Today the kids and I decided to venture off the beaten path to do a day hike to Holy Jim Falls at Cleveland National Forest (ironically, NOT in Cleveland OR Ohio…but rather Orange County, CA) LOL! I found info about this trail on www.trails.com earlier this weekend where I read that this trail is considered an easy, beginners hike that is great for the family. I thought “Alrighty then, sounds like a great Sunday afternoon to me!”, so I packed the snackpack, piled the kids in the minivan, and busted a move to Lake Forest. After driving for about 45 minutes I arrived at O’Neill Park and asked the ranger where to park for the waterfall trails. Ranger Rick (no really, that was his name) tells me I have to go down the road to the country store and purchase a parking pass. So I turned around and headed off to the rinky dink general store (with a bunch of Harley bikers parked out front) and kindly asked the cashier for my day pass. The lady looked at me like I was a bit crazy, but took my money and told me to head up the dirt path. “Dirt path?” I say. She says “Yes Ma’am, you drive about 4 miles up that there off road path and then park by the volunteer fire station.” I thought it sounded a bit odd that the road was not paved and I had to pay to drive it, but I had made a promise to my kids to hike the falls, so I set on my merry way. About 5 minutes into our adventure it dawned on me that I was literally in the middle of NO WHERE, with NO real road to follow, TONS of boulders, pebbles, dust and streams, and I was in a friggen MINIVAN with 3 kids. AM I CRAZY?! My 13yr old was in the back seat telling me to drive faster so he can tell his friends he went extreme off roading, my 1oyr old kept saying that she was nervous we were going to drive off a cliff and my 6yr old just kept asking “ARE WE THERE YET?”, lol. As time passed a few of Jeeps, 4×4′s and trucks ended up passing me by (while laughing at me), but I was determined to make it to our destination. I rolled down my windows, put on my shades, and maintained a steady 3MPH moving onward ho! Yeah, so about an hour later I finally made it to the trails. WooHoo!!! Once we got there I ended up getting tons of high fives and props from the avid off road enthusiasts who proceeded to tell me they actually had bets about WHO was going to bail the minivan mom out of a pothole on the way back. Ha! I showed them. Anyways, we made our pit stop at the lovely port-a-potties and then ventured off into the forest. It wasn’t a difficult hike per say, but if any of you families with young kids are thinking about doing this hike, I will forewarn you that there are 4 or 5 creeks to cross (balance required), and there are some slippery inclines to navigate. Fortunately the kids brought their hiking sticks, so that helped to balance out our 45 minute hike up to the falls. The scenery was breathtaking and we were able to see many different varieties of flowers, plants and succulents. The weather was perfect and the air was cool & brisk. For me, the best part of the adventure was watching my kids happily run, jump, climb, and leap across all of the rocks and streams. It reminded me of when I was a kid, and it made me smile. Living in SoCal we tend to lose those small town values and miss out on the enjoyment I personally experienced as a child growing up in Ohio. On afternoons like this one, I feel like we get a glimpse of “down home” values and suddenly everything feels simple and uncomplicated again…if only EVERY day felt like this. All sappiness aside, I have to say I am feeling pretty darn bad ass for showing the kids that MOMS can be tomboys too! #MyMiniVanRocks!!!