WELCOME TO THE THIRD AND FINAL POST OF A THREE PART SERIES FROM OUR GUEST BLOGGER, MARY FINLEY! MARY SHARES HER STORY OF RAISING HER KIDS TO BE OUTDOORSY THROUGH ALL OF THE CHALLENGES AND CHANGES THAT LIFE HAS THROWN THEIR WAY. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 first!
Shortly before my fortieth birthday, after having spent several years raising two kids and recovering from a serious injury, I found myself planning the cross country outdoor trip of a lifetime. My kids and I put up a giant map on the wall of our kitchen, binged pinterest travel pictures, laid out a basic map of our proposed route, and I went to work matching our wish list with our realistic abilities, financial, physical ability, and time and distance wise.
We decided to leave Mother’s Day and this became my combined Mother’s Day and birthday gift from our whole family, something that is a blessing I will not forget. Not only for the ability to take the trip, but the understanding from my family and being able to feel seen in finally overcoming my years long struggles with physical injury and the anxiety of returning to something I always loved, but questioned how it would ever be the same.
Our trip ended up taking us the southern route from Virginia, through Tennessee down to north Texas then up and across through Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns, down to the Sonoran Desert, and across to a friend’s house in Murrieta, CA, then circling back across through Joshua Tree to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, down to Santa Fe and Taos, then backtracking through Guadalupe, back through Texas, Tennessee, and home. In all, we took almost a month. We left Mother’s Day and returned…June 2nd, barely keeping our promise to get back by the third. We were hooked. It was physically exhausting overlanding, camping, and using a pop up camper when the opportunity provided itself, and we were blessed to have friends in Texas and California open their arms and doors to us to pit stop, restock, and visit with old friends. It was also a huge adventure!
We had mishaps and missteps, a bout of bronchitis for me that landed us in a three day hotel stint in Santa Fe on doctor’s order (pushing pack our timeline resulting in that hustle to get home by the third and requiring us to make choices about what we wanted to spend our remaining time on), and a hilarious episode in which my then seven year old daughter ate waaaay too much cotton candy at the San Diego Zoo followed by a granola bar for dinner (remember those missteps I mentioned?!) and proceeded to throw up as we were parking in front of our friend’s house in Murrieta! Guess what? That is the thing about a community of parents, in this case strong women, female friends, who know that kids are crazy, unpredictable, and absolutely the best at vomiting at the most hilarious moments. We cleaned and dried our things laid out in the California sun on her driveway and hung out and laughed as our kids got to know each other, acted out, acted crazy, made us laugh, and argued with us and each other. Spent a day in the Pacific Ocean and generally reconnected. Life is exhausting, unpredictable, and sometimes disgusting, but you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My son is twenty now, still loves everything outdoors, he has spent time as a conservation science student and is still every bit of that nature loving kid he was at three running up Little Stoney Man. My daughter was never as much an outdoors kid. She was the one, who as a seven-year-old on our trip was more concerned about getting pink cowgirl boots in Santa Fe and a Kylie Jean Cowgirl hat at Meteor Crater than seeing the Grand Canyon or the Pacific Ocean. However, even she loved it. She only asked to go home once on our trip. On our last night in Tennessee while lying in our tent, rain flap removed counting the stars and our blessings, she also counted a spider on the ceiling of our tent. She screeeeamed! Hid in the corner. Overcome by a complete panic that climbing the side of ridge route in the Guadalupe mountains in high winds, being tossed by surf in the Pacific Ocean, no adventure had prepared her for that spider. You see, we all have our fears, irrational as they may be, and our obsessions, pink, fashion, seeing a Giant Pink Fiberglass Elephant (Tennessee) – hilariously still to this day topping the Grand Canyon as her favorite part of the trip. The trick is to tap into who each of us are, our fears, our joys, our anxieties, and the sometimes the irrational things that we love and keep us coming back for more. For me that is hiking, climbing, camping, kayaking, or just traveling with my kids. Two years later we took a second month long “irrational” trip on the northern US route through Badlands and Yellowstone into California and back through the Bonneville Salt Flats, one of my all-time favorite unexpected stops!
With each trip I make I learn, grow, and conquer fears, and my kids do the same along with me. As for that spider? She still remembers it with a shiver down her spine, but luckily for her, mom is a quick spider hunter, and as we settled back into our sleeping bags listening to the night sounds of the warm humid southeast, we counted stars till we fell asleep and after a few weeks in the desert woke to a chorus of birds that sounded like a heavenly rain forest. Given the chance to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
ABOUT HIKE IT BABY
Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article from Hike it Baby. We’re working hard to provide our community with content and resources that inform, inspire, and entertain you.