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Nature Walk! A Dad and His Kids Tame the Local Wilderness (PHOTOS)

In a perfect world, whenever I finally rolled out of bed around 10:30 AM and slipped into my brand new, hand-spun $3,000 Scottish Rambling suit, I would peek my head out of my bedroom door and holler to my kids.

Good Morrrrrrrrrning!,” I would bellow. “Who wants to go on a nature hike??!!!”

And like bees to honey they would come buzzing up the stairs, their teeny voices calling out, “MeMeMeMeOoooohMeMeMeMe!”

You see, in a perfect world, my “nature walks” would be legendary and epic. And my kids would love them.

But, you know how it goes. Things are what they are, and what they aren’t is perfect. Therefore, although I fail to hardly ever seriously allow any of the thousands of less-than-spirited reactions that my wife and children seem to conjure up whenever I mention one of my patented hikes in the woods, I have to admit to you, the reader, that I continue to try and convince them that it will somehow be “fun” even when they run and hide in the darkest crevices of our house each and every pathetic time I put the call out.

I got lucky the other day then, I guess.

Somehow, when the whole nature walk idea came cascading down out of my flapping gums once again, I had evidently managed to stumble into a perfect storm without even realizing it. With two kids who weren’t tired and cranky, a wife who was miles away from me, and my big idea and happy about it, and the bright shining prospect that occasionally comes along with the promise of hot chocolate and cookies at the bookstore afterwards, I simply waltzed right into one of my favorite things to do in this entire world.

I was ecstatic. I was dangling by a spider web, knowing bad things could bring it all crashing down at any moment. But I was ecstatic in the here and now.

I know, I know.

“Nature walk,” you huff, condescendingly. “Poor kids.”

Well, in the end, I think I was the happiest guy in the world… for like, 27 minutes. And you can never complain about something like that, huh?

  • Come along! 1 of 12
    pm

    It's just us and the trees.

  • A Cook’s Vision 2 of 12
    d-02

    Thanksgiving is fun and all, but let's be honest, if you're the one doing most of the cooking, like I was this year, by the time dinner is served you aren't even hungry at all. Instead, you're exhausted and just a little wine groggy! So while I was basting the bird for the 700th time last Thursday, I kept telling myself that I would take the kids on a "nature hike" the next day. The idea of a nice lingering hike in the cold woods sounded perfect to me.

    Image: S. Bielanko

  • Fresh Air 3 of 12
    d-01

    After all the food was eaten or packed away and everyone was pretty much passed out for the night, I knew that come tomorrow, my kids and I were going to need one thing and one thing only: cold, fresh air. My only problem was how to convince them that one of my "nature walks" was the way to go. See, whenever I combine the words "nature" and "walk" together people who live with me tend to dive out the nearest window.

    Image: S. Bielanko

  • Turkeys 4 of 12
    d-03

    The answer to my dilemma came to me on Black Friday morning, like a vision on the wind. My kids were playing hard with their new "friends," which just so happened to be two fake turkeys. One was a cheap inflatable wild turkey decoy that I had given to them to mess around with the day before, the other was a $3 gag turkey hat I had picked up from Target for a little Thanksgiving silliness. My 4-year-old daughter, Violet, had quickly commandeered it. All I had to do was say, "Hey you guys, who wants to go on a nature walk... WITH OUR NEW TURKEY FRIENDS??!!" Boom: they were in the car and ready to roll  in no time. (Above: Henry, 2, and his new buddy.)

    Image: S.Bielanko

  • Dancing Birds 5 of 12
    d-04

    Of course, once we were in the car, I still knew enough to understand that the kids could rapidly lose interest at any moment, so I asked them what music their turkeys wanted to hear. They hollered a bunch of things at me and so I just played DJ while the kids made their birds boogie.

    Image: S. Bielanko

  • We Made It! 6 of 12
    d-06

    Finally we made it to the forest! Or, in our case, a flat and easy public trail that meanders alongside a beautiful trout stream and cuts through a wooded Pennsylvania canyon. Henry grabbed tight to his turkey (who he aptly named 'Nash Weaver' after one of his real-life buddies) and hit the road like I had never witnessed before. But, knowing what I know about my kids, I had to wonder how long it would take before they lost their interest in carrying their turkeys anymore.

    Image: S. Bielanko

  • In The Woods 7 of 12
    d-07

    To me, there is something very cool about being out in the wintery woods, especially on a day like Black Friday, when so many other people are navigating huge crowds or standing at the end of a long line. But getting my kids to come along with me just makes it all the more sweet. On our walk we climbed small hills covered with snow, looked at animal footprints, watched a mama trout guarding her freshly-laid eggs, and saw hawks and vultures flying over us in the sky. Plus, other like-minded folks were out walking their dogs, so we got to pet a couple warm heads as well.

    Image: S. Bielanko

  • The Trade Off 8 of 12
    d-08

    As we were watching some fish in the stream alongside the trail, Henry suddenly shifted his focus from his turkey to something new and wonderful: a giant tree branch. He immediately announced that this was his "fishing pole" just like Dad's. I chuckled and told him it was a really nice one. And I knew that trying to get Henry to continue on without his "fishing pole" was a lost cause.

    Image: S. Bielanko

  • Daddy Gets a Turkey 9 of 12
    d-10

    Of course, with the fishing pole now the focus of his attention, someone had to take care of Henry's recently abandoned turkey. And that someone was me. I was honored to inherit the duty, though. In between a stop to peek into a couple of  "werewolf caves" on the cliffs and following a very long and winding "snake track" (a bike track actually, but don't say anything), I managed to get a few photos of me and my new hiking companion. But then... I got busted.

    Image: S. Bielanko

  • Busted! 10 of 12
    d-11

    A fairly large family out for a Black Friday hike managed to sneak up on us while I was concentrating hard on my wilderness techniques (i.e. taking selfies of me kissing the stupid inflatable turkey). I smiled at them after they caught me smooching a fake bird, but no dice. With my kids way up the trail ahead of me, I think they believed that they had truly stumbled across a true backwoods weirdo. They grimaced/frowned at me and picked up their brisk pace. Ugh.

    Image: S. Bielanko

  • My Melting Heart 11 of 12
    d-09

    Me and the kids continued on a little bit up the trail, me snapping pictures the whole time. Then, at one point, I kind of stepped outside of myself and just laid my eyes on these two and my whole heart sorta melted. Here they were, the two living breathing incarnations of every single fantastical dream I have ever dreamed in my life. Watching them walk across the snow, Violet with her turkey tucked under her arm, and Henry dragging his six-foot "fishing pole" branch, the whole weight of the universe hit me square in the chest like a billion thunderbolts at once. And it felt awesome.

    Image: S. Bielanko

  • Hot Chocolate and Cookies 12 of 12
    d-14

    Before too long, the snow flakes started to fly and it was time for us to head back to the car. I had promised Violet and Henry a trip to the local bookstore for some hot chocolate and cookies if we made it to the end of our winter hike in one piece and now we had done it. So, with our lungs filled with fresh air, we made our way out of the forest. And yeah, the whole way out I was already talking about our next nature hike. Maybe even tomorrow.

    Image: S. Bielanko

You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.

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More from Serge:

20 Strange and Cool Products for Dads

Thoughts on the Passing of a Dad-To-Be

Early Puberty: Why is it Happening and Why Should We Care?

 

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