Chestnut Ridge Park
June 19, 2016
A couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted to go for a hike on Father’s Day. I don’t get out hiking nearly as much as I used to since I have two children under the age of three. My family comes first for me, and they aren’t able to do a whole lot of hiking at this age. However, my son, Noah, turns three next month and I thought a short hike could be a fun activity we could enjoy together.
I told my wife that I at least wanted to go hiking with Noah, but it would be even better if she wanted to come, too, and bring our daughter Charlotte who is thirteen months old. She said they would join us and also suggested we bring our dog, Noelle. Ashley’s parents decided to join us for our hike in the park, too, which was a blessing since we were bringing our dog. Noelle can require as much work as the kids sometimes, so I’m glad we weren’t outnumbered by our kids and dog.
We drove to Chestnut Ridge Park in the morning because it was supposed to get very hot later in the day. The county park is only about ten minutes from my house. It is a good-sized park with a few hiking options, a disc golf course, a large sledding hill for the winter months, a couple baseball fields, and many shelters. There is plenty to do there, so I really should make an effort to go there more often considering how close it is to my home.
We drove into Chestnut Ridge and followed the road as it snaked its way around turns and up and down small hills throughout the park. Soon we reached a tiny parking area beside a small fishing pier. There were several other cars parked there, but we managed to squeeze in. We unloaded our car and Ashley’s parents walked over to meet us to begin our short hike.
Our plan was to hike around the small lake in the park. I had only done it a couple of times in the past. The path is probably less than a mile long and is nice and level the entire way. I was hopeful that Noah would walk the whole way and enjoy it, but there are many times when he asks to be carried, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Ashley put Charlotte in an umbrella stroller for the walk. She is a good walker for her age, but we thought the stroller would make it easier on us (we were mistaken).
A few people were fishing from the small pier and we saw a mother fishing with her daughter just to the left of the pier as well. It was already pretty hot and sunny so we put some sunscreen on the kids and started down the trail. I led the way with Noelle since she is so full of energy and prefers to stay in front of the pack. Noah and his papa followed behind me and the girls (Ashley, Charlotte, and my mother-in-law) were in the back.
The path consisted of hard packed dirt and was often covered with crisscrossing tree roots. It was a couple of feet wide at the beginning, but the path quickly narrowed with bushes and tall grass biting at the sides of our ankles. Noah didn’t like that. He tried his best to avoid touching the flora, but in the process took his eyes off the trail. He quickly tripped over a root and belly flopped onto the dirt. He was not happy. He was covered in dust and dirt and cried. Ashley picked him up and carried him.
Meanwhile, since Ashley had Noah under control and starting to calm down I decided to let Noelle go for her first swim in the lake. I knew our dog was dying to get in the water, but I wanted to wait for us to get away from any fishermen. I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate our dog disturbing the water and the fish in it. I unhooked Noelle’s leash from her harness and she immediately ran down through an opening next to the trail and into the water. She doesn’t actually like to swim, but she likes to walk around in the water and cool off. Once the water reaches her chest she usually turns around and comes back to dry land. Then she promptly shakes the water off her.
Noah enjoyed watching Noelle in the water. He decided he was ready to get down from his mom’s arms and back on the trail. My father-in-law and I had a good talk with Noah about the importance of watching where you’re walking because of how many roots run across the path. He said he would be careful so we carried on.
I stayed in front of Noah for the most part, because I wanted to be aware of what was coming up next on the trail so I could make sure he was ready. There were times when the path got very close to the lake. It was a few feet above the water, but sometimes the trail sloped right down to the water. So, I would wait and carefully guide Noah through those trouble spots. I could just imagine him slipping and falling into the water. The water isn’t deep, but I would definitely have to jump in and grab him and he would surely freak out.
Once Noah got the hang of carefully walking over the roots he seemed to really enjoy himself. He liked watching his dog jump into the water numerous times. But he also liked walking through the woods and looking out on the lake. This was exactly why I wanted to go hiking with Noah and it made me so happy. As one can imagine, based on my blog, I am passionate about hiking and the National Parks. However, I’m on a bit of a National Park hiatus because of my young children. Once they are older I fully plan on returning to the parks with my kids. I can’t wait to introduce to them to the magnificent National Parks of the west. I truly hope they like the outdoors like I do, and will do my best to help .
Charlotte is a little young to try much hiking, but she did get out of the stroller and walk on her own for part of the hike. She’s pretty independent and adventurous for barely being a year old. It was a good thing she wanted to leave the stroller, too, because the trail got so bumpy from the roots that she was basically bouncing around the whole time she was in the light stroller. Ashley ended up carrying the umbrella stroller for the end of the hike. Charlotte’s grandma carried her when she didn’t feel like walking. Charlotte even pushed her own stroller for fun for a little while.
Before long we finished the circle around the lake and were back at the fishing pier. Noah and I walked out on the pier for a minute and said our goodbyes to the lake. He said he liked his hike, but was ready for his reward… a trip to the big playground in the park. Kids will be kids.