I was born with the gift of gab. I love talking to people—friends, family, even perfect strangers. So you can imagine my dilemma, distress really, that I have two boys, nine and 11, who rarely want to talk to me … THEIR OWN MOTHER!
Over the years, I’ve tried numerous tactics to get them to talk and one solution always seems to do the trick: outdoor time with my kids. Being in nature gets them talking.
One of the things the boys and I love to do is hike on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. There’s not a lot of pre-planning, other than grabbing a backpack in the house and throwing in some water and snacks. We don’t even decide where we are going until we get in the car. While we hike different conservation areas close to where we live in central Missouri, one of our favorites is Three Creeks Conservation Area.
Three Creeks is about halfway between Ashland and Columbia, near Rock Bridge State Park. It’s one of our top picks because the trails meander past scenic bluffs, rugged forest, geological formations, intermittent streams and beautiful old eastern red cedar trees. It is a beautiful, wild place.
During our last visit to Three Creeks on an unseasonably warm winter day, the snow from the previous week was starting to melt and parts of the trail were muddy. A little messy, for sure, but also a unique opportunity for the boys to see numerous animal tracks in the mud and on ice-covered ponds. It took about 15 minutes on the trail, after the walking sticks were found and a few rocks shoved in our pockets, for the sharing to begin. It was a lot of information. So much so, that I started jotting down the nuggets of wisdom that I wanted to remember forever.
Here are a few of my field notes from that day:
- “It’s best to let the adults test the ice first, then if they fall through and drown, you know it’s probably not a good idea for kids.”
- “It’s good to look for tracks and poop on the trail. That’s nature’s best signage.”
- “Try not to hit people in the privates with your walking stick. People really hate that!”
(Side note: I laughed so hard on this one, I had to take a break from hiking for a minute).
- “Kids aren’t born scared of things, Mom. They learn that as they grow up, which really sucks. It would be better to stay a kid and not be afraid of everything.”
It really was a perfect afternoon outside with my family. They were quiet on the way home, which was fine by me. My heart was already full from all the conversation outside.
If you’re looking for a way to connect with your kids, or just find a scenic place to walk and talk, Missouri has more than 1,000 conservation areas around the state for you to explore. Find them and more at mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places-go.
Get out and discover nature… together. But please be careful with those walking sticks. :)
Written by Heather Feeler, communications manager for the Missouri Department of Conservation, who loves hiking, hammocking and talking with her kids.