news – we were taking a hike. Maria immediately went to homework she had to finish. Mario went to his number one argument – it’s a day if rest so he should be able to chill…. I listened politely and then told them it was too gorgeous outside to stay indoors all day so they had to deal with it. They knew there was no hope in complaining so they grabbed their gym shoes and we were off (Starbucks may have been promised after the hike).

We loaded Rocco in the backseat with Mario and headed out west to Prairie Oaks. We arrived to a fairly empty parking lot, which was a relief. We found the trail head and started on our way. We walked along a grass path for a bit before coming to the actual Coneflower trail. It had a “x” on the picture of a dog, which we promptly ignored.

The trail sat parallel with the Darby Creek and we could hear Rocco run through the grasses and brush to hit the creek for a quick dip. At one point, there was a clearing and we walked down to the creek to find Rocco splashing around happy as can be. The pup loves him some water. There were two other pups dipping their feet in the water – French bulldogs. Their faces are made to be squeezed. Maria was in love asking the owners all sorts of questions about them. Mario remained quiet but enjoyed petting the bigger one.

We headed back to the trail to continue our discussion about Mario’s birthday. Maria had all sorts of ideas for his birthday party, all of which Mario shot down. As I think back to our conversation, Mario’s birthday took up a chunk of it. I am getting more comfortable with time spent with the kids where no big revelation is given. I have had these dreams of walking with Ri and Mario where they divulge all their dark secrets and fears and we talk through them.

Not so much.

So I’ve learned to change my expectations, which has led to a much more enjoyable experience. I simply appreciate the time with them.

At the end of the trail, there was a fork and I took to the right side. It ended up being the longer way back to the parking lot. The kids realized this after it was too late. They took my phone to try to locate our car. They saw that it was another quarter mile away. I smiled and they knew I was excited to get a few extra minutes with them. We walked along the yellow and purple wildflowers and I asked them to take 20 seconds to just breathe in the beauty of the day.

Silence. 10 whole seconds (Mario blurted out “Done” after 10 seconds).

I made them name something they were grateful for – family, they both said. Even after a forced outing, they were still grateful for me and Jon and our family. I responded I was grateful for them coming with me. They smiled, and gave an even wider smile when they saw the Volvo up ahead.

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