I can remember the exact moment I fell in love with hiking. I was 14 or 15 years old and my sister Lynn was home from college visiting. On a whim Sunday afternoon, she asked me if I wanted to go for a walk in the woods. Now, we had walked through the woods with our Mother a couple times before but we didn’t go often and we never walked very far. This day was different.
Special somehow. A precious memory I have with my sister that I will treasure for all time. For some reason, we just kept walking for a long time. We went through the woods and across fields and more tree lines. We crossed a creek and found the river’s edge. We saw wild dogs running in the distance, thankfully enough in the distance that they did not pick up our scent!
At some point we realized we were lost. Fortunately even back then my sister had a pretty good sense of direction. I didn’t figure out how to tell North from South until I got married and started exploring on my own in the car! As we headed back, we crossed the creek in a different location with much deeper water. It was probably only a foot and a half deep still – but to me it was horrifying. I did not like the mud in those days! We put a log across the creek somehow and I tried to walk across on the log but I ended up stepping into the water and water-logging my shoe and getting my clothes very wet.
Altogether we were gone three hours and we probably walked about 6 miles. It seemed like forever. I was exhausted by the time we got home. I remember that my family was actually starting to wonder where we were when we finally got home. In those days it was pretty rare for my parents to worry — we had so much freedom to explore when we were growing up! The only worry in those woods was a wild pack of dogs.
When I think back and consider my love for the woods and all things nature (which I did NOT fully appreciate growing up), I don’t go back to the times my Dad took us fishing in Pride’s Creek. I don’t go back to the random animals he found and showed us with a big grin of happiness on his face. I don’t go back to those treks up and down the big hill to dig potatoes or pick tomatoes in the garden. I go back to that moment in the woods when my sister and I were wet, tired and lost, and yet pulled together as a team to get home.
That’s why I hike with my children.
Hiking is all about the reward. Sometimes the reward is an amazing experience with God’s creation, like a view from the top of the hill, a fantastic waterfall, or a deep blue lake. Sometimes the reward is making it to the end and back when you didn’t think you could. Sometimes the reward is getting lost, finding your way home again, and bonding with your family in the process. There is always a reward.