You do what you gotta do to entertain your kids, right? Here we are, ghost hunting in Mantorville, Minnesota for The Star Tribune, and I must say it turned into a delightful day — my son’s friends are such an imaginative group of kids, and it’s always a joy to see them play offline. We never did rouse any spirits, but I did manage to sneak a history lesson in.
We came to see trees, big ones, like those we’d read about in Jean Craighead George’s novel, My Side of the Mountain. Like the 12-year-old boy in it, could we carve a home in the trunk of a tree?
Coming from Oregon, the closest state park with redwoods was Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Northern California, named after a trapper who cut his way through in 1826. But we found the paved access road leading to the towering trees and lush grounds of Stout Memorial Grove Trail blocked. After two weeks of travel, our 7-year-old daughter didn’t have the energy to walk to the trailhead (nor did we have the energy to carry her). So we hiked the Simpson-Reed Trail, a short, one-mile roadside loop, instead.
Our kids, newly energized, bolted ahead, gazing up at the towering canopy formed by the 1,000-year-old redwoods, circling their bases, climbing up the crumbling bark best they could, and crossing a stream by scooting across a felled tree that had cracked open, sprouting thick ferns.
They’re such satisfied creatures in nature. Then again, so am I.
When Matt first put me on a horse while at his family farm in North Dakota, it sensed it was free—I had little control over its reigns. It galloped across the prairie as I clung to its mane, ducking beneath an apple tree limb.
But my son is a good horseback rider, which left him frustrated when Nauyaca Waterfalls’ Horseback Riding Tour put him on a slow horse due to his age and me on a fast one. (Both horses, used to inexperienced riders, stayed under control.)
He got over it.
My daughter rode with a guide. She’d come to love her guides. The sun exhausted her—no matter how much we lathered her up, her skin still seemed to burn. But Costa Ricans light up when a child is near, and their appreciation delighted her.
While howler monkeys called out and birds chirped, we trekked uphill through mud and streams for 45 minutes to Don Lulo’s house for a Costa Rican lunch under a canopy. Our children, surprisingly, had acquired a taste for beans, and hungrily ate. While Matt and I enjoyed coffee, our children wandered through its mini-zoo and tried to catch Iguanas, which easily slipped under rocks.
Then we rode another 25 minutes to the waterfalls where we roped up our horses and walked down wooden steps into the canyon to cool off. Our eldest climbed halfway up the waterfall and jumped.
Our children are much braver than I am.