We were talking to the Park Ranger, standing in front of the Visitors Center. “We are looking for a flat stretch of land to run on in the morning. Is there any place you could recommend?” He studied us for a second and then motioned to the Visitors Center, “That porch right there is it.” Oh great, a Park Ranger with a sense of humor.
We continued to press him for a better answer, and he told us that once a year they run a 5k through the park. He showed us on the map where to run so we could follow the same route as the 5k. Perfect!
Stephanie and I got up at 5:30 to get the run completed before it got too hot. On our drive to the starting point to the day’s run, we were pleased to see very little traffic, since we would be running on the roads going through the park.
We have never been to Beavers Bend before. It is hard to put into words how beautiful this park is compared to the other lakes and state parks we have visited before. I think a lot of it is the water. There are many streams and pools of water where the water is perfectly still.
The run was great. We must have seen 100 deer, and all of them really couldn’t care less that we might go by within 10 feet of them. There were lots of folks out, mainly fishing from the low bridges that cross the streams. I even think I saw our funny Park Ranger with a fishing pole, dressed in his civilian clothes.
After our run, we went back to the lodge (a Beaver’s house is called a lodge), showered and grabbed the kids. We had intentions of going horseback riding today and we wanted to be there for the first departure of the day at 10am.
Fortunately, it is a short drive within the park to the riding stables, and we walked up to the ticket window at 10:01. We could see riders already getting lined up to mount their horses for the ride. It was not looking good that we would make it on this tour. But Stephanie is really good at dropping not-so-subtle hints. “Are we here too late for the 10:00 ride? We were really hoping to get on at 10:00”, she asked the ticket-taker. He hooked us up.
The folks operating the riding business were an interesting cast of characters. The leader was an older woman with a slight hunch back, who continually barked out instructions to her team of teenaged boys. Everything was an emergency to her, and she treated them all as if it was their first day on the job.
I handed our tickets to the young man running the gate. “How are you doing?” I asked. “I’m doing” was all he said. That sounds about right.
We lined up and waited for our horses. “Grandma” was pacing back and forth in front of us. She would point to one of us riders and then yell out a horse’s name she wanted assigned to that rider. It never fails that one of the girls always gets to ride a horse named “King”, and we were all disappointed when Grandma assigned King to a rider who wasn’t in our family.
There was a large group of riders on this excursion. I would guess between 20 and 25 horses and riders. Once everybody was on a horse, they gave all the obligatory warnings to us and we were off. They put me on the biggest horse in the stable, a Tennessee Walking Horse named “Frosty”. When I expressed excitement that I was on a Tennessee Walking Horse, the teenager said, “Well, maybe it is a Texas Walking Horse. I don’t know.” I do not see a long career in equine management for this fellow.
The horseback ride itself lasted about 45 minutes. They took us on a well-worn trail back into the woods, where we did a short loop and came back on the same trail. We saw plenty of deer on the horseback ride as well. Quite a few young fawns with their spots still on were bounding through the pine trees.
Miles entertained himself through the entire ride by referring to my horse as “Ol’ Gluestick” and encouraging his own horse, Bubba, to pass mine. But these horses had their own little pecking order, and if one horse tried to pass another, the lead horse let them know they were not pleased.
Out of all of us, Marissa had the best fit of horse & rider. She was issued a little horse named “Goldy” that had a pink saddle blanket and reigns, which matched Marissa’s shirt and hat. She looked like a natural.
As we dismounted the horses, a large crowd had arrived and was in line for the 11:00 riding. We were so glad we were able to be squeezed into the first ride of the day.
On our way back to the lodge, we stopped at the Visitors Center to check things out. There was a small and extremely crowded gift shop that we spent some time in. While there, I overheard the following conversation between a husband and wife:
Husband: Can we go? We’ve been here for 10 minutes!
Wife: I’m shopping for the kids. It’s harder than you think.
Husband: It’s really not.
We got back to the lodge, ate some lunch, and hung out for several hours. Through a silent consent, I think we all agreed that spending the heat of the day inside our air-conditioned lodge was a great idea.
During lunch, there was a discussion of what we were eating and the long list of ingredients. You would be surprised how even the most basic of foods has a dozen ingredients. At this point, KK told us, “I don’t eat anything that I can’t pronounce. That’s why Miller Lite is so good.”
Later, we loaded up in our vehicles and drove over to the marina so we could go for a boat ride. Scott had been trained on how to drive the boat the previous weekend, but during that training the boat was probably not loaded down with 8 people, 2 rafts, 3 noodles and a large ice chest.
Once we got loaded in the boat, and we were convinced the boat wasn’t going to sink, we pushed out from our slip and hit the open water.
At this point, it is a good time to mention the main directive of this vacation – recreation. KK and PK made it clear from the beginning stages of our planning that this should be a laid back trip. We succeeded.
We tooled around on the lake for a short bit until we found a cove to beach the boat on. We spent the next several hours floating on rafts and noodles, enjoying refreshing beverages, and soaking up the sun. This made for happy parents. And keeping the parents happy is high on our list.
Since we arrived at Beavers Bend, Mallory has been anxious to try water skiing. Miles and Marissa also expressed an interest. So, Scott and I took the kids out on the boat to give it a try. We left Stephanie, KK and PK back at the cove recreating. Everybody was happy.
We didn’t need to go very far to find a suitable place. I volunteered to go first so I could demonstrate the proper technique to the kids. This is almost laughable since I might have water skied once in the past 10 years.
As luck would have it, Scott ran the boat to perfection and got me out of the water. It was great to hear the kids cheering me on from the boat as I was pulled along behind.
Mallory was the first kiddo to give it a try since she had been the most vocal about trying it. We got her skies adjusted and I gave her a quick tutorial. She was ready go to!
We gave Mallory two tries to get up. She was just a second away from being full-blown up on the skies, but it was a great effort.
Miles got in next. He also had some good efforts. If he had not been trying to get up with his skies 5 feet apart, he might have had better luck!
Much to my surprise, Marissa was also adamant that she give it a try. I spent quite a bit of time in the water with her getting the skies adjusted and explaining how to position herself, but the skies were just too big for her to control. She was unable to keep them pointing straight up. Too bad for Marissa, but maybe next time she’ll have better luck.
We corralled the rest of our group at the cove and took the boat back to the marina. We spent a little extra time driving the boat around the extreme houseboats docked there. One of them was hosting a wedding later in the day, as it was all decorated with pink ribbons and bows.
By the time we got back to the lodge, it was after 8:00. Time for dinner! Grilled pork chops and stove top stuffing was the perfect answer to our hunger.
One thing we have learned so far on this trip – relaxation is hard work.