Hiking the Gerard Trail at Oil Creek State Park

A lot can change about a place in 4 years, even if the only changes are to the story in your head about what the place used to be. About 6 months after we started dating, Will and I hiked much of the same stretch of the Gerard Trail that we hiked last week. At that time, we hiked without Daisy, and Little Bird was not even a twinkle in our eye. We were still pretty newly dating so maybe we were both viewing the world through a slightly brighter lens, because dang! That hike was rather more difficult this time around. We remembered there was a significant elevation change, but I certainly did not remember it being straight up hill for well over the first mile. I would not have been so eager to carry Little Bird right out of the gate! Even with the significantly greater challenge with hiking carrying a toddler and with a dog, the hike was still truly beautiful and much needed.

Much of our relationship was built on the trail. We both inspired each other to really get into hiking, and I am so grateful for that we have something we love to do together that we can truly do anywhere. For me, hiking with someone is a great way to get to know them and it is a great way to have meaningful conversations. I love having the time to formulate my thoughts before sharing them, and I find that hiking buys me the time I need to clear my mind and articulate myself.

I really wanted to return to this hike before we set off on our adventure because I remembered it so fondly. When we first explored the trail, Will and I both thought he would propose at the top of the hill at the bench overlooking the creek and valley below. Thankfully he did not wait for us to return to that spot to propose because we did not make it that far this time (and a lot has happened in 4 years!). 

We set out hoping to go about 3 miles, but we did not really want to do an out-and-back. We knew there was a loop and set off with that in mind. Naturally, neither of us consulted a map of the trail or how to get to the trailhead, or a) we would not have gone to the wrong place first, and b) we would have been more prepared for the 5-mile hike we ended up taking. Life has felt rather discombobulated lately, and this outing was no exception. 

I know it sounds like I had a terrible time and probably complained the entire time. Yes, I did my fair share of complaining, but this hike was exactly what we all needed. It was much needed time together to really talk about how we feel about this lifestyle now that we are 2 weeks in (we love it) and to discuss some of our concerns (we are so ready to get on the road and we need to make checklists so we do not forget things, like bug spray when we go on hikes, for example). We were really able to talk about the stresses we have dealt with regarding selling our house (more on that later) and the busyness of tying up loose ends before we go. It was much needed time to slow down (literally, because I am really slow going straight up hill carrying a toddler) and regroup. 

Once we got going, there were many aspects of the trail that we both remembered, however, one thing I had completely forgotten about was the picnic table about halfway through the hike that has a built-in highchair. Four years ago, I am certain I commented on it being adorable, but now, I was relieved we had a containment vessel for Little Bird that allowed us to relax for a few minutes and get us all a snack. 

Taking her out on the trail is so rewarding and even though she is still so young, I already look at things so differently. Granted, we would always have commented on the many kinds of mushrooms or stopped and looked at the red eft and the wee little frogs, but getting to show those things to her is almost magical. I just love hearing her babble in the carrier and see her little fingers pointing at the things that catch her eye. I loved hearing her giggle as we bounced on the swinging bridge. I love knowing that this is only the beginning of the incredible trails we are going to explore over the next year and many years to come. We are all looking forward to the next time we can get out on the trail!

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