Yesterday morning, my sister, Patti, and I took my 3 kids to Hempstead Lake State Park for a walk on a beautiful Spring-like day. This particular park setting is a natural oasis in our neighborhood — acres of wooded paths surrounding 3 beautiful serene little lakes. It also happens to be Olivia’s absolute favorite place to go whenever we have some free time to spend together. Her mantra, “Hempstead Lake State Park never disappoints!”
We’ve seen all kinds of fascinating creatures in this park — frogs, baby and mama toads, hawks, falcons, turtles, rabbits and bunnies and many other wilderness friends — defying a highly suburban environment sandwiched between the Southern State Parkway and Peninsula Boulevard. So, it was easy to decide on our destination yesterday. Patti and I were confident that we could keep the boys safely corralled without using a stroller… a first for this particular venue.
I have to say, Olivia is always wonderful when she’s communing with nature, following new paths, exploring downed trees, climbing the low branches of favorite trees for a better view, and investigating every nook and cranny for interesting finds. The boys were nothing short of amazing too. So well-behaved even I was surprised. They walked along the paths in single file, sometimes requesting a hand to hold to steady their footing. And, as we approached the lake shore, their sometimes dormant cautious-side emerged. Brian and Michael consistently maintained a 1-2 foot distance from the water’s edge (something I certainly did NOT expect) and, following their sister’s lead, throwing pebbles they found on the beach into the water. Enjoying the splashes they made, they quickly realized that the larger the stone, the bigger the splash. It was pure joy to watch them all. We moved through the woods, pausing at each clearing and beach to throw more stones and sit on another naturally-well-placed log… enjoying the sun’s warmth. The commotion of 3 little bodies passing along the water’s edge did not escape a pair of large swans who meandered across the lake in hopes of a free hand-out. Unfortunately, the swans quickly found that the pebbles Brian, Michael and Olivia were tossing were not to their liking and finally moved on.
At another spot, a lone painted turtle floated peacefully at the shore, his head bobbing as the water lapped in. Sure he would paddle away as we approached, he must have sensed my children’s gentle nature and stayed to entertain us for awhile before seeking only slightly deeper waters, well within our view. The kids were all thrilled and, once again, Hempstead Lake did NOT disappoint us.
As we rested on a new fallen tree, a perfect spot for a family of 5 explorers, I pulled out my orange (favorite color), “ruggedized” cell phone/camera and clicked off a few more great shots of the kids with their Aunt Patti. She and I were quickly engulfed in a conversation about the beautiful weather and location, Brian and Olivia were still engaged in pebble-throwing and Michael was fiddling with my jacket buttons… or so I thought. It was the flash of orange that caught my eye…. Not to mention the BIG splash. Michael had figured out how to release my cell phone from it’s belt clip and just as quickly found his pitcher’s arm. He miraculously hauled that thing about 10 feet from where we were sitting… well into the lake. Fortunately, my rapid realization, quick thinking and not minding getting my feet a little wet saved the phone. No one was there to catch Aunt Patti as she just about fell off the log laughing. Poor Michael did not understand why I was initially upset before I broke up into laughter too…. Clearly it was the BIGGEST AND BEST SPLASH of the day!
Thank God Tim talked me into that “ruggedized” phone which happens to include a new water-resistant feature. And, thank God metallic orange is clearly visible in 2 feet of lake water.
Obviously, all’s well that ends well or you wouldn’t be looking at these beautiful pictures from our highly entertaining excursion yesterday. Olivia’s right… Hempstead Lake State Park never disappoints!