New Year, New Hike

Count me among those who find New Year’s resolutions tiresome.  People who make a big deal out of them in January almost invariably don’t mention them by December.  Maybe the word resolution has too much baggage.  Or maybe it seems most people who make resolutions are trying to make wholesale changes in their lives, which is difficult and often doomed to fail.

So when my wife told me that the local state park was offering ranger-led hikes on New Year’s Day, the cynic in me said it was a way to grab all those people who recently decided to commit to exercise.   And yet I thought it was a great idea for our family because it was consistent with activities that we already do, like getting 10,000 steps a day.

The timing for the ranger-led hike didn’t work for our family so we chose a family-friendly hike along Cabe Lands Trail in Eno River State Park. Surprisingly, my son’s three-year-old legs made it the whole 1.2 miles. And my five-year-old daughter probably did twice that after spending the first ten minutes challenging herself to run to the next bend of the trail and back in 30 seconds.

It was peaceful being surrounded by woods.  And it made me realize that I don’t spend nearly enough time in nature.  Growing up on ten acres of land in Asheville meant that I spent most of my youth exploring the woods, mostly by myself. This exploration was supplemented by daily bike rides to the pool during the summer and weekly hikes with my family along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Sometime between then and now, I lost this exposure to the outdoors.  Whether it is our family’s urban lifestyle, my newfound appreciation for the dangers of sunburn, or–coincidentally–my sheer hatred of sunscreen, I am now almost completely citified with comparatively little outdoor exposure.  Sure, I go for daily walks in the neighborhood and take the kids to nearby city parks, but not like this hike where I was completely surrounded by nature.  Where I could hear the water rushing over rocks and feel the cool breeze on my face.  Where I noticed the forest reclaiming thousands of fallen trees, a powerful reminder of the circle of life.

And where I could see the wonder of my city kids out in the wilderness.  D carried a stick for most of the trail and conducted an experiment on logs and trees to hear the different sounds they make.  I watched E exploring the limits of her body.  She is more active than she ever has been.  She is jumping off of playground equipment, orchestrating aggressive soccer games in our backyard, and concocting elaborate running tests that I would not have expected six months ago.

This hike was a reminder that our kids need to be active, for their sanity and ours.  So maybe a resolution isn’t such a bad idea after all.  One that is realistic and consistent with our family values would be a welcome addition to our family’s busy lifestyle.  So, this year, we’ll be looking for ways to spend more time as a family outside in nature.

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