Starting sometime in the fall, I made a point to be a bit more creative and find new to us trails to hike on and explore. Since then, we have found several new favorites for when we are in the mood for a hike, regardless of the season.
This winter, we're doing our best to continue with these mini outdoor adventures. Often with friends or family, sometimes just me and the boys. It's led me to more gratitude and appreciation for some really nice trails and parks we have in our area, and amounted to more time outside, which is always a good thing.
Weather-wise this winter, we've seen it all.
On a warm and sunny day when we had snow, I took the boys to a favorite trail, we wandered, looked to see if the creeks were frozen, Finn took a nap in the carrier, and we made a pretend "fire," where we sat down in the snow together and ate snacks. Cooper talked about it for the rest of the day.
After a few days of more persistent snow, we met friends for a morning of sledding, and then explored some some local gardens that are especially beautiful in the winter. And we enjoyed exploring the snowy gardens so much that we went back the following day for a longer walk, all bundled up in (mostly) things I've knit. Cooper found a giant stick and carried it for a long time, before relunctantly setting it down by the parking lot.
After a warmer spell, a friend messaged and asked if we would be interested in a "mud hike" (her words) – and not ever having delibereatly hiked in the mud, when I asked Cooper, it was a resounding yes. The kids had so much fun and I did too. Before we got back into the car, I literally poured muddy water out of Cooper's rain boots. We went home, had lunch, and made homemade stovetop hot cocoa.
And this past weekend, with unseasonably high temps in the upper forties and sun forecasted, we made some outdoor plans. After church, we went home and quickly changed and then drove to the dunes for a sunny, beautiful walk on the beach and some dune hiking. Cooper stopped to pick up a million rocks (but this is never not the case, even in a parking lot... )and we even found some beach glass. I fed Finn while Nicholas and Cooper climbed around in the sand and then we all hiked back to the car.
Practically speaking, these things are the most helpful (in my novice opinion) if you want to prioritize getting outside in the "off season" :
- as cliche as it may sound, be a tourist in your community – find new places in your area that convenient and easy to access.
- dress well/appropriately/in the right gear. Whether that be waterproof footwear or pants or a warm hat, mittens that stay on little hands, a cowl that keeps the wearer cozy without falling off. Nicholas and I are pretty well set with gear, and I'm learning which items are worth spending a bit more for the boys (mittens), and which don't need to be huge investments. I'm eyeing a pair of rainpants for Cooper for our next mud hike.
- Ask your current friends to join you when you make outdoor plans and don't hesitate to make friends who enjoy being outside. A few moms that I've met at the library or our local park have turned into the sweetest friends and they are both so apt to text us and ask if we will join them on an outdoor adventure, rain, shine, snow, mud, etc.
- have an observer's eye as you hike, play, etc. Point out animal tracks, a cardinal in a tree, the quiet that only fresh snow brings, a woodpecker tapping a tree.
- Just get outside! It is a lot of work to get everyone dressed for cold weather, but the more I do it, the more I realize it is worth the effort.
And personally, I walk away from time outside with a heart more attuned to praise my Creator after having spent time in His creation. Everything can be an act of worship – a snowy walk, a face turned toward the sun, a quiet, Thank you, Lord, whispered as I carry a sleeping baby and hold the hand of his big brother.
Thank you, Lord for this life You've given me.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:6
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