I have always loved the holidays. As a kid, that love was for obvious reasons. As an adult, that love stems from the soft glow of a Christmas tree lighting a warm living room, and the slowing down of time as family gathers around a crowded table to share a meal and share news from the time that has passed. That love also stems from the hope that comes from the ending of one year and the beginning of something new.
And every time my family gathers, there’s always something new. A new addition to the family in the form of a brother-in-law or dog named Meekah, a new place in the country that my siblings call home, a new job, a new Taylor Swift song that’s the object of my sister’s obsession. Sometimes the something new comes with sadness too, like the beginning of a different holiday tradition when grandparents have aged and weakened and are no longer able to host the family. But with all the changes that occur with life, I’m most grateful that the holidays still allow for time spent doing things I love with people that I love.
A walk or hike through the park is a tradition handed down by my parents. Our family vacations were spent at state parks, usually all seven of us crammed into a cozy cabin or a couple of rooms at a lodge. Together, we would brazenly face the woods, probably when some of us were still in diapers. My parents would encourage us on when we tired, and pull us away from a steep, rocky overlook when we got too close to the edge. A good, long trek through the great outdoors is a family favorite that I continue with Boy Wonder, and when we’re lucky, our family, home for the holidays.
The Parklands is the perfect something new I wanted to share this year to rejuvenate the family experience of walking through nature together. We did two walks, a pre-Christmas trek at Beckley Creek Park from the Louisville Loop to the Humana Grand Allee, and a New Year’s Day walk along the Louisville Loop at Pope Lick Park on to the end of the Prairie Preserve Trail. My sister, a director of a wellness camp for kids, introduced Boy Wonder to a pedometer. So the walk at Beckley Creek Park was halted every five minutes or so to enable Boy Wonder to check the number of steps he had accumulated, since the last check, five minutes ago. With all his excitement, you would have thought he was wearing the latest technological device on his belt loop.
We walked alongside the fast-moving, elevated creek, my sister, her husband, Boy Wonder, and Meekah trudging ahead, while my mom, Molly Bassett Hound, and I trailed behind. At some point Meekah stopped to do what dogs do, and as we came upon a garbage can, there appeared to be some kind of contest between Boy Wonder and my brother-in-law to see who could toss the poop bag in first. After several failed attempts between them, Boy Wonder finally dunked the thing. If you knew my extended family, you’d know this excitement over poop isn’t weird at all.
The newcomers to the park were in awe over the span of land at the Egg Lawn. And the sky above the wetlands was a breathtaking culmination of gray and blue and rays of sunlight stretching toward the earth.
In an effort to win the battle of steps, Boy Wonder, the brother-in-law, and Meekah picked up their pace on the way back, while my mom and sister and I enjoyed some much-needed catching up. Molly Bassett Hound was completely oblivious to all the girl talk, and she kept her nose and floppy ears glued to the path, tracking Meekah, the mysterious newcomer to her territory the last several days. When we met back up at our parked cars, Boy Wonder had resorted to cheating, as he perched himself between the two front seats of my car and set about ferociously stomping to make his numbers rise. I think he came out at about 18,000 steps. Not too shabby, even in spite of the cheating.
The New Year’s Day walk through Pope Lick Park was a little slower, shorter, and even Boy Wonder’s excitement was a bit more contained. After all, he had stayed up way past bedtime to ring in the new year the night before. And I’m sure the night before held another type of excitement for my younger brother and his girlfriend, home from college. But nothing cures a hangover like a walk in the cool, brisk air. That’s how I feel at least; of course, I wasn’t the one with a hangover.
Despite the warmer temperatures, there were still patches of ice along the Prairie Preserve Trail, particularly the narrow stretches of creek that require crossing. Meekah, still a puppy, was timid about the water, but Molly Bassett Hound showed her the way, barreling through like an old pro, oblivious to my attempt at keeping her on land. Meekah quickly followed suit. My sister and brother-in-law showered Meekah with praise and applause, a display of the infectious excitement of proud new parents.
The holidays and my siblings have gone for now, but I am grateful for the time we were able to spend together. And I’m excited in the years to come to further explore the expansion of The Parklands. I know that Boy Wonder and I will be the pioneer explorers for my family, but I look forward to sharing the new things that we’ll discover during those precious times when the family gathers, and we can again share a good, long trek through the great outdoors.