In two short weeks, I will be leading four hikes through picturesque Lapham Peak State Park as part of the inaugural Woodside Walk in the Woods hiking event hosted by my school's Green, Healthy, & Wellness Committee. Knowing over 400 school community members have RSVP'ed, I wanted to do some scouting to find fun accessible and diverse trail routes for all involved. Two hikes will be shorter and focus on paved and easy terrain while two hikes will be a bit more adventurous, but certainly still family-friendly.
It's no fun to scout alone so of course I brought my hiking partner, Embry, and some of our closest friends and their fellow toddler. I love hiking and seeing my daughter enjoy the trails, but that joy is more than doubled when she teams up with the little lady my wife appointed as Embry's "bestie."
We headed out on one of Lapham's groomed trails with an easy and rolling slope and it wasn' too long before we came across three white-tailed deer foraging. We were at a distance where they weren't bothered by our presence, though an unsuspecting trail runner came within a few feet, startling and dispersing them ever so slightly. I know Wisconsin is loaded with deer, but there's still something cool about seeing them in their element.
We continued at a toddler-like pace with the two girls enjoying their own hiking sticks, running and stopping, occasionally whimpering, more running and stopping, and persistently pausing to touch anything and everything. And when you have two little ones, you better make sure you have snacks. We found a nice bench along the path and enjoyed some berries and fruit snacks before heading back to the hike.
It wasn't much longer until we came across a "beginning to bloom" butterfly garden. Watching the girls stick their sniffers up into the flowers was entertaining. They liked the colors and were reluctant to leave. Only the promise of scaling "the tower" lured them away.
When we got to the tower, both girls made it well known they wanted to do each step, so it was a bit of a slower ascent. Of course, there was no time to enjoy the views once we did reach the top, the girls made it clear it was time to climb down. Then, at the bottom, time to go right back up. However, the adults stepped in and ended the climbing party. While my friends and Embry's bestie headed home, my little hiker and I were just getting started.
We headed back on one of my daughter's favorite Ice Age Trail spots to date: the tower steps. Once again, she refused any help. Once making it to the bottom, she found a new hiking stick, stopped to listen every time she heard the faintest chirp, and pleaded to pet each of the many dogs we saw. Our favorites were a beautiful pair of very friendly huskies named Sebastian and Covie. We traversed the Ice Age Trail and some of Lapham's other trails before heading back towards the butterfly garden and the nature center where our car was parked. Once we got to the paved trail adjacent to the nature center, Embry requested to be held, something she usually intensely avoids when out in nature. Not more than one minute after her request was granted, she was out cold.
She may have been hiked out for the day, but our hiking adventures are far, far from being over.