Story by

DeAnna McCasland

September 1st, 2015

The sun rose up over the mountain, waking us from our slumber to start a really busy day. When you run a farm, home school, and are nine-months pregnant, every day seems to be an obstacle course with errands and a never-ending to-do list. Sundays are no exception. On Sunday mornings we have a tradition: a big, from-scratch farm breakfast made by yours truly. When it's summer and you live in a cabin in the woods with no air conditioning, cooking and having to hand-wash all of those dishes may as well be a pregnant lady's worst nightmare. My husband looked at me and said, "Let's go out for breakfast and then swim in the creek today. It's too hot for much else." Music to my ears! I'm not sure if I was more excited to soak my poor swollen feet in the icy water or if it was because I didn't want to wash dishes that morning. Either way, I knew it was going to be a wonderful way to start our week. Our days were starting to be taken over by prepping for our homebirth for baby number three, planning our upcoming school year, and the everyday task of tending to animals and our garden. It's so refreshing when you can break away from the mundane and find something else to do with your family.

After breakfast at our local diner, we didn't have to travel too far to find this little slice of heaven. We live in a very small community of around 300 people, but West Virginia is filled with beauty. You never have to go too far for an outdoor adventure, even in a small town where there's "nothing to do." Adventure is often (and easily) found in our backyards if you just take the time to seek it out. Waites Run is a big part of our small community. It is a historic mining valley, dating back to the early 1800s that is filled with beautiful swimming holes fed with spring waters running from the Great North and Half Moon Mountains.

As we headed down the curvy dirt roads, I would love to say the trip started out magical and exciting. In reality, it was filled with your typical four-year-old whines about why we couldn't just swim and play in the community pool. While the community pool – packed with other kids swimming – may have looked inviting to a child, to an adult it looked like our worst nightmare. That was the last way we wanted to spend our afternoon together as a family. Not to mention, when you live in a place surrounded by nature, why would you want to visit somewhere made by man? We count our blessings each day to live here, and while our children may take it for granted now, one day they will look back on their childhoods and know that summers spent swimming in the mountain creeks were so much better for their souls than a chemically-filled pool.

I knew my son's complaint was more a result of fear. He's terrified of slipping on the rocks by the creek. But the only way to stop being afraid is to face those fears head on with your loved ones by your side. When we first arrived he would not even get off of a rock. He was perfectly content with sitting and watching us, every so often sticking his hands in the water to try to catch a minnow. As the afternoon went on (and he realized we were not going to be stopping at the pool), I turned my head to see him jumping around the water and even climbing up the small waterfalls with no fear at all.

Even after a few slips, instead of crying and begging to go home (like he has done in the past), he was back at it, exploring with his sister and our family dog. They turned the creek into their magical playground. We explored a few sections of the creek beds, finding all kinds of treasures, from plants to funny mushrooms we have never seen before. We identified bugs and loved trying to identify the trees by their leaves and bark. We watched how the old trees were starting to lean and dry up and looked for the new trees by them that were just starting to grow. The circle of life was all around us.

One of my favorite parts about exploring the forest is the sounds: the water running down over the rocks or the birds chirping. The low growl of a black bear up on the side of the mountain is something you most certainly would never get to experience at a community pool! My seven-year-old daughter has a fascination with Native Americans at the moment, so she spent time looking for arrowheads and trying to imagine what they may have used that area for. She was also fascinated by the different kinds of moss growing along the rocks. My husband taught her to soak up water with it and make a natural sponge. This kept her attention for quite some time!

My son was fascinated by the minnows and bugs we kept finding. His favorite was the really large centipede we stumbled across on a rock. My husband is a true mountain man, as he grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, so he just enjoyed being in nature, looking for wild life and getting to teach us.

After four hours of exploring the creek beds, it was time to load up to head home. Water has a magical way of washing away worries, to-do lists, and schedules. We hiked back to our car with a stinky, wet dog, two children grinning from ear to ear, and the comfort of knowing we helped our son finally face his fears about swimming in the "wild water," as he calls it. We were filthy and tired, but our hearts were full and refreshed for another busy week on our farm!

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