A little over a year ago my husband introduced me to this sweet little hiking spot only a few miles from our house. It's a nature preserve that connects to a very large park, and there are several trails and lots of creeks and rickety pallet bridges. Watching our kids leap with joy as soon as they leave the car; to run to the entrance and look at the trails beyond, well, it's really done wonders for my soul.
I think it's even safe to say that this is one of my new happy places.
Give me a horse, open fields, and nothing but barns in sight and I am definitely a happy girl, but since those moments + opportunities are few and far between--hiking is such a sweet spot. And not just for me, but for all of us.
Today the forecast predicted sixty degrees and as soon as I woke, I ran to the windows and started pushing them open. We vacuumed and mopped and I de-cluttered the entryway. "You DO know it IS still February," my husband joked. YES! But as soon as spring starts to even FLIRT with this state, I am one and done with preparations. Our kids [and I] have been antsy and ornery and stir-crazy for days. It always happens this time of year, because our hearts and souls crave for more. We yearn to be pulled away from the mundane, and I really believe it's because we need something: we long to hear the snaps and cracks of twigs breaking under feet, to listen to leaves crunching beneath our tennis shoes, and to watch silently as we pray that a deer or two will cross our paths.
There is something majestic about being in the woods. And kids NEED it. I've taught so many students who don't get this opportunity--who aren't familiar with the concept of an hour or two away in nature. And this really isn't their fault; many are wards of the state, living in one residential facility to the next, so whenever I am in the classroom I work hard to get them outside--to look at the different twigs and branches, leaves and grass. To FEEL the soil between their fingers, because y'all, nature is healing.
Today was a day that our soul needed that and I'm encouraging YOU to do the same. As soon as your temperatures allow for tennis shoes + hoodies, go! Take some snacks + drinks and play I Spy while you run alongside your littles, because I PROMISE, they will thank you. Our kids are different people when they're just surrounded by nature; their laughter is different, their attitude towards each other is different, and they have an innate way about them to just be present where we are. I am so tired of iPads and iPhones and TV's. My heart craves warm breezes + deer walking feet ahead of me; and by golly, today God gave me both.
An enlightening realization while we were walking: I don't like winter. I know, WHAT?! I am from Michigan, I do love snow, when it actually snows, but really and truly?! I would be good with sixty and seventy degree weather year round I think. "Why do you keep trying to move us to Michigan then?!!" my husband said. "Well, that's DIFFERENT," I defended. Ha ha, but seriously. I love color, and full trees, and warm sunlight, and kids who can be outdoors without needing thirty layers and lasting only five minutes IN them.
What a blessing that today allowed all of us to loosen up our hearts and just be outside. The benefits to hiking and just being outdoors are endless too, guys. Better sleep at night, exercise in ALL aspects: physically, mentally, emotionally. The fact that it's a total mood booster, feeling less stressed. I could go on. And children can learn SO much. We talked about the mushrooms that we saw, the different types of trees and branches, how the deer varied in their colors. Sigh. Can we go back tomorrow?!
Also, Reese with her Goldfish kills me. Ha ha!! I swear this girl thinks as soon as she GETS to the trails, she just needs to eat AND run. Hhhmmm, Reesie girl, there's a reason you tripped more than once this afternoon! ;)
Anyway, y'all--if you get the chance, please, please, find a park, find some trails, and go explore with your kiddos. Even if it's for ten or fifteen minutes, it's an opportunity to reset, re-charge, and completely boost your spirits.
And I'd love to hear from you! Have you taken your kids hiking or exploring? Where do you like to go? What are some tips and tricks you've learned? We are going to the mountains of North Carolina this spring [our first time sleeping in a TENT with all of us, Lord help me!!!!!] and then are heading to Myrtle Beach for a beach trip. Mountains + Ocean--something I've longed for the kids to see since they were born! And now we are actually GOING! SO: because I'm really only used to like, HOUR long hikes? Send me all your must do's and must pack items, PLEASE!
Kiddos are wearing their trusty Tsukihoshi tennis shoes--I could not swear by this brand and these shoes more. They are durable, trustworthy, and COMFORTABLE!!