Never use Google Maps to find a national park. We did just that when taking a spur-of-the-moment trip to San Diego’s Cleveland National Forest and ended up on closed trail littered with a syringe and liquor bottles, which was upsetting because I missed what looked like a hell of a party and had to drive another 90 minutes to find a park entrance. (An experienced hiker friend has since told me that directions to specific trails are available through Maps.)
Once we made it to park we hiked a kid-friendly trail for about an hour. Even though we were surrounded by nature for just a short time, it brought out the kids’ personality characteristics. Ca$$ius, the middle child among the surprise three, showed his natural leadership. So much so that he wouldn’t let me walk the trail in front of him: “Dada, you follow me.” Nile, inquisitive and thoughtful, asked about different species of snakes and their venom. Baby Larke, who just potty trained, got the chance to tinkle outside every five or so minutes.
Oh yeah, a white-tailed deer in a rush to get who knows where ran right past us. I had my stick ready in case a mountain lion was near, but there was not and the kids didn’t have to see their dad get maimed.
This was our last family trip as residents of San Diego County, but we’ll spend more time in the outdoors now that we’re in Ohio. Not so much for the solitude–I get that when the kids are at Grandma’s and my wife is on Snapchat–but to diversity the kids’ experiences, even if we spend more time finding the park than we do actually hiking in the park.