See you back here soon!
Ellison and I are in love with night hiking. It's pretty much all we want to do now.
For our second hike of the 52 Hike Challenge we decided to take advantage of the miles of trails in our area and go out for a twilight walk. It was cold and clear - the kind of weather that makes me excited about winter, but also thankful that temperatures only dip this low a few nights a year. We bundled up, brought the dog and headed out to cover the 4 miles that wind through our neighborhood.
We passed the horse pasture, where Ellison delighted in the fact that the horses were wearing blankets and where she spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get Waylon to shown an interest in his equine neighbors. He honestly could not have cared any less, despite them coming up to the fence to check him out. We took the wooded route behind the houses (because we felt that was staying more true to the challenge - sidewalks kind of seemed like cheating) and Ellison stopped every few feet to collect more ingredients for her "woodland shrimp" dish that she was creating out of seed pods, berries and torn leaves. It was super cute and made me grateful to be out at night, just the two of us, talking about nothing in particular. She is turning nine on Friday. Nine. We talked about how that felt and what it meant to her. And me. And she seems to be taking it better than I am.
As the sun was setting and it was quickly getting colder and darker, Ellison and I agreed that a night hike was the perfect change of pace. These were the same trails we have taken a million times during the day, but a golden glow was cast over the trees as the moon started to rise and things seemed both comfortingly familiar and delightfully different. We have lived in this neighborhood for the past 12 years. We love it so much that when we finally decided to move to a bigger place, we didn't even do a house search - we just bought the one across the street. It is the only neighborhood Ellison has ever known, or ever will know before she leaves for college. When she reflects on her childhood as an adult, this is the place she'll remember. These walks, these woods, these times together spent with her parents and her dog. I can only hope that she remembers it fondly. I like to think that it is nights like these that go a long way ensuring that she will. That and the promise that when she turns nine she can have both a hamster and a later bedtime.
So, yeah, all of this from a simple walk around our neighborhood a little later than usual.
See you back here soon!
Ellison and I completed our first hike of the 52 Hike Challenge and we declare ourselves off to a good start. Sweetwater Preserve was a new trail for us and, while short, offered creek views and the possibility of alligators (that ranks high in our book). There are two entrances to this preserve - east and west. I pass the western trailhead every day on my way to work and without fail, promise myself that I will go back on the weekend to check it out. After too many years to count, this Sunday I finally made good on my promise.
While we really wanted to get out and enjoy some finally cool weather, there wasn't have time for an all-day hike. Sweetwater Preserve is perfect when you're short on time because it's only around 2 miles - regardless of which trailhead you use (East is 2 miles, West is 1.75). The west trail (the one we hiked) is without a doubt the most efficient use of wilderness space I have ever seen. It is a small patch of woods that through very careful consideration of trail layout, feels much larger. The winding and zigzaging make great use of space and draw the mountain bikers, which Ellison and I are decidely not. We enjoyed it nonetheless. As did Waylon.
There was one thing that detracted from our enjoyment, however. The trash along the banks of Sweetwater Branch creek. It wasn't just one or two plastic bags or a haphazardly discarded beer bottle. It was a bag clinging to every tree and bottles piling up along the banks. I had heard that the water itself was considered heavily polluted due to waste from the city street sewers flowing into it (which is bad enough!), but I wasn't expecting so much litter. In retrospect, I wish I had taken a picture of it to post here, but I didn't think of it at the time. Oh well. Take our word for it, it was dirty. Ellison and I decided that we would come back soon with trash bags and collect as much of it as we can in an effort to clean it up. Maybe it won't stop the pollution problem entirely, but it can't hurt, either. Plus, we're hoping we just caught it on a particularly polluted day and that litter-strewn banks are more of the exception at Sweetwater Preserve and not the norm. It would be such a shame because this little piece of woods serves as a wildlife corridor along Paynes Prairie.
Has pollution been a major concern on any of your hikes? For those of you who have been hiking the same trails for years, particularly those trails in more urban or suburban areas, have you noticed an increase in the levels of visible pollution over the years? I know it can vary greatly from city to city, but I am still curious about the change over time.
See you back here soon!
As you know, the tagline of this website is 'take a hike'. So that's what we're going to do. At least 52 hikes in 2016? Challenge accepted.
Ellison and I were looking for ways to ensure that, despite all the things we have going on during the week, we get out and hike together on a regular basis. There are so many great trails we want to check out, but lately it has been difficult to find the time. Well, thanks to Instagram, we stumbled upon the 52 Hike Challenge. It offers exactly what we need - a goal. Always up for a challenge, we decided that this was a great way to get us to seek out those new trails while at the same time giving us something to work toward. In the spirit of new year's resolutions (remember last week when we said we wanted to 'explore more'?), we signed right up and decided that this would be a weekly feature on the blog. We've already taken our first hike and will post about it this week. It's exciting to start this not knowing what the year will bring or where it will take us. Who knows? - we might even be hiking in Brazil or Australia. It's a definitely possibility this year so keep your fingers crossed for us!
I encourage you to read the bio on the founders of the 52 Hike Challenge. It's an inspiring story that transcends the actual act of hiking. It's about embracing optimism and determination, and about having the courage to change your life for the better. Ellison and I loved the idea behind it and we think you will, too. How could you not? There's really nothing to agreeing to participate other than saying that you're going to do it and agreeing to tag a few pictures of your hikes on social media with #52hikechallenge. Plus, they offer trail info and ready-made hiking logs to help you stay organized. There is also an adventure series if you want to step up your game. So sign up so we can all talk about our progress together! I'm pretty sure this is a win-win.
