We were halfway to Hueston Woods State Park when I realized I had forgotten my hiking boots. In the craziness of a morning with a toddler, I had slipped on my flip flops first thing and switched my focus to getting us out the door, completely oblivious to my footwear. Somewhere along our journey, my hiking boots made their way from their home in the back of the truck to the camper, and that is clearly a move I need to reconsider. While we were technically only about 25 minutes from the camper, going back for them would have added an hour to our day, and per usual, we had a few things on our agenda.
Hueston Woods State Park is bout 15 minutes from Miami University of Ohio in Oxford, which is where I went to graduate school, so this park holds a special place in my heart. Even though my memory is foggy from 14 years ago, my parents, grandpa, and I stayed at the cabins in the park when we made an unplanned but much needed trip to see the campus after I had accepted the offer to attend in the fall of 2007. During my time in Oxford, I visited the park a couple of times for quick hikes or just to get away, but our quick hike sure made me wish I had fallen in love with hiking earlier in my life (a sentiment I am sure to feel often as we head west this summer and visit other places I have lived and not fully explored).
Due to my poor choice in footwear, you would think we might have considered foregoing a hike altogether. But no. We picked up a map at the park office, found a short hike on the map, and made our way to the trailhead. Obviously if it had been a treacherous hike, we would not have pushed on, but the trail was a well-worn 1-mile loop that was easy to navigate, even in flip flops. We likely would have chosen a longer hike if I had worn boots, but the short hike ended up working out really well.
One of the most striking aspects of this hike was the symphony the birds and frogs and insects performed for us. We noted early on that this was by far the loudest hike we have been on in some time, and it was all due to nature singing around us. It was incredible.
The trail meandered along a small creek and took us by a huge bald eagle’s nest, which was so impressive to see. Even Little Bird marveled at the size of it way up in the trees.
Naturally, I saw a snake (moments after Will goes “ooh, this looks snakey”), which is not something I particularly like seeing when I am wearing sensible footwear, so the regrets kept coming. But it was along a spur of the trail that went out toward the creek, so Daisy and I held back while Will and Bird briefly explored (they did not see that snake or any others).
Once we got back to the truck, Will stayed with Daisy while I ran Little Bird around to get out some of the toddler energy. While we were walking, she stopped dead in her tracks and pointed at something in the grass. It was the most beautiful black swallowtail butterfly that was feasting on a field of dandelions. We watched the butterfly for several minutes as it fluttered from flower to flower, several times taking off and flying around us, much to Bird’s delight, before returning to feed. It was such a special moment to have her spot the butterfly and then to be completely enthralled by it until it flew away (thankfully it did or we would still be there watching it). It is these moments where I am reminded that she may not remember this specific butterfly, but she is gaining an appreciation for nature that will last her a lifetime.
Coming back to Hueston Woods was a fun reminder of where the past 14 years have taken me. Certainly, bringing my family here while we are on this grand adventure was not something I could have ever envisioned, but I am so glad we were able to enjoy the short 1-mile hike and the beauty of this park. Maybe next time I will remember my hiking boots and we can do a little more exploring.