The critical to-do list

There were plenty of things to do on Sunday. My apartment was a complete disaster as I still had to unpack from Saturday’s amazing bike tour of Niagara County. The sink was full of dirty dishes. (I don’t have a dishwasher in my apartment. I know. By First World standards it’s practically Calcutta.) My kitchen floor was in dire need of a washing and the laundry pile was high. Then there were the other assorted tasks — books to read, an exam to study for, odds and end for work I could have attended to.

In other words, there was no shortage of items on my to-do list.

The beautiful trail at Golden Hill State Park.

But I chose a completely different option. I let my apartment keep the ransacked look and instead decided to take a drive with my dad to the shores of Lake Ontario and Golden Hill State Park. Both of us love to hike. Both of us love trails and being outside. And neither of us had even been to this location. Truth be told, I had not even heard of the place until recently. This gap in our regional park and hiking trail knowledge needed to be fixed. The dishes could wait.

Golden Hill State Park is on Lake Ontario, on the eastern edge of Niagara County bordering with Orleans County. It is a New York State Park which features camping and fishing. But it is also home to the Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse, built in 1876 to warn vessels of a sandbar which had caused several nautical incidents. The lighthouse gets its name from being 30 miles from the mouth of the Niagara River. Golden Hill gets its name from the golden rod growing in abundance in the region.

Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse

A bit of history and a beautiful fall walk in the woods? It’s like this place was tailor made for me and my dad. We walked in wonder at our previous ignorance as the well-groomed trails wound around the lake’s edge and through forest and meadows. The fall day was warmer than we anticipated and the trails were longer than we thought. The hike was about exploring, “taking a look-see” as my father calls it. Not about training or time or degree of difficulty. This, in part, is one of the reasons I love training — it provides me with the base to explore and be active and enjoy my surroundings.

I couldn’t help but think of a story that’s been making the rounds among my Facebook friends. It’s been around for a while with a few variations and different titles, but the one I like best is The Mayonnaise Jar & Two Beers. And the part I kept thinking of was the basic moral of the story:

“If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.”

Yep. Cleaning the house and taking care of paperwork? That can wait. Exploring history and hiking with my dad? That’s what’s truly critical. The rest is just filler.

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