Let’s begin with a lesson. A word that is most likely new to all of you, as Google has proven to me that no one has used it before. Trailsick. What is that? What does it mean? Where did it come from? I would like to propose the addition of this word to the dictionary, to the human language. This is my new word to explain how I am feeling at this moment in time.
It’s kind of like feeling homesick when you are away from home for too long. There is only one cure, one remedy. Make the time for yourself to get outside and hit the trails.
This is exactly what I needed to do. Even though at work, we are in the midst of the dreaded Tax Season, where for a couple of months, we work long, grueling, ten hour days, six days a week or more. We barely have enough time to sleep. And with all of the other things that are required of me on the homefront, I still needed to find time to cure my bout of trailsickness.
This past Sunday, after my wife’s and my weekly finance and budget discussion, I realized that we actually did not have much on the agenda for the rest of day. So, I asked her if she would mind if I took our soon to be 7-year old for a hike. She agreed, and the biggest smile grew from deep inside my gut. I literally ran from the garage to the house to tell Abby the great news. What made it even better was the smile that grew on Abby’s face when I brought up the suggestion.
She immediately started searching for her hiking socks, long johns, and hoodie. We got dressed for the weather, filled the Camelbak hydration bladder, packed the backpack, and planned our hike to a local trail we haven’t done before. Less than a twenty-five-minute drive from home, we headed for Bloomer Park in Rochester Hills, off of John R Road, about a mile north of Avon Road.
When we first arrived and parked in the parking lot, Abby noticed a playset and went running for it. What she didn’t realize was that just over the parking block that she jumped over and onto the grass, was a large puddle hidden very well. When she landed after her jump over the block, her feet slipped out from under her, and she landed on her backside, soaking the entirety of the back of her legs and bottom. She immediately got up and ran over to me, whimpering and almost crying. I realized, at this point, that I did not bring a change of clothes for her. She was deeply saddened and worried that we would have to drive all the way home and get her a change of clothes instead of going on our hike.
So, like the good outdoor Dad I am, I decided to take my fur-lined coat and use it as a towel to dry her off the best I could. It was decently warm outside for this time of year, and I knew that we would be moving quite a bit, so I offered a piece of advice that we could still hike if she wanted and let her know that the movement would most likely dry out her pants. She agreed not to go all the way home, and we would attempt the hike anyway. So, on we went.
It was a gorgeous day for the end of February in southeast Michigan. The sun was shining with very few clouds in the sky. The temperature was nearing fifty degrees, and there weren’t many vehicles in the parking lot, which meant that we most likely wouldn’t bump into much traffic on the trails. Perfect.
The loop was just over 2.5 miles per my Alltrails.com app, which I absolutely love by the way. One of my go-to hiking trail finder apps. There was roughly a 200 feet elevation change on the trail we were about to tackle. From where we began, we wouldn’t encounter the majority of the elevation changes until the end of our adventure. We walked back down the road leading into the park, where I noticed a sign on the drive in that stated “Trail.” This is where we began. I set my Alltrails app to record our hike and we began our adventure.
Now, this trail was also a mountain bike trail, so I taught her the correct way to hike on a mountain bike trail, by going the opposite way of mountain bikers. This way, while we were on foot, we could see mountain bikers coming our way to be able to quickly step off the path and allow the bikers to pass. This was a great time to teach her this since we didn’t see one biker the entire time, but she could understand and ask questions about it.
Not far into our adventure, I told her to step off the path because I thought I saw a biker up ahead of us. A few seconds had passed, and no mountain bikers. We looked at each other in confusion and continued on up ahead. Around the next bend, we didn’t see anyone, but I noticed something brown move just off the trail to the east of us. Abby got excited and said, “Daddy. Look. A deer.” As I peered through the trees, it wasn’t just a deer, but three large deer. I tried to get a couple of photos with my phone but wasn’t able to get a clear shot. So, we decided to try and get a little closer to them to get a better view, but the dry, dead leaves on the ground created too much sound and scared them off. Abby was still elated to be able to catch a glimpse.
We talked a lot about nature, animals, sweet looking trees, and how they looked so different without the leaves this time of year compared to our usual hikes during the warmer months through the woods when they are thick and green. I felt proud to be able to share my knowledge and expertise of the outdoors with her as we continued our hike.
We came to a few moments where the ground was extremely muddy, and Abby didn’t want to get her feet that dirty, so I picked her up piggy-back style and carried her over a few spots. It was awesome, to say the least. We came upon a spot where the trail leads downward along a steep hill where we had a chance to take some photos and enjoy looking out over some large fallen trees and what appeared to be a river or small pond but was really just pooled water from the snowmelt in the lower part of the area. It was a blast hiking down the steeply dropping terrain and climbing over downed trees, creating obstacles for us to conquer.
Abby wanted to take some risks and climb down some really steep parts, and due to the wet grounds and fallen leaves, it caused for quite a challenge. Abby asked me to hold her hand as we descended the declivity. Thank goodness I had remembered to bring my Camelbak bladder, as it came in really handy to keep us hydrated during our journey.
As we continued our adventure, the conversations with my daughter were amazing. It truly makes me feel proud to be a father and be able to answer her questions and teach her new things. She was learning to be careful with each step she took, but also being adventurous, and overcoming many more obstacles that came across our path.
As we continued on, Abby began to notice what appeared to be other trails that forked off of our main path but began to realize how to keep an eye out for markers that showed the correct trail to stay on. This made me extremely proud as a hiking Dad. I could feel the tears begin to swell in the corners of my eyes, and I began to choke up just a bit as I told her how keen her senses were.
According to the Alltrails app map of this trail, we had arrived at the long straightaway that neared the end of our trip. However, it was a beautiful straightaway along a steep incline for about a half of a mile or so. We had some opportunities to explore different paths climbing up the acclivity and trying to find our way across and still remain heading in the direction we needed.
Just when we came to the end of the straightaway and thought that our adventure was over, there was a staircase heading up the precipitous upslope. The view from the top was breathtaking. We still were not back to the parking lot where our truck awaited. This was where the trail got really fun. Lots of terrain variances and changes. Lots of up and down. Large curves in the trail with some beautiful drop-offs. It was great exercise, and I could really feel it in my legs and thighs, as we continued to climb higher and higher. It didn’t realize that we had been so much lower and had to climb to such a higher level to get back to where we had begun our hike.
When we finally reached the summit and were able to see over the wooden fence at the top, we could finally see the main road that led into the park and the parking lot. Our adventure for the day was over. Abby mentioned to me that she was glad that we were able to get out hiking again after what felt like so long before the winter started. I was elated to have found the time to get outside with her and find a cure for my trailsickness. Thank you, Bloomer Park. We’ll be back.