Oh, and Ellison and I are trying to stick to our other resolutions, as well. We did get many of our groceries for the week (including meat and eggs) at the farmer's market yesterday. Though we got there late and most of the good produce was gone. Lesson learned. We also donated tons of clothes and household goods to charity as we settled in to the new house and decided what we really needed to keep (which isn't much), so we're trying to give back. At least as much as we can right now. It's more than I thought we would be able to do this week, so I am happy. Ellison is happy. Remember, we all just have to focus on what we can do, not what we can't, right? Baby steps, y'all. Baby steps.
See you back here soon!
While I have never been super into making firm New Year's resolutions, I do like reflecting on, and setting goals for, the upcoming year. The introspection, optimism and list-making involved in this process are totally my things. So, naturally, Ellison and I sat down to reflect on the growth of 'Girls in the Park' in 2015 and discuss the direction we would like to take this blog over the next year. We have some great things in store for in 2016!
I'll be the first to admit that in our house we are not as diligent about living as "natural" or "green" a lifestyle as we could, or should, be given the fact that every Saturday morning there is a beautiful farmer's market held literally steps from our house where we could buy all the produce, eggs, and dairy we would ever need, or the fact that Trevor hunts and packs our freezer full of fresh vension, hog and turkey so we shouldn't have to buy meat at the grocery, or the fact that we are completely aware of the negatives associated with a generally wasteful lifestyle. But for some reason (laziness? disorganization?) we don't get all our produce at the farmer's market, we still end up buying some of our meat at the grocery and we are absolutely wasteful in ways to numerous to count.
So, I decided that since we are moving into a new house, it made sense to start fresh and really make a committment to live as naturally, sustainably and as environmentally responsible as possible. We don't really know what we're doing, but the whole family is on board! Ellison is not only interested in, but also appreciative of, the fact that we are making this type of effort. It's great to see her enthusiasm for something so important! These changes will not only help keep the planet healthy , but help us stay healthy, too. And that's where 'Girls in the Park' comes in - we want to share our journey to a healthier, more natural lifestyle with you in hopes that it will help us stay focused and mindful, but also serve as inspiration for you to incorporate some of these changes in to your own routine. Small changes can bring big results!
“Whatever change you desire for the world, create that change in your own life. You are here for a purpose. Seek it out. Hunt it down. The greatest misery is to be purposeless. The great depression of our age is not economic, but spiritual. Our spiritual poverty is rooted in our purposelessness.”
When Ellison and I started this blog in August, we wanted a place to share our outdoor experiences. A way to chronicle our time together and the fun we had traveling, hiking and exploring. 'Girls in the Park' was born out of our desire to get outside as much as possible. However, over the past few months, we realized that while we love hiking - seeking out new trails, physically challenging ourselves - what we love the most is simply establishing our connection with nature. And that this connection can be made in many different ways. This is what we want to share on 'Girls in the Park' - ways to connect to the natural world. Ways to ensure that as kids grow up in a modern world, they don't lose sight of the fact that the earth can provide physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment. The basic foundations of playing in the woods, learning about where your food comes from and simply observing the natural world around you are integral parts of childhood. Or at least we think they should be! We'll still share our hiking trips and outdoor adventures, but we'll also feature things such as easy gardening for kids, seasonal and local recipes and ways to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
'"Teaching kids about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives. What could be more important than understanding the world we live in?"
In the spirit of New Year's resolutions and the pursuit of greener living, here are a few things that Ellison and I would like to do more of in 2016.
1. Give back
There are so many ways that we can help others, and the environment, within our community and we want to make sure we show our love for both by giving back. Giving is not just a random act of kindness. It is an investment in humanity. In return we become more than ourselves, we transcend. This transcendence is the key to peace. And y'all, Ellison and I are nothing if not promoters of world peace.
2. eat local
As we mentioned, there is a farmer's market in our neighborhood every Saturday - and numerous others held throughout the city - so it seems a shame not to take full advantage of the oppportunity to buy local ingredients. Plus, Ellison loves to cook and try new recipes so buying and eating local is a win for the planet, for local farmers, for our health and for Ellison's culinary education. There is even a local-ingredient meal weekly delivery service available to help make sure we stay on track (it's www.eatthe80.com for those of you in the Gainesville area). I'm sure we'll be using it often given my track record with actual cooking (I can cook, but I usually don't. Again, laziness.)
Since we have a lot of house renovation ahead, there aren't as many big family vacations planned for this year. This means more weekend road trips to places we have been meaning to check out. We got a great book about local area hikes (here) and are looking forward to trying a lot of new trails, we need to work on our paddleboarding and kayaking, and there are numerous gardens we want to visit throughout the state (like Naples Botanical Gardens and Florida Botanical Gardens).
4. protect the environment
So we aren't the "greenest' house on the block. But we want to be! We're going to try to establish habits that make conserving resources as easy as possible. Once we create new, healthier patterns of behavior, we're hoping that going green will become second nature in our house (this website has great green info for Gainesville residents). But honestly, if we manage to get our stuff in the recycle bin and conserve more water then that will be a pretty good start.
These are our goals for the new year and we're pretty optmistic about accomplishing them, mainly because whatever we manage to achieve is still a step forward. Our focus is going to remain on what we can do, not what we can't. While 2015 was a wonderful year, there is a lot to look forward to in 2016. We are excited to share new experiences with you on 'Girls in the Park' and hope that together we can continue to create a fun space that is encouraging, supportive and inspirational. A huge thank you to all of you who regularly read our blog and a warm welcome to those of you checking us out for the first time. This site is a love letter to nature, to family and to the power a single act has to change the world.
Happy New Year!
My family and I love to get outside and explore every chance we get. My daughter and I started this blog as a way to chronicle not only the places we have visited, but also as a way to preserve our time together. We hope you enjoy it and will make a little time for a hike with friends!