Growing up where I grew up, there was never a shortage of outdoor activities. Hiking, paddling, exploring of any type was, and still is bountiful.
I remember through high school, friends and I were always hitting the trails, hanging by the lakes, or grabbing some kayaks and paddling out to small islands for lunch.
As we grew older, one by one, my friends stopped. I kept on, and I won’t lie: it got lonely.
Solo hikes are fun sometimes, but when it’s all the time? Not very fun.
With the winter ending, the weather warming, and the sudden pause to daycare life last year, I knew my son needed a way to stretch his legs, and not only burn some energy – but use that noggin of his.
It was time my little one learned to read, and follow a trail.
We started small, hitting a trailhead just up the road from out house. A quick lunch break trip for me, and something new for him.
The plan was hike 20 minutes in, so it would be 20 minutes out. Just enough to dip his toes in to see if he liked it, get us out of the house, and away from our work (I had him doing preschool books while I worked).
I don’t know why I doubted that he would like it. This child of mine loves to just be outside, doing anything.
He’d sit in a mud puddle on a rainy day just to be out there.
He was hooked.
I started bringing my camera to capture photos of some of nature’s beauty along the trails, and to get some snaps of him really digging into this new thing for him.
After sharing a few with family and friends on Social Media, my boss caught wind, and suddenly, we were tasked with doing a sort of trail review for our coverage areas.
Get paid to go explore? And take photos of it? Well, that is pretty damned close to a dream job.
We went all over. Trails I knew in the various counties, and new trails we got to explore for the first time together.
He learned about the different fungi growing on the fallen logs, and live trees. We bird watched, and he learned how to identify some of the local birds. It became an outdoor classroom for him.
His favorite trails were the ones where we had to cross bridges. Actual spanning trail bridges, and smaller plank bridges.
We saw tad poles, and heard frogs alerting others to our proximity.
Each hike was a new adventure – even if it was a trail we had already done before.
Unfortunately, the weather got warmer, the ticks started to come out in force, and we put a pause to our hiking season.
As school started, and he started getting distracted by kid things, I’d wondered if he was done with hiking or not.
Turns out, I created a hiking fiend.
When the weather cooled, and it wasn’t so stifling wearing clunky hiking shoes and thick socks to fend off the creepy crawlies, back into the woods we went again.
As we ride out the boggy wetness of the winter thaw, and rainy season (which this year seems to be extra wet, and never ending), we’ve been making a list of trails we liked best from last year, and exploring new trails on online maps for us to check out.
Including a big five mile hike into a quiet beach cove a few towns south of us. He says he’s ready for it, and I believe him.