It’s sweatshirt weather. That time of the year when in most parts of the country, we get to dig a little deeper into our closet and pull out something a tiny bit warmer to stay cozy during a fresh morning walk or an evening tea. It’s my favorite time of year. Soon we’ll see morning frost, delayed sunrises, and prompt sunsets, but for now we can enjoy truly temperate days. For our family, this is also the start of weekend country hikes.
If you haven’t ventured much beyond your city streets to take advantage of rural or urban trails, it’s a great way to put yourself in touch with nature and to create an environment for mindfulness. We usually make a full day trip out of our hikes and everyone returns home feeling satisfyingly tired and accomplished.
If you’re interested in taking a day for yourself, or gathering the family and venturing out, here are tips for making a memorable day of hiking
Venture the Unventured
We’re always amazed at how many trails there are within two hours of our house Many, we’ve never been to, even after 20 years of autumn hiking. We’ve found that it’s not always easy to use a search engine and enter “hiking trails” to find something other than the most popular and common one. What works better is to pick a destination like a small town, a farmer’s market, or a tourist attraction, and then search for a hiking area around there.
Last week, we decided to visit a Mennonite Farmer’s Market, and then go for a hike and picnic with what we purchased there. Although we’re very familiar with this particular village, we were surprised to find a new and wonderful conservation area with trails and a lake within a stone’s throw of the market.
The other obvious benefit of this approach is that our day becomes about much more than hiking. Our children enjoyed visiting the market stalls and curating their perfect lunch, and my husband and I managed to find the perfect walnut charcuterie board for our new kitchen.
I wish I could tell you I’m always perfectly weatherproofed for our hikes. Sadly, I often judge the day’s weather by the morning climate. That rarely works in the Fall. Because you’re likely heading out by car, it’s easy to store a waterproof shell, a hoodie and long pants as a complement to your first layer of clothing. Backpacks can come in handy if you’re unsure of how things will play out over a long hike, and they inevitably end up carrying an item of kids clothing that’s discarded or needed mid-trail.
Most importantly, though, choose your footwear wisely. We always bring a second pair of shoes and socks for the ride home. When we see a shallow creek, we’re always tempted to cross it over extruding rocks. Someone always misses and gets a soaker. Wet feet on a drive home ranks on my top 3 list of tragic finishes to a hike. If you’re serious about making hiking regular thing, proper footwear is a great option and a versatile addition to your mudroom or closet.
Gamify the Experience
My husband loves to gamify just about everything. When our kids won’t finish dinner, he’ll introduce a game of twenty guesses to get those last morsels of broccoli consumed (one bite earns you one guess). It can be a little much.
When it comes to hiking, we’ve always had fun with scavenger hunts, leaf collecting, rock-hounding and animal spotting (avoid spotting bears, please!).
If you want some creative inspiration, check out this site for hiking bingo cards. Print off a couple, and you’re done.
Get Out There!
No matter where you live, you’ll find a great place to hike to your heart’s content. Whether it’s a conservation area within your town or a state or provincial park, you can choose how far out you’d like to venture and build a day schedule out there. Go deep, get muddy and have fun. There’s always a warm bath and an opportunity to Lather Up! after a long day outdoors.