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Over the Labor Day weekend, we had family visiting, and rather than sit around at home, we decided to take a hike…in the rain. The precipitation was not planned or particularly fun for *some* of the kids, so a complaining was expected since it wasn’t exactly ideal weather. Rather than end on a sour note, we decided to go hiking that weekend…again! Cue the shouts of elation/ardent complaints. Every kid is different every time we go.


We decided to go to Brown County, a large, forested state park just south of us. We’ve gone before to a morel festival, visited the park with other cousins, and love to see the colors in the fall, but we’ve never done any serious venturing through the park.

We picked a trail that was only a couple of miles and was fairly benign, with no real steep hills or endless stairs. Once we got everyone packed up, we found the trailhead and got started. It’s no surprise that when we’re actually on the trail, all the whining evaporates. There’s too much to see and explore to waste their breath on complaining.

Like mushrooms. We went all of five feet before Jack started finding patches of chanterelles. Jack always packs his trusty mushroom bag whenever we take a hike, and for good reason. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time we didn’t pick up some kind of mushroom or other wild edible on our family adventures.


If there’s one thing the kids know how to do, it’s hunt for mushrooms. As Jack was harvesting the chanterelles, the kids started wandering the area to find more. They love showing what they’ve found to Jack and getting the approval to put it in the bag. If they happen to pick something that isn’t edible, Jack takes the time to teach them what it is so their confidence in identifying plants, mushrooms, and berries increases.

Though I could have run the entire trail in less than an hour, our progress overall was pretty slow. On top of the mushrooms, Claire has a penchant for climbing trees. I am in awe of how strong and flexible she is. I’m not entirely sure I was ever able to do the kinds of stuff she does. I’m usually the one to bring up the rear, not because I’m the slowest, but because I’m constantly being asked to look at what acrobatics one of the children are doing and if I’ll take a photo of them.

Peter’s favorite part of the forest are the sticks. He often uses them as walking sticks and has saved himself a few faceplants while employing them properly, but everyone had better watch out if he starts swinging them around. He could knock an ogres off a bridge and has practiced plenty of times in mock battles with older siblings.


My favorite part of any outdoor excursion is the wildlife. We don’t usually see anything big, like deer or turkey, because we are way too loud while we travel, but we find plenty of itty bitty critters that can’t get away fast enough as we approach. Evelyn usually finds the frogs and toads, reinforcing my theory that they flock to her.


Having worked for several years in university entomology labs, I have a pretty good eye for spotting insects. No one cares for the biting flies, ticks, and mosquitoes, but we love a good wooly worm, butterfly, caterpillar, or stick bug.


 Being from Nebraska, which is not known for being densly forested, I feel like I learn something every time I got into the forest. During that trip, someone found a snake coiled on the forest floor. It was trying to flatten itself in a nothing-to-see-here stance and though it was mostly gray, it had a vibrant yellow line around its neck. I can’t help myself when it comes to reptiles, so I got a stick, to look closer and when this little guy wriggle away, I found another surprise–the entire underbelly of the snack was the same bright yellow. I would have loved to play with the (what I now know as a) ringneck snake a for longer, but it escaped into the underbrush before I could get my hands on him.

A couple hours into our leisurely hike, the novelty of being outside was wearing off. The snacks had mostly been eating, the kids’ feet were getting sore, and the pleasantly cool morning was turning into a sticky, hot day. Jack was still happily chugging along though–he was finding chantarelles the entire length of the trail and ended up bringing home several pounds.
Him and Adam. He has a sweet set up when we hike because he’s eye-level with adults, doesn’t have to do any of the work, and gets to nap whenever he feels like it. Pretty soon, he’ll be able to snack from his backpack throne, too. Wouldn’t we all love to travel in style like that? I know I would!
At the end of the trail, we ran into a detour because the park was working on the trail and it sent our situation straight to dire. Most of the kids were sure they couldn’t take another step and were ready to perish along the side of the trail. Solution? We remembered a favorite Chinese buffet of ours that happened to be only a short drive away from where we were. Jack told the kids if they could get to the car, we’d go have a feast. That was all the motivation the kids needed to find the strength to continue.
Dare you to eat squid legs, Claire!
Why do we go hiking, knowing that it might involve whining and it might end with the kids’ perceived demise? Really, the rewards are endless and so, so simple. Sitting down after hours on our feet? So satisfying. Cool air conditioning blasting in the car? Heavenly. A never-ending buffet with food everyone likes? Well-deserved and much appreciated!
Henry’s always a willing hiker.
Despite it sometimes being hard, we have found that challenging ourselves helps us appreciate the things that makes life easy. It’s a reminder to be grateful for the beauty of the earth, the time we have together, the bodies that carry us through, the adventures we find, and the blessing of laying down tired at the end of a hard day.
Call me crazy, but I hope we have many more challenging family hikes.

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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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