Sometimes a day does not go as planned and it winds up being even better than expected. That is exactly what happened when we went to the Open House at the Pequest Trout Hatchery in Oxford, New Jersey. My original expectations for the day were pretty low. I thought we’d see the young fish and learn a little about trout fishing in New Jersey. I didn’t expect that the kids would have so much fun doing other things as well.
The trip started out the way I had expected. First, we stood outside the fish nursery and looked through large windows. We saw tanks filled with trout fry and fingerlings, but it was difficult for the kids to see them through the glare while I was awkwardly holding them up to the windows. We walked to the large pools called raceways where the nearly 700,000 trout live before they are released into public waters. It was also a little difficult for the kids to see the fish in the pools, but they enjoyed watching the fish jump out of the water every once in a while.
We walked away from the raceways and saw a few children rolling down a hill. Luke and Leah watched in amazement. I realized at that moment that my children had never really rolled down a hill- at least not one of this size. This was a perfect hill for rolling, and this opportunity could not be passed up. I looked at the kids and just said, “Go ahead!” They took off running and promptly laid their little bodies at the top of the hill. They rolled “crayon style” down the hill over and over again. At the end of each roll, they’d pause for a moment, say, “Whoa, I’m dizzy!” and stumble back up the hill to do it again. I loved watching their expressions of joy as they faced me, faced the sky, faced the top of the hill, faced me again. Honestly, I wanted to join in, but I didn’t want to look like a fool. Next time, if the opportunity presents itself, I promised myself that I will roll, too.
After at least 10 rolls down the hill, they both decided they were dizzy enough, so we headed to the indoor exhibit. The room held dusty stuffed animals- not the cuddly kind- the hunted and mounted kind. I was going to suggest that we leave since I really dislike those types of exhibits, but we noticed a crowd in the far corner of the room and wanted to see what they were doing. We were surprised to find out it was a demonstration about the snakes native to New Jersey. Both Luke and Leah were equally enthralled and repulsed by the snakes. I really don’t mind snakes, but I don’t necessarily want to get close to them either. We listened to the speaker tell us about a couple of the snakes. He asked if we’d like to touch one. Leah was scared, but I reminded her how brave she was when she touched a tarantula. She held out one finger and gently pet the snake. I did the same. Luke was timid at first, but as he touched one snake and then another, he became braver. He finally let the man drape a snake around his shoulders. I was shocked. I think Luke was, too. His face was priceless as a mix of excitement and disbelief registered in his smile.
Before we left the hatchery, we stopped by the skeet shooting and archery demonstrations. Luke was extremely disappointed that he wasn’t old enough to try them, but I was relieved.
The Open House offered more opportunities for new experiences than I expected, and I am glad for it. Sometimes the best days are the ones you really don’t expect to be great.