It is a lovely day in mid-April in western Kentucky. As our daughter-in-law, Christie, drives us behind Susan’s car toward Kenlake Resort, I look out at the signs of a spring a few weeks ahead of us back home in northeastern Kansas.
Redbuds line the edges of woods and lawns with their pleasant lavender blooms. Wild plum, pear and crabapple trees shine their fine clusters of white blooms along the road banks where stretches of fescue add its deep green sheen. In finely kept yards, and some not so finely kept, both pink and white dogwoods display dense branches and blooms above beds of daffodils and jonquils. In the woods, the branches and blooms are thinned by the overhead canopy of larger trees but their whites still gleam through the bare trunks surrounding them. The tall oaks, elms and hickories have barely begun to leaf out.
I love this season.
Susan and Christie park at the pullover of the Chickasaw Loop, a short half-mile trail that is ideal for small children. Daniel and Ann Marie are as eager as you’d expect pre-schoolers to be. June, still a bit of a toddler, is no less enthusiastic but not as quick on her feet, which is not altogether a bad thing. Susan and Christie help each other strap the babies, Jeremiah and Dalton, into front packs. We start down the trail from the upland end.
Daniel and Ann Marie run on ahead, despite repeated warnings, stopping occasionally to pull up a handful of tiny pale blue wildflowers. Eventually, we make them walk behind us for a while and that seems to tame the runaway instinct. Well, at least temporarily. June holds my hand and I try to keep her maneuvered around the soggiest parts of the path. At the lower edge of the loop, the trail runs along a small stream. In a small bush on the bank, a cluster of caterpillars writhe inside their spidery web. Daniel and Ann Marie are quite fascinated by them so we pause for a while then resume our walk.
At a couple of places on the upswing, runoff from the hill has formed a stretch of muddy trail. I carry the two girls across, then come back and get Daniel. Randa, Christie and Susan opt to cross on their own power and we all are glad for that choice.
It is indeed a lovely day and I remember miles and moments of hiking when my kids were small. Randa and I continued the tradition when we lived in the Lexington area, regularly taking them to Raven Run, Natural Bridge and Red River Gorge. Susan cannot remember being too young to go hiking because she never was. I used to carry her in a back carrier until she was old enough to propel herself along the trails and across the creeks, up the boulders.
It is deeply pleasing to me that she has chosen to shoulder this same tradition, this devotion to the outdoors. I am delighted that she and Christie seem to share this pleasure with their children. As I hold June’s hand near the end of the trail and watch Daniel and Ann Marie run up toward the cars, I cannot help thinking that God himself must delight in seeing his children continue the loves they have learned from him.