The tagline of this blog (see title above) was chosen for a reason.
At the end of last school year, I made it a goal of mine to get the kids out hiking a bunch this summer. The woods are such a magical and sacred place; I have so many fond memories of hiking alone as a twenty-something and just being at home there. I love the smells of the earth, the quiet and isolation, the views that can be enjoyed when you decide to hike up a trail as opposed to just along one, and the way your muscles engage with every step and make you feel all powerful.
Well, want to know how many times we hiked this summer? Once. And that was today, the day before back-to-school. I am really cutting it close, huh? I always make all these grand plans, yet rarely do I follow through on any of them. This just happens to be my way.
I took the girls to Devil’s Hopyard State Park to hike a trail I did with some fourth graders on a field trip this past spring. I knew it was going to be a challenge for them and it was. In the best possible way. Almost right away, the trail became pretty steep and Frances slipped and fell on a wet boulder. She slid down the rock a way and got a little banged up. She started to cry because I think it scared her (and me!), and also because she’s a pretty big wimp. To her credit, she did not ask to cover up her dirty/scraped leg with a towel, which she sometimes does, just so she doesn’t have to look at it and be reminded she is injured, no matter how slight. She got up, brushed off, and firmly reached out for my hand, which she held tightly for most of the rest of the climb, letting go only on the flat parts, where there were few rocks and roots.
Nora was much more sure-footed. She took to the hill confidently, saying every few minutes, “This is really fun.” I was impressed and surprised with how well she did given that any time she’s ever attempted some kind of athletic endeavor—except for bike riding, which she seems to excel at—she flubs, leaving me wondering how two parents who were both three-sport athletes could’ve given birth to such an awkward and clumsy child.
The highlight of the hike on the way up was some felled trees that made a bridge across a small creek. The girls thought it was pretty cool they had to maneuver across and keep their balance to get to the other side, without falling in the water. Frances held tight to my hand on the way up, but rocked it like a pro going solo across on the way back down.
At the top of the trail, as we were nearing the vista, Frances yelled, “Wow! I can see it! Look at all those trees!” This was the reason I had chosen this particular hike. I admired the view too when I had seen it, and thought the girls would be impressed. When we reached the clearing of the tree line, we came upon a young couple. The woman had been crying and was trying to wipe away her tears. I glanced with some concern at her quickly and then had the girls sit near the edge to take in the view and enjoy the trail mix I had made them. I turned around to look at the couple again and noticed the ring on the young woman’s finger.
I called to them, “Did you just get engaged?!”
They admitted they had, and I told them we were sorry for having interrupted their moment. Ha! I’m glad it had already happened and that we hadn’t come upon them sooner in the middle of the act! I offered to take their picture, and they returned the favor.
When we got back to the parking lot and our car, we decided to hike to another spot to see the falls. The girls were super impressed by the sight of these too and the turtle they spied sunning itself on a nearby rock.
On they way back to the car, we passed by a large creek. Nora, ever the explorer (not to be confused with her rhyming namesake, Dora), wanted to wade in and look for creatures. I let the girls take off their socks and shoes to wade around in the water, which soon turned into an underwear-only swim party. It was the highlight of the morning.
When we were driving away from the park I thanked the girls for spending such a special time with me doing something I love. I told them that I had had so much fun.
Frances said, “Well, I didn’t think it was really that much fun. It was so hot, I was sweating so much, and I was just exhausted coming down. And the bugs were getting me and the grass was too high sometimes. And I did fall on that rock, remember?”
Yeah, yeah. Well, it was fun for me. And we do get to cross off hiking on the unofficial summer bucket-list.
And now I can make grand plans to add some more hiking into this upcoming fall season, and then fail to actually make it happen. Because that is just my way. 🙂