(This is part two of a two-part series where writer Christina Blacken takes the Ford Bronco Sport to Chicago’s surrounding wilderness).
The highlights of my childhood are the times my family and I spent connecting on the water. We’d take out our small family boat that sits six to seven comfortably to the local dam - a cavernous body of water that supplied the drinking supply for my hometown of Ogden, Utah, located in a canyon area right outside of the small city.
This body of water felt as expansive as playing in the Atlantic Ocean, when you’re a landlocked kid. We’d vacillate between activities, our uncles steering the boat in a whiplash back and forth creating waves. Their goal was to tip us off of floaties catapulted in the boat’s wake as we squealed in joy. We’d also quietly rig fishing poles and test our tried and true method of catching unsuspecting fish by singing a jingle my Uncle Carl created to entice the fish that detailed our fishing instructions: “Reeeeeel stop, jiggaty jig jiggg, stop.”
Outdoors wasn’t just water sports for us, we also camped, climbed trees, and I even went snowboarding (just one time, and mostly used my body as the board down the mountain side with each clumsy fall).
After living through 2020, one of the goals I wrote down for myself was to continue to experience new things I hadn’t done before. It’s easy to get into a comfort zone rut especially after a year of quarantining and limiting routines. I hopped into my Ford Bronco Sport, inserted the address into the GPS on the SUV’s eight-inch touchscreen and was off on my second day of excursions outside of the city of Chicago to do something I had never done before: goat yoga. Yes you read that right. This is yoga, with a twist. I had heard about goat yoga over the years and thought at first it was a one-off spoof activity.
But it originated from Oregon farm owner Lainey Morse who found comfort in spending time with her goats after a period of depression following a divorce and an autoimmune disease diagnosis. After inviting her friends over to do the same, dubbing the activity “Goat Happy Hour,” one of her friends was a yoga instructor who suggested they conduct yoga classes in Morse’s mountain-view field. From there, the idea went viral and grew legs of its own. The cuteness of goats, the strengthening and stretch of yoga, and calmness of nurture is a powerful oxytocin and dopamine punch I couldn’t resist.
I arrived at Nature Trail Yoga in my Ford Bronco Sport Sunday morning of day two of my outdoor adventure trip, and as soon as I moseyed up the small dirt road to the sprawling wooden home on a large plot of land, I was already amped for the experience I was about to have. Fittingly, I used one of the Ford Bronco Sport’s available G.O.A.T. modes™️* (Sport mode, to be exact) on the way there to improve the 4x4 SUV’s acceleration and steering precision on the highway.
Next to a small dirt parking lot was a fenced in area for the goats, all bleating and making noises as the goat yoga crew rolled in. After signing in with the instructor who came around to confirm reservations, we were each assigned a goat to walk up the stone path to a beautiful small river with a bridge behind the home for photos. My goat was named Sushi, who had a feisty personality as funny as his name and a will to do what he wanted when he wanted, like stopping every few feet to nibble at leaves.
After our photo shoot we entered a side door of the home that opened into a very large dining room area that was fenced off, yoga mats and blankets neatly laid around the perimeter of the room for us to find a comfortable seat in. We were told that this would be an entry level class, and that the goats would roam free throughout the session. There were about 15 students in the class and about eight goats total, all different ages, shapes and sizes. I caught some fun shots of the goats as they curiously poked around the room, clearly used to seeing people contorting themselves into child’s pose, downward dog, and warrior two poses. The goats licked, poked, walked, nibbled at clothes and accessories and even napped on yoga mats. It was a bit challenging to stay focused on the poses when a goat comes up and licks your back or pokes its head between your legs, but the cuteness factor and cuddle breaks were well worth it.
At the end of the session we all had the chance to have a goat gently placed upon our backs for the experience and of course the photo op, so I couldn’t miss that. By the end of the session I felt like I had a good stretch and enough laughs to last me well beyond my first goat yoga experience. I headed back to my Ford Bronco Sport, which conveniently opens automatically through my key fob when I’m close. I put my bags in the back of the SUV, with its best-in-class maximum cargo volume** with under-seat storage.
After yoga, I grabbed a quick bite at a local diner before heading to my final stop of the weekend trip, a stroll through Sag Valley Trail, which is miles of looping and connecting unpaved trails that take visitors to some of the most remote areas of Cook County. I pulled my Ford Bronco Sport, with its available off-road capability***, onto the side of the road near the entrance of the trails and made my way into the first trail I laid my eyes on, winding through trees, fallen stumps, and alcoves. This is the first time in a long time where I walked in complete silence, taking in every color, smell, sight and sound around me. I was completely alone until I heard clopping steps on the trail ahead of me where a woman on a horse entered the path, gently directing her mare to trot up the trail. It was a beautiful and serene way to end a dynamic, yet calming trip.
I’ve lived in cities for over a decade now, and the hustle and bustle of a city lifestyle is something that is part of who I am and has contributed to so much growth for me by being in a dynamic, creative, and diverse environment full of change and cultural exchange. Yet, it’s always important to slow down, and venture right outside of your comfort zone whether it’s to zip line through a treetop, kayak across a shoreline, or do yoga with a goat on your back. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you.
* The Terrain Management System includes 5 standard G.O.A.T. Modes: Sand, Slippery, Sport, Eco and Normal. Some available additional modes: Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.
** Class is Non-Premium Subcompact Utility.
*** With available all-terrain tires.
Christina Blacken is a writer, performer, and public speaker on the topics of inclusive leadership and culture change, and is the founder of TheNewQuo.com, a leadership development and inclusion consultancy.