Sunday, October 03, 2010

Picnic with the missus

Liberty got this cool wicker picnic basket on eBay a while ago, and we decided to take it out for a spin yesterday. One of the better side effects of "bill week" (when your bills all come due at once, and your budget spreadsheet looks a little scary) is that you can find fun money savers that double as relationship builders.

Instead of spending $20 on a movie and snacks just to sit in the dark and be quiet, let's go out for a walk in the sunshine and talk to each other... for free. Instead of stopping for greasy fast food somewhere, or spending more at a better restaurant, let's cook up some food for lunch, and take it with us somewhere. In this case, "some food" was steak cut into strips and fried up with pepper, sweet Italian mini bread, cheddar cheese cut into slices, some green onion, and a refreshing carbonated beverage (the basket has a cool separate area for bottles), and "somewhere" was Highbanks park.

When we got there, we found a long trail that didn't seem to have a lot of people on it, and proceeded to hike around looking for unofficial exit points: Good places to hang out that are accessible, hidden from the trail, but without signs saying not to go there. What we found was here:

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Although the spot wasn't visible from the main trail (Dripping Rock, I believe), another trail frequented with dog walkers came close to it, and there was an occasional group of walkers coming near enough to see us, had they been paying attention to their surroundings. I think a couple people noticed us, but most people walked right by, oblivious.

At one point, a ranger came driving by in one of their little Jeeps, who was for all appearances looking for people hiding in the woods. He happened to turn his head the other way as he drove by - twice! Once on the way out from his station, once on the way back to it. Funny, but, I mean, come on dude! At any rate, we spread our blanket, ate our makeshift steak sandwiches, chatted, watched the clouds, and left the area as we found it - minus a few burrs, that is.

While hiking and rescuing the occasional woolly worm, we also people-watched. We had higher hopes for our fellow man there. Since we were in the woods, people should be healthier and less mainstream, no? "The Game" was on, so clearly the people at the park that day shouldn't be uber-consumer sports fans, and they should mostly be healthier and not couch potatoes. So one would think, but not the case. No matter how far we got from the main non-trail area, we would still hear the occasional yawp of joy as some sort of praiseworthy action from the game was reported on the radio. For some the exercise of walking up the trail's first hill was clearly the most punishment they had given their body in some time. There was also the occasional person walking on the trail while talking on their cellphone, forgivable, but lame. One of the families walking had an indifferent dad who busied himself with looking at trees or fields, making sure to keep himself a few feet away from his wife and kids. Why are you out with your family, exactly? If you don't like them, cut the cord now and lessen the pain on everyone. Don't put on the thin facade of just being stoic when your family can feel the vacuum where your love is supposed to be. Asshole. That part was the worst.

All was not lost, though. Most of the groups were clearly happy to be both together and out trekking through the woods. Most of the people were, indeed, healthy. There was this 50-something woman running with a practiced pace, listening to her iPod, and looking like she could confidently stave off attacks from local bears or mountain lions... I'm fairly certain we have neither, but still, when the fight goes down, I want granny on my side.

Lastly, there was a family whose mom or eldest daughter (I couldn't tell her age very well) was clearly recovering from cancer treatments, as she had the telltale wig, missing eyebrows, and extra lipstick, and was more fatigued than the rest of her group. But still out building up strength, building strong family bonds, and looking forward. When you hike the trail despite feeling bad, you're looking forward. When you let your family bring you to the park for the "fresh air" and just sit at a picnic table, you're waiting to die. She was looking forward, as was her family, who wasn't treating her as though she were fragile. That part was the best.

We had a lot of fun on the cheap. Despite the few stinkers, most of the people ranged from tolerable to downright enjoyable. And although next weekend I should have some actual disposable income, maybe we'll just bank it and do something free and outside instead.

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