Stretching My Mind

I’m writing this post from the waiting room of a car dealership, which is a poppin’ place the day before Thanksgiving. Last week, one of my brand-new tires on my brand-new car managed to pick up a screw on the sidewall. A new tire was special ordered and it finally arrived, which means the kids and I are spending the morning with Subaru’s finest while Clay works a ‘half-day’ (don’t you love how in the military a ‘half-day’ is still at least 8 hours..). We’re leaving for Georgia late this afternoon/evening, which means we will be in good company among millions of other last minute travelers. Nothing says the holidays like spending hours in the car, right?

Speaking of holidays – over the weekend, Clay and I watched Holiday in the Wild, a Netflix Original movie with Rob Lowe and Kristen Davis. We watched it with the intention of rolling our eyes and snarking on the amount of cheese often associated with such Hallmark-esque Christmas movies. The movie certainly wasn’t without such faults, but wouldn’t you know – the gorgeous African landscape (the movie was filmed in South Africa and Zambia) and the decent acting held our attention. Spoiler – Chris Traeger and Charlotte York fall in love, end up together, and save the elephants. Merry Christmas, indeed. And while I’ve been wanting to visit Africa for awhile, now the pull is even greater. We’ve decided to wait until the kids are a little older – it’s a bucket list item of mine to hike Kilimanjaro as a family when the kids are in college. Who needs Spring Break at the beach when you can summit Africa’s highest peak with your parents?

We spent this past Sunday afternoon hiking at Great Falls Park, which is one of my favorite places in the area this time of year. Nestled within the urban sprawl of Washington, DC is 800 acres of protected land along the Potomac. We love to climb the rocks that pepper the banks and explore the 15 miles of trails that follow Difficult Run. There is little I love more than rock scrambling and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the Army sends us somewhere next where I can really immerse myself into the hobby without having to drive hours into the mountains.

Now that the weather has turned, we’re reminded of how we will be settled into our not-yet-disclosed new location for the holidays next year. As much as we’re going to miss certain aspects of our life in the nation’s capital and the people we’ve grown to love, we’re ready for another adventure. People ask us if we’re tired of not putting down roots or if we find ourselves wanting to just stay put. Not yet. We’re still in the phase of our lives where we get caught up in the exhilarating whirlwind when embarking on a new Army-induced adventure. We’re aware of the short list of places the Army could send us next but there is no guarantee that our next locale will be one of them (the joys of the military – ha!) so I’m not devoting too much energy into research and I am actively trying not to get my hopes up (and no – Europe isn’t a possibility this time around…womp womp).

Sometimes I wonder if Clay and I’s wanderlust will negatively impact our children. We know that each move will become increasingly difficult as our children approach their middle school and high school years. While I don’t think staying in one place for that duration is the only way to raise teenagers successfully, I do think there are actions we can take that will ensure that our choices won’t have lasting adverse impacts. I suppose we will cross those bridges when and if our journey takes us there. Whenever I find myself fretting over whether we’re doing our children a disservice, I remind myself of the famed Oliver Wendell Holmes quote – “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.

There is nothing I want more for my children than for them to find joy in opportunity – to seize each day and make the most of it as if Mr. Keating is speaking directly to them. I want them to find comfort in the unexpected and value in new experiences. One of our family mottos is, “We do hard things.” Just because there may be shadows doesn’t mean there isn’t beauty in the view. We have so much to be thankful for – both known and the unknown. While it’d be nice to know what our future holds, embracing the uncertainty offers its own sense of exhilaration…we might as well enjoy it!

Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday afternoon we ventured onto Fort Belvoir to check out the trails associated with the Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. Maintained by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge is home to deciduous forests, meadows, and freshwater tidal marshes. There is a trail head located outside of Tulley Gate with a handful of parking spots but we chose to go onto post and drive down to the  MWR Outdoor Recreation area off of Warren Rd. and pick up the trail down by Accotink Bay.

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The Potomac River is the fourth largest river along the Atlantic Coast. Accotink Bay is considered an arm of the Potomac River. Accotink Creek empties into Accotink Bay to the west of Fort Belvoir. Over 1200 acres comprise the Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, along with about eight miles of hiking trails.

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The temperature was in the mid-50s and the sun was shining bright. After the winter we’ve had (dreary with little snow) and spring’s reluctance to come to the national capital region, the brilliant blue sky was a welcome sight.

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The trails are not difficult hikes. They’re perfect for a young family wanting to explore and encounter the occasional obstacle. On our hike yesterday, we had to cross some shallow water on a fallen log and navigate around some mud using strategically placed rocks. There are no steep inclines but the trail does go up and down, which we always appreciate.

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Be sure to veer too far from the trails!

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Now that our kids are getting older, we’re really taking advantage of them being able to keep up with us – at least for a couple of miles. It feels incredibly freeing not to have to worry about a stroller or a backpack-carrier on our hikes.

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John Muir famously said that “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” While it can be difficult to make time for such adventures in the midst of regular-life obligations, we take his words to heart and do what we can with what we have. It was a perfect Sunday afternoon spent as a family. And in times like these, you have to cling to those types of moments. If anything, to remind ourselves that everything will be okay.