Last week I met up with Aubrey of Redbudsuds for a hike in Quail Hollow State Park, down by Hartville Ohio. This park is a gorgeous little gem with a beautiful manor house and an exhibit featuring a few birds of prey, who I always like to visit. I had my kids with me, who are five and three, and hoped that they’d also enjoy the hike and leave Aubrey and I some time to catch up.

We arrived late and spent some time loading and unloading various bits of swapped gear. As we set off on our hike, I noticed that the temperature was dropping and my three year old’s sweatshirt was likely inadequate for the chill. She didn’t seem bothered, though, so I let her go on. The four of us hiked on in the dim light, meeting a few new friends of both the human and dog variety. Then we got a tiny bit lost. Then the sun set a bit faster than we’d intended, and we were soon hiking in a deep blue gloom. I piggybacked my daughter when she got tired, reassured that she would stay warm if she was sharing the heat generated by hiking with a 28 pound backpack.

Our hike could have been a disaster. We tripped over tree roots, realized that our dead reckoning was often dead wrong, and made it back to our cars much much later than we’d intended. But instead of worrying about the chill or the map or the dark, we all just had a blast. My son read the trail markers to us and helped us find our way. We took in the smells of a forest just after sunset and were treated to more active owls in the birds of prey exhibit, topped off by an extremely loud owl goodbye as we pulled away. I went home with two exhausted kids, hours past their bedtime, who did not whine at all on the ride home. 

The first time we went camping, there was a huge storm on the first night that left our campsite swimming in about an inch of water. My son, who was 18 months at the time, was sick with a fever and sore throat. No one slept very much – and we had such a good time that we did it again and again. This was my sign that I should keep pursuing as much of an outdoor life as I could – that even when everything went wrong, it felt like an adventure instead of a disaster. I’m always chasing that feeling, whether it’s with CampRents, sitting on the side of Half Dome, or just standing on a trail with my dear friend and two kids, sniffing deeply to smell the pine trees and the spicy leaves. May you always have adventures instead of disasters.