To tell you the truth, I’m not an outdoors-y person. At. All. When I was a kid, most of my play time was spent inside reading a book. Although I do love the beach, when I would go as a kid, I would just sit there with my nose in a book. My idea of camping still involves a hotel with room service and cable TV.
When Mother Nature gave us the first signs of spring last weekend, I was bound and determined to seize just such an opportunity to do things differently than I was used to. We needed to get out and get moving. Our house is across the street from the Tankerhoosen Wildlife Management area and the Belding Wildlife Management area in Vernon. We can literally see the trails and river from our driveway. We have lived here for 7 years and I’ve never set foot on the trails with my daughter. It was time for an adventure.
I was taking a big risk here. This particular adventure could have ended in total disaster before it started. I had visions of getting all the way to the trailhead only to have my daughter pitch a whiny fit about how tired she was or that she didn’t want to walk any more. I was also taking a risk for myself. What if I got out there and hated it? But it was so gorgeous out. I couldn’t justify one more minute inside the house. So off we went.
We drove down the road to the beginning of the trail, backpacks in tow. I told her we were going exploring on a nature walk to see what we could find. At first, she was a little tentative. I think she was overwhelmed by all the woodsy-ness of it all. There were leaves and sticks all over the ground at first. Once I told her that those were just sticks, not snakes, she got a little braver. She ran ahead of me to investigate some logs and from then on, it was awesome! She couldn’t contain her excitement.
We walked across bridges–a huge hit! We investigated tree bark with her magnifying glass–best $2 I’ve ever spent! We played follow the leader–totally exhausting to try to keep up with her. When we came to a section of the trail that was very steep, I thought my girl was going to wimp out and want to head home. But she was completely unafraid and conquered that “mountain!” It was totally worth it. At the top of the hill, if you peeked over a very old stone wall, you saw a very old cemetery. I explained to her what it was and she wanted to check it out. She asked me to read all the “messages” on the gravestones. I kept picturing “text messages from beyond” and it made me laugh. When we were done exploring, we sat for a cool drink and then made our way back down.
On our way out of the trail, we stopped to build a little house for a mouse on the side of the trail out of branches and pine needles. We chatted with other hikers who were out running their dogs. We even went to the muddy river bed to see fish in the water. We sang songs. It was the most beautiful, natural time that I’ve spent with my daughter since she was in the cuddly baby stage. I remember those times, after she had finished a bottle and snuggled against me so sweetly with a contented sigh, thinking that it would never be better or more perfect than this moment. But our adventure in the woods gave me the chance to step back and watch my beautiful girl like I hadn’t in a long time. There was no whining or complaining. There was nothing distracting us, no phone, no TV. There wasn’t even any yelling. It was just the two of us, the birds, and the babbling river and it was beautiful.
When it was time to head back, of course she didn’t want to leave. But I promised her, and myself, that we would come back soon.