I have always loved to hike. From a simple walk in the woods to a long and winding staircase to see a view like none other, it does not matter to me. I love them all!
My father would take me bird watching and hiking when I was a young girl. It was one of the things I looked forward to the most and is among some of my greatest memories: Memories of my father teaching me how to walk quietly so as not to disturb the birds. Memories of the colorful birds we saw and learning the sounds and characteristics of each. The memory of walking along in contented silence.
I even received an expensive pair of binoculars one year for a present, and trust me if you don’t know about binoculars, they can be quite expensive!
These are some of the binoculars I found on Amazon! Just as I remembered, they can be quite expensive!
I loved my time spent birdwatching so much, I even did a Social studies project on birdwatching and everything a project entails. Thanks to a great deal of help from my parents, it was quite an impressive project. We had a game built where you had to guess bird sounds. Here is a video I found with bird sounds. Our game had a bird sound button, then a flap where you lifted it up to see which bird may what sound.
A recipe was included for a fun way to make different types of bird food. I found this current website which reminds me of some peanut butter balls we made one year for our back yard birds!
I think, if my memory serves me right, we may have even constructed a bird house. I found some super cute ones on Amazon , if like me, you don’t have a bunch of time or talent to construct your own! I don’t consider myself a crafty person, but This website had more than fifty ideas for how to make your own! I may have to try one of these ideas!
Hiking was one of the first dates my husband and I had in our early years. At the beginning of a hiking trail was even the first place my husband told me he loved me. (although it was an accident at the time). I guess you can say hiking holds a special place in my heart.
Hiking is such a great activity for countless reasons. Hiking works muscles that you otherwise do not work, especially if you are carrying a baby on your front or your back. 🙂 Hiking allows you to see things that you cannot see going to the park or walking down the street. It gets the kids and yourself outside! And, my favorite current benefit, hiking is free! Mostly free, anyway! Like any hobby, you can spend a chunk of change on accessories and conveniences. Otherwise, all you need is a good attitude and some decent walking shoes to get started!
I am hoping to pass my love of hiking and the great outdoors down to my children. I have taken them hiking off and on since they were little, though we do not go as often as I would like.
I personally find having a mission or big goal is the best way to encourage good attitudes. For example, plan a trip to see waterfalls or the promise of a swimming hole. Find a place with a good creek for wading and rock skipping. Perhaps planning a nature hike where you can find as many unique bugs and leaves as possible! Watch out for poison ivy! A few classic children’s songs never hurt either for when the attitudes start to get whiny.
If you are new to hiking or just plain out of shape and practice like myself, and especially if you have kids, I recommend starting with no more than a couple of hours for a hike. We want to leave ourselves and our kids with a lasting positive impression! At the risk of providing you one more thing to do with your children, just remember to relax and enjoy the hike yourself and more times than not, whoever is with you will follow suit.
I live in the great city of Chattanooga and if you have read any of my other posts, then you probably know I say this quite a bit. But truly, it is a great city. One of the great things about Chattanooga is the ample supply of hiking and outdoor activities within a short driving distance, (for me that means no more than an hour, though for a well planned day I will go further than that).
Recently I took my kids to Benton Falls for our first hiking trip in awhile. I was very hesitant to go as I usually go with my sister. She helps so much with my kids! She was unable to go with us this time, but I did not want the fear of going by myself stop me from enjoying the day with my kids. I also did not want to be at home all day with both kids by myself! (Summer vacation?!! Not for parents of quarreling siblings!) Whether it was the fear of hiking with just my kids or the fear of killing them or them killing each other while at home, we overcame our fear and went hiking!
What a great decision, and what a great little hike! Now if you are an avid hiker and like more of a challenge, note that this is a beginner hike and not very long. It took us about an hour there and back, but we stopped quite a bit to look at bugs, berries, and just to play in the dirt. (Oh, boys!) An able bodied older kid or adult could probably get there in thirty or forty minutes.
A nice flat trail, well marked and wide enough for four people to walk side by side, after about an hour we made it to the falls for some rest and fun!
The end of the trail is a bit rocky a few slippery steps, but if my three and six year old and my old degenerative back can make it, then you can as well. A funny side note: My three year old was starting to whine a little and say he couldn’t do it when we came across a child even younger then him walking. That was the kick in the butt my son needed! He said if a baby could do it, so could he.
I would suggest before going on any hike, doing a little research. Being prepared can take you a long way in preventing any drama.
Benton falls is part of the Chillhowee Recreation Area. I parked in the recreation area parking. there is a day use fee. ($3 at the time of this post). There are also bathrooms and showers. If you want to make a whole day of it, there are plenty of picnic tables and grills. Of course, because of this and the ease of the trail, Benton Falls can be a popular place.
I always like going hiking in the morning, especially in the summer. We aim to get to places by ten o’clock. Every time thus far we have done this, it is not too crowded, we find a parking place no problem, and of course, it is a bit cooler. I have noticed when I come back that it is usually a bit more crowded.
After conducting my research and packing up for our trip, we made our way down the beautiful highwy 64 near the Ocoee River area, and made our destination in just over an hours drive from Chattanooga. I knew that the kids would possibly be able to play in the waterfalls so we had our swimsuits on from the beginning, which I would suggest. You can change at the restrooms before your hike, but there would not be anywhere to change once on the trail. Unless you want to hide behind some trees!
After having our snack, we jumped right in the water. At the time we went, it would not be considered a swimming hole, but perfect to wade in. I have heard that at times you can actually swim. I recommend water shoes to protect your feet from the rocks! We were able to walk right up to the waterfalls.
After much persuasion, my daughter would get closer and closer each time to the falls. She convinced me to walk underneath, which was quite cold and another do it scared moment for me. The power of setting an example is greater then any fear, irrational or not. The falls took my breath away, but what a time we had laughing and playing, no electronics, just playing together.
I read a post by Crystal Paine recently where she talked about leaning in with her children to love them more.
One of my constant prayers is that God would help me love my children as they need to be loved and for him to help me enjoy my children. Many times, I am focused on our routine, discipline, and trying to put out fires, that I forget that yes, God gave me these little people to discipline and mold into citizens of His great and mighty world, but He also gave me my children to cherish and enjoy. I forget those last things often, so I pray for God to help me enjoy the moments.
And that, perhaps is one of the greatest things about hiking for me: The opportunities to lean in just a little bit more, whether it be a hug after a small trip and skinned knee, singing songs together or just sitting in the water and letting your son lead you by his hand around the rock pool.
This is what life is about and while the daily grind and routine is certainly necessary and I believe in beauty in everyday moments, we must learn to stop and enoy the moments and lean in just a little bit more.
I hope you find your moments to lean in and enjoy being with your family and friends just a little bit more.
I would love to know of any great hiking places you have found, no matter the location! I love exporing new places! Comment below with your favorite hiking spot!
ps. A bonus of Benton falls is there is a lake at the parking area. That was a great motivator for my kids on the hike back!
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Resources and Links:
Audobon.org: A great resource for anything birding related.
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