I consider myself to be the pioneer of my children's minds. Their mom plays a role, obviously, but as their dad I'm tasked with a few extra-fun things like introducing them to ice fishing and teaching them how to wield a drill and explaining how to keep their elbows in and head down when throwing that good ol' fashioned night night blow. “Jump like a grasshopper and bite like a beaver,” I always say.

Pioneering a spirit of adventure in Pioneertown

Just kidding.

We don't jump like grasshoppers. That would be impossible. Their knees are backward.

Pioneering a spirit of adventure in Pioneertown

This past weekend, the boys were introduced to the concept of pioneering. We took what Chelsea calls a “quick jaunt” (it was like half an hour) up from Joshua Tree to a place called Pioneertown. This faux Old West setting was created in 1946 by a bunch of Hollywood investors. Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were among the financial backers, and for a couple decades, this served as the must-see living set where movies were filmed in facade saloons and stables that housed real-life, fully-functional ice cream parlors and bowling alleys for visiting families to enjoy.

Pioneering a spirit of adventure in Pioneertown

Nowadays the town buildings are home to some gift shops, a surprisingly-good barbecue joint and an authentic saddlery.

Pioneering a spirit of adventure in Pioneertown

The boys scoped out the rich leather, wide-eyed, as the shopkeeper showed them the intricate tools he uses to make fine grooves and etchings and bend the hide. When it comes to leather, personally, I need little more than my nose. The scent is basically intoxicating and just about rivals mint for me.

Old tools in a golf cart

Not content to play by the rules and remain hands-off, my small exploring vikings scurried around the building's weathered exterior where they found the owner's worn-down golf cart filled with a bunch of sun-aged and hard-worked tools. We reflected momentarily on this meeting of old and new as their small hands turned the splintering wood base of the hammer over. The ‘ping'-battered and slightly rusty head which was a relic to the age of “work to be done” was just another glimpse into the past.

Toddler checking out the chicken coop

Next on the docket were some livestock pens. Chickens discreetly lay eggs and goat milk is used for soap-making between the saloon and the bathhouse. This is nothing new to our kids: we have livestock in our backyard, but we don't have to rely solely on our own work to produce the food that we eat. We talked about the original pioneers, who traveled in covered wagons (ironically similar to our cross-country trailer adventures) and settled their land (not too unlike our fixer-upper farmhouse). I mean, sure, they were desperately trying to survive the untamed wild frontier and I'm over here desperately watching Chelsea work through a book of paint swatches…but you get the idea.

Old-school clothesline and an outhouse

Chelsea darted across the way to demonstrate how clothes used to exclusively be hung up instead of dried in a machine. After a bit of discussion about the utility of a clothesline as a fort-mast, the boys decided that Chelsea should start hand-drying all of our clothing.

She politely declined.

Snack time for 3 boys at the general mercantile store

With a history lesson under our belts and all this talk of food, it was time for a snack. Minion's ever-present bear backpack is now a constant source of gluten-free Zbar Protein from our sponsor CLIF Kid. Those come in handy when the kids (or mama or dada) need an energy boost, whether we're on an epic journey or rough-housing our way around the local cafe. And being in a pioneer town, it was sort of funny realizing my two-year-old was unwittingly my food mule. I mean, someone has to be the pack animal.

Hands-on with some old machinery

Finally, under the heat of the high noon sun, we made our way back to the car – but not without a few last hands-on experiences.

Pioneering a spirit of adventure in Pioneertown

Our lesson for the day was complete and my pioneering was over.

For now…