I love hiking. I enjoy the serenity of the outdoors, and my legs can carry me forever – only one thing is missing… a good sense of DIRECTION! I do great on trails that I’m familiar with and trails that are well-marked. Those that require a mental compass are a bit more of a challenge.
Several months ago, I finally took the time to stop and explore the trails at the Blevins Gap Nature Preserve in Hampton Cove. It was a beautiful day and from my initial judgment it appeared I had more than enough daylight for a nice afternoon hike. So we (two 8 year-old boys, a fluffy lap dog and myself, in a pearl necklace. This description is funny later I promise.) drove to the parking lot and off we went to explore the wilderness!
We began hiking at about 3:30 pm, enjoying the peaceful, secluded trail. At 5:30 pm when I had absolutely no idea where I was a slight panic began to set in. Note I mentioned secluded and quiet before – for some reason we were the only ones on the trail.
As the sun began to set I had to make a decision. Obviously we were lost. What to do next?
Long story short, I called 911. I felt like a fool, but really had no choice! Like a little girl in a fairy tale, I was lost in the woods. The 911 operator kept inquiring as to our medical condition and I continued to explain we were all medically safe and stable, that I am a nurse and all is well, but that I had lost my way.
After what seemed like a long time, our rescuer arrived. Just like in the movies, he called “hello” from his direction and we responded with “hello” from ours until we met on another and were “safe”. I’m sure the Fire Chief hadn’t seen such a funny sight in a long time: a woman in pearls hiking in the woods with two second graders and a furry little dog with a pink collar. The chief brought us flashlights and involved the boys fully in guiding us out of the woods. They thought it was stellar to see a jeep fire truck there to take us to safety. We apparently walked the entire mountain! We started at Cecil Ashburn and came out at Weatherly Road. Quite a hike if I do say so!
Of course for us this is just another adventure to add to the chapters of growing up. We made a memory and the boys had a great story to tell. It’s not every day that you get rescued by the Fire Chief!
Does this stop us from hiking? Of course not. My next challenge was to figure out where these trails go and how to navigate them without a call to 911! My boyfriend is much smarter than me and suggested we Google the trail maps before taking off on another adventure. That totally takes the excitement out of it but since we were taking all five kids maybe not a bad idea. Plus I’ve already marked “mountain rescue” off of my bucket list, so no need to relieve that one!
Having grown up in Germany, I miss the days where hiking is an activity on the weekends used to spend quality time with family. The advantage in Germany is that there is a destination to hike to that usually involves a hearty German meal and a beer at a location such as The Beckenhof in Pirmasens. I thought, “Why not try and make this a reality for our family?” So off we go down the mountain and through the woods to Buffalo Wild Wings (on a Sunday of course when kids eat for .99 cents). The kids did better than we ever imagined. That particular hike is 5.4 miles round trip and the return trip is entirely uphill – a great way to work off dinner calories.
- The Madison County Nature Trail. This trail atop Green Mountain is one of the first trails I explored, even as a child in Huntsville. It’s a great destination for a family picnic, a chance to feed the ducks, and to go on an easy for all ages!
- The Aldrige Greenway: When I lived in Southeast Huntsville I really enjoyed walking with my parents in the evenings. As I got older I rode bikes with my friends to McGucken Park using this trail.
- Monte Sano State Park: this Huntsville staple has a variety of different trails for family fun. The McKay Hollow Trail and Natural Well Trail are two of our favorites.
- Guntersville State Park: If you want to add a little road trip into the adventure, this lake-side state park has beautiful scenery to explore.
- The Land Trust of North Alabama: often has guided hikes and activities. Those are great for getting to know the area and exploring with a group before taking off on your own.
Born in Germany, but raised in Huntsville, Melika Nixon brings a unique perspective to travel and culture. As a nurse practitioner and single mother to seven-year-old twin boys, including one with serious medical issues, she brings an even more keen perspective to traveling with children. She frequently writes about creative, cost-effective ways to introduce children to the world through the gift of travel.