Quarantining hasn’t been going to bad for us until the other day. My coffee cup had barely touched my lips when Boy Wonder pulled me off the couch and insisted I run a few laps around the room with him. I mean it, we actually jogged, in circles, around the dining table for 45 minutes. That was way more than my weekly workout. I was huffing and puffing at the end of it but he wanted to keep going! Seriously, Boy Wonder could outlast the energizer bunny any day. It was very important that I find a way to burn off Turbo Toddler’s energy for everyone’s sake. That’s how I accidentally set us on our family’s new favorite hobby.
It started simply enough, walks after work along the Erie Canal Tow Path. The first thing I noticed about hiking, even on an easy dirt path, is that it’s a mistake. “Oh, we’re not walking anywhere in particular? There’s nothing at the end of this trail? No bar? No restaurant? Not even a vending machine? We’re just zoo animals pacing the cage.” There was also the added challenge of making a long walk, interesting for a little kid. We pointed out the different birds, the scenery, but there was one highlight on the walks that stood out more than the rest for him.
“I want to see the poop factory daddy!”
You try explaining what a waste water treatment facility is to a two year old. See if you come up with something better than a poop factory.
I’ve noticed that my stamina is improving. Every time we go on a walk, I hear myself saying, “Let’s push it a little farther. I’m feeling good today.” That moment of blind optimism is quickly followed by the crushing realization that we came all this way and now we have to walk back, most likely carrying Boy Wonder on my shoulders. We’re not in Disneyland anymore Toto. There’s no exit through the gift shop.
I want to like hiking the same way I wanted to like Lord Of The Rings. It turns out, both are just about walking, walking, and more walking. I want to like hiking but as a fat man, it’s against everything my people stand for. Trust me, we don’t stand for much.
After a month of nightly walks to the poop factory, we needed yet another change of scenery. Lucky for us, our town has a nature trail with a waterfall at the end of it. This was fantastic. We got to let Boy Wonder off the leash a bit and watch him run full speed through the woods. Hiking with a toddler is hiking on a whole new level. It’s not just walking anymore. Now there is climbing involved, lots and lots of unnecessary climbing. “You want to climb that tree? The rock ledge? The cliff?!” No I don’t want to climb up there. I’m an adult. I have a drivers license. But I don’t like climbing. That includes climbing into an SUV. But then once I’m in the SUV, I’m ready for action. Maybe I’ve seen those Toyota Tundra commercials one too many times. I know I can drive off-road, up a cliff, and look badass doing it.
On the nature trail hike, Boy Wonder spends a lot of his time chasing the chipmunks or pointing IncrediMom and in the “right” direction. “Waterfall this way daddy! Follow me! I know the way!” Because he is two, his sense of direction is not to be trusted when we come to a fork in the road. Also because he is two, his stubbornness is unmatched. If we ignore his direction, he will stand at the fork in the trail and insist we follow his chosen path. The first time or two, we argued with him. Tears and tantrums inevitably ensued from both parties. Now, we’ve learned to call his bluff. When he takes his directional stand, we keep walking without looking back. I’ll whisper to IncrediMom, “One…Two…Thre-“
“Wait for me! Hey guys wait for me! Don’t leave without me!” Followed by little footsteps running and a tiny hand grabbing mine soon after.”
I’ve started looking forward to our daily hikes. In fact, we’ve started branching out to bigger hikes with even bigger waterfalls, in State Parks. We’re planning entire day trips around taking a walk in the woods. That doesn’t sound like me at all! It’s not that I’m going to start dressing like a living Patagonia ad or something, with my sturdy shoes and a breathable fleece. “Yeah, I know I’m just going out for a coffee but you never know when an impromptu hike might break out.”
What our daily walks in the woods have taught me is that the one thing that makes it all worthwhile is that we are together as a family, spending quality time. Amazon, YouTube, Apple, and Disney combined couldn’t invent something that could ever be more meaningful than that. Maybe Disney could, but they’d charge top buck plus a little extra for the premium experience. Seriously, quality time with my family is the most important thing. The only other thing that could top the experience is quality time and a hot fudge sundae. That would be a premium experience.