FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Into the Wild

Written By: Scot Butwell - Oct• 07•12

into wild photo
A few days before the weekend, I enter into negotiation with L, hoping to extend her five-mile radius for our father-son adventures, suggesting a hike at a local nature preserve.

The nature preserve is a few miles beyond my “unofficial” boundary, only five minutes from a park D and I visited a week ago, and a chance for us to visit the natural habitat of wildlife.

The conversation with L goes surprisingly well. We each state our viewpoint and listen respectfully to what the other says, a huge departure from our typical communication.

I know how absurd this sounds: a forty-something year-old man needing to barter with his wife to take his son on a hike ten miles from their home.

L’s peaceful tone gives me a fleeting ray of hope, but then she decides to invite herself on the hike, and our father-son adventure is squashed.

Just like that.

ballona wetlands

And less than five minutes on the hiking trail, L and I enter one of our “typical” discussions, and by this I mean it is clear from her tone that this will be a one-sided discussion.

The topic: should our son ride on my shoulders?

I’ve noticed sentences with the word “should” rarely align with reality. Case in Point: I know D should be walking on his own two feet, meaning he is capable, but I see no good reason to deny him or me this simple pleasure.

Nevertheless, I agree with the Wife so we can enjoy nature free of conflict. As an anonymous person once said, it takes two persons to argue. And my memory of past conflicts with L is too strong.

ballona flower2

The hike does not turn out how I envisioned, but it isn’t L’s fault. I read internet reviews of the wildlife we might see in the preserve: snowy egrets, finches, spotted doves, swooping hawks, rabbits, ducks, etc.

I googled pictures of the birds and showed them to D, creating an image in my head (and probably his) of the two of us passing binoculars back and forth and looking at exotic birds.

But we see none of the birds we looked at on my computer. Not a single one. A few days later, my friend Jose tells me the birds come out in the morning or in the late afternoon for feeding.

A mile from the trailhead, we approach a fence crossing the trail. “Beware of Rattlesnakes,” a sign says. There is a picture of a snake with a triangular head and diamond-pattern, but even though we see no rattlesnakes, L snaps at me for my overly calm response.

So we make a u-turn, and angry at my lack of response to the rattlesnake sign, L decides to hike ahead of us, so I recap our hike so far in my head:

L freaked out when she thought a bug may have landed on her. She snapped at D for veering slightly off the trail. There was our one-sided conversation about D riding on my shoulders. Ridiculous. And then her overreaction to the rattlesnake sign–all interrupting the chance to enjoy nature in quiet solitude. 

I know. I should be understanding of my wife’s fears, accept that she gets edgy in nature. I should realize her temperament is different than mine, and after fifteen years of marriage, I should be patient with her for being more prone to anxiety than me.

That’s what I should do. There’s that word again. But instead I kept thinking about how my hope has been that nature would have the restorative effect John Muir described in his book The Mountains of California while he was hiking in Yosemite Valley:

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you…while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

That’s what I wanted. I wanted nature to blow its freshness into me. I wanted to feel nature’s nourishing and sustaining peace. I wanted all my cares to drop off…like autumn leaves. I wanted us all to feel nature’s peace and have its freshness blown into us.

But that’s not what happened.

However, as L hiked ahead of us, D and I enjoyed nature in solitude, neither of us talking, both of us just being together, and not being excited or anything, and nature blowing its freshness and peace into each of us.

We saw our first wildlife at the trailhead, a blue and green peacock. We rounded a curve, and it stood on the other side of the trail ahead of us, looking like it had been abandoned in the preserve after a movie shoot.

D started to make silly noises, and I added my own weird sounds, and the peacock stared at us like we were the strange-looking creatures, and so we made more silly and weird noises. It was the perfect end to our hike.


The next weekend D and I went on a hike at a nature preserve near our home and D spotted a snake crossing the trail. It was ten feet away, and D stuck his fingers in his ears, while I took a picture of D and the snake.

I thought this was the end of the snake. But D told his mom about the snake. L compared my photo with snakes on the internet. Dhe determined it was a rattlesnake and called the park and texted my photo.

A park ranger told her it was California kingsnake from its flat, oval-shaped head. Rattlesnakes have a triangular head, diamond-pattern on its covering, and their main identifying trait is making a rattling sound, he said.

The point to this tale: a mother’s protective instinct, which expands far beyond snakes on hiking trails, can sometimes be wrong. But a father’s carelessness–mine–can also extend beyond a snake crossing a hiking trail.

I’m sure there is a lesson here: in distorted versus accurate perception, in playing it safe versus taking risks, or in avoiding danger or having an adventurous spirit. But, maybe, I am overthinking it: A snake crossed a trail,  and D did not get hurt.

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One Comment

  1. A round of applause for your blog post.Really thank you! Fantastic.