he had enough snacks and didn’t go too hard. As we dropped into a steeper loose descent, Milo was already at the bottom, and all of a sudden I saw him running back towards us waving his hands in the air. Turns out he had found a grassy meadow full of tall vegetation and some flowers—and he wasn’t the only one. The yellow jackets I mentioned before had claimed it as their own, and they were everywhere.
My wife Megan was the unlucky one who got stung on the hand by one of those vicious little jerks, and her hand began to swell immediately. While she isn’t allergic, it was painful enough to send her back towards camp for some Benadryl and ice, especially considering that pushing onward could have resulted in more of the same. While she headed back with Owen, it was another great learning experience for Milo. He really wanted to see the next viewpoint that we had identified on the map, and so we moved quickly through the meadow of pain and made it out the other side unscathed. He said afterward it was a good feeling of accomplishment to face his fears and get in and out of a scary situation, and of course, the view was worth it on the other side.
With kids, you tend to hear whatever is on their mind, which inevitably provides for a few arguments, followed by learning experiences, followed by more good times. I remember Milo being upset by a couple of things, like when he got shut down on using the hatchet as a hammer to help set up our massive six-person Big Agnes tent. Of course, the back of a hatchet makes a great hammer for putting in tent stakes, but most definitely not in the hands of a 9-year-old! Another time, he was bummed he couldn’t play on the edge of the canyon. Not that it was a 5,000-foot drop-off straight to the bottom there, but it was most certainly a cascading series of small cliffs separated by steep dirt slopes that would make for a big tumble with serious consequences in a remote spot. That conversation was a non-starter, but it still had to be extensively explained.
One of the biggest takeaways was realizing how much free time you have without life getting in the way and without the constant draw of TV and screen time for the kids. Turns out they didn’t even miss their favorite shows with so much fun stuff to do in the woods.
Whether or not you have kids, and regardless of your proximity to somewhere like the Grand Canyon, you need to make it a priority to get out of your normal routine and get out for a night in the woods. Growing up in Kentucky, I still remember the first time I camped in the woods, and it was a feeling that set me up for a lifetime of getting into nature as much as possible. I challenge everyone reading this to get out of their comfort zone at least once this year. Disconnect from work, phones, internet and never-ending schedules, and go somewhere awesome. Make it happen. Life is short, and you’ll never regret the time you spend with loved ones in nature.
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