This hike did not go according to plan

Published in October 2017 by Chaska Herald

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I really wanted to write an ode to nature. I wanted to twine shimmering description with delicate imagery and create something beautiful for you to read. I wanted to fall in love with this place. I wanted to share how a single pocket of beauty can make up for any swath of asphalt.

I was really looking forward to that.

It didn’t happen.

My husband and I arrived at the Minnesota Valley State trailhead off Highway 41 on a sunny, late September afternoon. The entrance was clearly marked just before the turn, I didn’t overshoot it in the slightest, the parking lot was spacious — all good signs.

I grabbed the camera and car keys. My husband, Ian, grabbed a water bottle and tucked his regular glasses into a pocket before slipping on a pair of prescription sunglasses.

Little did we know this one decision would change the course of our entire weekend.

We took a right and discussed the paved trail. Nice for biking, but it kind of felt like cheating. Like we were walking, not hiking. We decided to backtrack and head toward the river, but soon arrived at a trail segment that turned into sidewalk and veered toward downtown Chaska. Very nice if you wanted to detour for lunch, but we opted for a path beneath the bridge instead.

The trail instantly became more rustic, though the views of the river were rivaled by views of the road in some spots. We talked about “Holes” by Louis Sachar, and how it inspired us to dig up our parents’ lawns as children. We discussed unicycles, shamelessly anthropomorphized a passing spider and found a couple of spots where I could photograph the river without falling in.

I still didn’t know what I was going to write about, but we were having a lovely time.

The trail wound further and further away from traffic, until the din receded to a hum. It was grassier. Ian found a bright green katydid, which I tried to photograph, but those suckers blend in to their surroundings exceptionally well. So he found a leaf of an appropriately contrasting color and nudged the insect onto it.

It was beautiful. And I began to see a glimmer of what this story could be: an exercise in noticing the beauty of the smallest things around us.

I found a spray of red berries. Ian found a mushroom. Both were probably toxic. I found a swath of daisies. He quoted Robert Frost and made me laugh. It was wonderful. I could write about the beauty in little everyday things, and how good this trail would be for biking. Yes. That would do.

And we prepared to depart.

“Hang on,” Ian said. “My glasses.”

They were gone.

Now, it’s important to understand that, without his glasses, my husband is basically blind. We went with traditional wedding vows, but “I’ll always look for your glasses while you remain immobile because you’re so blind you might step on them and break them” would have been a reasonable addition.

And while he has a pair of prescription sunglasses, he doesn’t have anything else. We intended to keep his last pair of everyday glasses, even if the lenses were a bit wonky, but someone stole them out of our car last Christmas.

So we did what anyone else in our situation would do and turned back to search the trail. The everything-is-covered-with-dead-leaves, twilight-is-approaching trail.

We walked with downturned eyes and the toe-first shuffle of anyone who wants to find something without breaking it. I jumped at the crack of every twig, thinking it might be his frames, and all but dove to the ground at every glimmering square-inch of water caught in the cup of a leaf, praying it was a lens.

We searched more than a mile back, revisiting every place he may have bent over or brushed against something. I worked a grid around the branch he stumbled over while making a joke about mosquitos being the state bird.

But to no avail.

As we headed home, Ian called our optometrist to set up an appointment. Five days was the earliest they could manage, and he was required to get an exam. We sat silently for a moment as he got off the phone. Then I cracked, calling bull on that “required exam” part. It’s not required. There’s even a 2014 state law clarifying that fact. (Chapter 291, Article 10, Section 1).

He apologized for losing his glasses. I apologized for dragging him along on this assignment in the first place. It got very “Gift of the Magi” for a moment and he gave my hand a little squeeze when traffic put the “stop” into “stop and go.”

The evening grew darker and a second, somewhat desperate, call to the optometrist bumped the appointment up four days.

Ian whipped off his sunglasses and began listing all of the things he could see and joking — I hope joking — about how he could probably drive. He could see the white line, after all. And the yellow one. And most of the lights on the other cars — or were those stoplights? But he’d be fine just so long as any car in front of him was a bright, contrasting color.

And I don’t regret the hike at all. I’m not looking forward to paying for those glasses out of pocket, but, it isn’t even so much about what you see, so much as who you see it with.

Reporter’s Note: If you happen find a pair of gray glasses beneath the leaves on the Minnesota Valley State Trail, please let me know.