by Danni Murphy
A humorous descriptive essay about a walk in the woods with my kids for my writing class.
| Where I live has a lot of Metroparks. An all-purpose path connects three parks; High Meadows, Bur Oak, and Days Dam. The total length from High Meadows down to Days Dam is five and a half miles. High Meadows gets its name because it is made up of vast open fields with a playground on top of a large hill. I frequently take my kids to that park, and that is how I learned about the Bridgeway Trail. This is where I decided to take a walk in the woods. I convinced my children we were going on an adventure in the wilderness. I told them how we had to walk for two hours and write down our observations. Caiden, my eight-year-old son who has a breezy, laid back personality, didn't bat an eye when I told him of my intentions. However, Quinn, my five-year-old daughter, lit up. She wanted to be ready for an adventure. Quinn packed her backpack with her kid proof camera, a notebook and a pen, water bottles, and a book filled with pictures of family members so she could look at them whenever she missed them. She was prepared. She even brought her favorite baby doll. No matter how prepared you think you are there is no way to anticipate what you are getting yourself into when going on a hike.
We started our hike at the one-mile marker in Bur Oak. The trail going down and back up to High Meadows is rough. I wanted to start on even ground. I thought it would be easier for the kids to handle. Quinn was ready with her back pack and her baby doll poking its head out as if she was a modern-day Sacagawea. We were ready to start our journey. As I entered the woods, bees were buzzing, cicadas chirping, and squirrels leaping from tree to tree. Everything you would expect to see in nature. We didn't even make it a half a mile before Caiden and Quinn started complaining. Until this moment I never realized how terrified Caiden is of the outside. A bee flew by, and he squeaked with fright and hid behind me trembling. A frog jumping out of a pond had startled him. It took me awhile to convince him that cicadas were vegetarians and wouldn't come out of the forest to eat us alive. He eyed the trees suspiciously as if they betrayed him. In the muddy marsh areas, the smell of the air disturbed him he clutched his nose and held his breath. As easygoing as he normally is, Caiden was not equipped to be an outdoorsy person.
Along the Bridgeway Trail, there are many sites to see. An old abandoned railway looms over a part of the path being reclaimed by vines and nature. A thousand-foot bridge overlooks the Black River crossing it twice. The river has carved its way through mounds of shale. Signposts state that in the winter you can hear echoes of ice crumbling down the sides of the river made gorge. Suddenly, as you are walking the trees will open up like a window displaying patches of swampland covered in chartreuse pond scum. Dead trees peeking out of the water. I've heard that if you make it all the way to the end near The Steel Mill Trail which leads up to Days Dam, there is a beautiful waterfall. I've yet to make it that far.
Off of the main walking trail, there are small offshoot hiking trails. We mostly stayed on the main footpath. At one point, just shy of the two-mile marker, when we were resting Quinn noticed a trail that went up a hill. There were roots and compacted earth that looked like a stairway leading to the top. Quinn had to climb it. Caiden was about to join us on our climb but was frightened when he noticed a mushroom that he was convinced would poison him if he even looked at it. Quinn was so ecstatic after we made it to the top that she climbed the hill several more times on her own. While she was climbing, I sat on a bench within eyesight and wrote down my observations. In my notebook, I wrote about how Caiden was too afraid to go up because he was afraid of a mushroom. Caiden sitting next to me peered over my shoulder and read what I was writing. He gasped. "Are you going to tell your teacher about me?" he asked.
"Yes." I told him "Do you want to be known as the boy who was afraid of a mushroom?" I asked him back.
He hung his head deep in thought. "No," Caiden said slowly. "I am going to face my fear!" he declared.
He started up the hill looked the mushroom in the eye and turned around. "I lost my confidence," he stated. "I'm just going to be the boy afraid of mushrooms." resigning himself to his fate.
Quinn chimed in coaxingly "Caiden; I can help you change the story. We can do it together."
It took another couple tries, but finally, Caiden made it all the way to the top of the hill, narrowly avoiding the minacious mushroom. When he made it to the top of the hill he threw his arms in the air and shouted at the top of his lungs "I did it! I changed my story! Now I'm the boy who conquered his fear!" After carefully making it back down the hill he immediately said "Ok. I'm ready to go home. I'm done being in the wilderness." and so without delay we turned around and started our way back.
During the trek back to the car, we took a break. The kids were road kill lying on the side of the path. A red-tailed hawk swooped down from the tree tops catching a small animal in its talons and bolting back up into the canopy. It was so close I could see the speckles on its back. Life was buzzing all around me in those woods. There is so much going on; you tend to miss it if you don't take a moment to stop and notice.
At the end of the walk when we reached eyesight of the parking lot the kids were so excited Quinn shouted: "let's race to it!" They both took off. Before she got halfway there, she veered off to the right side of the foot path and dropped dead rolling down into the ditch. "I can't make it." she exhaled as she laid there dying. "Ok, I replied, I'll wait for you at the car." She immediately popped up and yelled at me "Hey you can't leave me here!" Even though Caiden acted like he hated the hike, surprisingly he can't wait until we come again. Caiden insists we bring our bikes next time. We'll see how that goes. All this happened over the course of an easy two-mile hike. I can't imagine what it would be like to backpack twenty-five hundred miles of The Appalachian Trail.