The One Where We All Go Hiking


Trail sign nailed to a tree in the woods

We are an indoorsy family.

There, I said it. Admitting to other New Englanders that you don’t enjoy hiking, camping, or even being outdoors is almost blasphemous. Trust me. I’ve encountered many faces contorted with confusion following this shameful admission. People wonder what on earth we do with our free time if we aren’t wandering around in the wilderness like so many other New Englanders. Well, kind yet confused nature lover, there is a myriad of reasons why I stay indoors. On top of environmental allergies and chronic hives, there are also tics (EW!), coyotes (AHH!), mosquitos (DANGIT!), and danger lurking around every corner. I’ve always preferred to spend my afternoons in a comfortable, predictable, temperature-controlled room with ample access to a bathroom. No leaves, no dirt, no pollen, no bees, no jagged rock cliffs you can fall off of.

In the spring of 2011, God blessed us with a son. A son who, despite being raised by someone nature-averse, wants nothing more than to be the next Bear Grylls. He would live in the woods in a heartbeat. While I spend my free time binge-watching something ultimately useless, he reads about moss and scat (that’s poop, people!) and how to tell the difference between edible mushrooms and deadly ones. His love for survivalist knowledge is other-worldly. One night, as he was lamenting the fact that he never gets to go exploring in the woods, I made an executive decision. We are going to start hiking.

Shortly after I made my resolution, I texted a nature-loving friend who was happy to help. She walked over to Books on the Square, and picked this up for me:

The Rhode Island Family Hiking Guide and Journal by Jeanine Silversmith
The Rhode Island Family Hiking Guide and Journal by Jeanine Silversmith


This book was exactly what I was looking for. Easy hikes, overviews, maps, and even a place to journal and draw pictures if that’s your thing. After determining how far we were willing to drive (not far) and how long we wanted our hike to be (not long), we decided to take ourselves and six kids to a Wildlife Refuge in Coventry, RI.

Of course, there were a few mishaps. Someone had to use the bathroom, so we had to drive to the local general store. Oops! Then we discovered I forgot to put our water bottles in the car so we had to hike without water. Double oops!

10 minutes into the walk, we came to a fork in the trail. It felt a little like that scene in Beauty and the Beast where Philipe wanted to go one way, but Belle’s father wanted to go the other.  The wrong turn would double our walk distance and time. While that’s not quite the same as being thrown into the dungeon of an enchanted yet terrifying castle, the complaining that would ensue would all but guarantee that we would never hike again. Our entire future as a hiking family hung on this one decision. Luckily, other trail walkers saw the panic on our faces and helped us out.

Despite those small things, we had a rich experience. I was most surprised by the things I would have missed had I not bent down and looked more closely. We saw so many cool things, and my nature-loving kid was completely invigorated. He spent the ride home speculating about which type of moss would be best used in a shelter and giving suggestions about our next outing. I spent the drive home wondering what exactly it was that I had been avoiding all these years.

A group of brown skinned children walking through the woods with their backs to the camera

So much of motherhood is stretching yourself in ways you never imagined, isn’t it? The stretching of motherhood is similar to stretching your physical body.  It’s not the huge differences in your position that make the most difference, but rather, the small changes that lead to lasting flexibility and strength.

It took a hike for me to see yet another way we can grow together and appreciate each other more as a family. By walking together, we can more clearly see the beauty that’s been around us all this time.

I’d like to encourage you to think of a small way you can stretch toward those around you, also. It may seem insignificant, but the way you choose to stretch today can have a lasting impact on those around you.

Ready to go hiking? Check out 7 Tips for Successful Hiking with Littles

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Jess and her husband live in Cranston, where she homeschools their four kids full-time. She enjoys sharing about the highs and lows of motherhood through writing about many topics including mental health, home education, and chronic illness. She loves personality tests (as INFPs tend to), Golden Age detective novels, and is probably the only person you know of who still watches Survivor. She is thrilled to be writing with Providence Mom again and hopes to encourage others with honesty and kindness.


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