Don’t bother double checking your calendar or regret throwing away that dried up tree you tossed out a few weeks ago. Just bear with me on this one…

Christmas 2013 is not over for two reasons. One is that we still have Christmas gifts to mail and thank you notes to send out. The second is that we still have our Christmas story to tell. I have not figured out how to connect this website directly to UPS but this blog will at least allow us to share our Christmas adventure with the world.

Christmas morning… the children come storming into Mom and Dad’s bedroom way too early for a couple of people who were up way too late drinking wine and wrapping presents from Santa. Their excitement overpowers any hopes of just a few more moments of precious sleep and we are forced out of our beds so we can shuffle into the living room and display all the surprise and astonishment that we can muster at the fact that the miracle of Christmas happened once again. Blurry eyed, we watch as hours of delicate present-wrapping is undone in a matter of moments and only hope that hundreds of hard earned dollars spent are at least somewhat appreciated.

Well, that is how it goes for us… every other year. On those off-years, Ivan shares that experience with his mom, which is the way things have to go for parents with separate households. This year was one of those off-years and we woke up to an empty nest with his arrival not scheduled until 3 pm.

Some years we enjoy these quiet Christmas mornings with a Screwdriver or a Blood Mary. Others we frantically wrap his Christmas presents because sometimes there is really no better way to feel truly alive than to experience the pressure of waiting until the last minute to get things done. This year, however, we started a new tradition.

One of the best things about living in Greenville is the climate and the proximity to the mountains. Therefore we elected to take advantage of these geographic qualities and spend Christmas morning doing something truly unique.

Christmas morning we went for a hike.

It was a chilly but sunny Christmas morning, we had half the day to spend to ourselves and we live less than ten minutes from Paris Mountains State Park. So we packed a bag of snacks and drinks, laced up our hiking boots and Chris donned a Santa hat for warmth and festive Christmas-trail cheer. Our only fear was that like everything else, the park would be closed and our Christmas fun would literally die at the gate. I suppose we could have called ahead but that really is not our style so we cruised on up the road and hoped for the best.

We received our first official Christmas present of the day when we discovered that not only was Paris Mountain State Park open but admission was FREE. I guess the state parks and recreation division was feeling the spirit of Christmas as well and they made a kind gesture to the handful of adventurers that shared our desire to spend the morning in the woods. By handful, I mean we saw less than five other cars in the entire park and even less people to show for them. The natural serenity of the parks trails was certainly amplified by the almost complete absence of human existence.

We started at the furthest end of Paris Mountain State Park and ventured out on a roughly six mile loop around North Lake (also known as Reservoir Three because it was actually part of the Greenville water supply way back when).  Just because we wanted to go for a hike does not mean we wanted to work too hard on Christmas so we picked out a relatively easy trails that resembled a casual walk more than a strenuous climb. We started on Brissy Ridge Trail, hopped on Pipsissewa and then did the North Lake Loop before returning the way we came in.

I should also admit that I spent most of our time on the Pipsissewa Trail just saying the word “Pipsissewa.”  I think it might be one of my favorite things to say and I now feel compelled to say it out loud a few times right now…

…Ok, now I have that out of my system. Anyway, the biggest surprise of the day came about a mile from our car at the end of the hike. While we were strolling around the lake, some jolly soul hiked into the trail and decorated a random pine tree in the woods.  Covered in red balls and gold tinsel, the tree also held a note to the forest ranger that promising that “the elves” would return to remove the decorations after Christmas. Furthermore, this note was signed by “Mrs. Claus.”

Naturally this gave us a pretty good laugh and we spent the last mile of our hike giggling about this random act of Christmas decorating with me still saying “Pipsissewa” from time to time. We got home just in time to take a couple showers, have a snack, snatch the kiddo, and head over to my parents’ house to watch them bicker.

Obviously it would have been my preference to wake up to an excited eight-year-old still enamored by the idea of Santa Claus. I have to think that we only have another Christmas or two (at best) to watch him cling to this innocent belief in the guy with the flying sleigh. Since that was not an option, however, we were delighted to spend a quiet Christmas morning together in the woods.

The hike reminded us that we live in a pretty awesome part of the world where we can go from downtown to a hiking trail in under ten minutes and, even better, not be miserable hiking through the woods in December. As a bonus it was a pleasure to see the Christmas spirit of the folks who elected to open the park for free and the mystery person (or people) who snuck into the woods to decorate a Christmas tree just for a laugh. After weeks of watching people attempt to trample each other to death or mow strangers down in traffic just so they can get the perfect pieces of plastic crap to put under their trees, it was a pleasure to enjoy the serenity of the woods with a few subtle hints of the true spirit of Christmas.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this might turn into an every-other-year tradition. Merry almost-a-month-after-Christmas folks! Now we just have to mail some presents…
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