My son Scott and I went on a little adventure last week and walked from our home in Greenfield Wisconsin to Madison in three days. MapQuest demonstrates a 76.76 mile route to follow, which includes a 50 mile beautiful hiking trail named the Glacial Drumlin State Trail. Why would anyone want to do such a thing, you ask? Well, after you hear about the three special things I learned you will want to take up some hiking trails with your college age son or daughter as well.
I did this same route last year by myself to escape the hassles of learning to navigate an electronic medical record as part of my job as a pediatric RN. I needed to recharge my personal battery and see some peaceful scenery to combat the draining monotony of looking at computer screens much of my work day. The other reason for my hike was to slow down and take in some countryside views rather than zooming by beautiful Wisconsin vistas with little notice to detail. It was a very successful, although challenging, endeavor during three of the warmest days of the summer. The experience was positive, but had moments of loneliness walking by myself for so many miles.
Prior to repeating my walk this year my 22 year old college son volunteered to accompany me. His summer schedule was a little less hectic this year, but nonetheless I was still surprised when he offered to come along. I say this with all sincerity when I tell you I jumped at the chance to spend 3 solid days with this busy college guy. Scott is a unique blend of emotional and physical strength, faith and humor all rolled into one guy. So, what did I learn from him?
The first thing I learned was humor makes any journey more fun. Scott can sling out a line from a movie or sing a portion of a song and give levity at just the right moment. I think this is a common college age talent. However, Scott takes this skill to a whole different level. He can impersonate the voices of many of the characters in the Lord of the Rings, he can sing in perfect pitch the Mickey Mouse theme song and mimic voices from many cartoons. When I was trudging along the second day and getting discouraged with the fact that we had another 5 or 6 miles to hike to complete our day, he went on in great detail to describe a movie he had watched about a warrior and the battle he was involved in. The point of his illustration was that the warrior became impaled by a spear and needed to flee from his would be captures for three solid days with this precariously placed spear. Scott told me to be thankful that we were not being pursued by any villains or would be captures and also to consider that I was not impaled by a spear through my middle. Of course, he brought up this point several other times over the next day or so to remind me of the numerous blessings I should be thankful for. He had a point for sure. There was also the important fact that we had no Orcs (despicable looking creatures from the Tolkien’s mythology, Lord of the Rings) trailing along behind us. These are hilarious things to point out when you are on a 25 mile per day hike in Wisconsin and add perspective to my small bit of complaining in regard to wanting a water break. During these spells of laughing my feet did not hurt and my steps were lighter all due to a bit of humor.
The second valuable thing I learned from Scott was to pay attention to the details of the journey.
I was fairly confident that during the previous years’ journey I had noticed many of the natural wonders along the way. However, this year I saw so much more. Scott noticed a grumpy looking snapping turtle along the side of the trail that I completely missed.
We stopped to watch him a bit and take a photo or two. There are many wood-planked bridges that provide spots to stop and listen to the frogs. Scott pointed out some unique color combinations of flowers that I had taken for granted. We conversed often about the colors of flowers, the sky and plants along the way. We decided that only God was able to produce the vibrant green color you see in the fine grass in the wooded areas of the trail. People try to replicate this color, but have little success in doing so. During some of the miles I found to be a tad dull, he commented that he liked the open countryside along the London marsh and he even found positive aspects of the open spaces, while walking the gap connecting the east and west trails. I always considered this to be the dreariest few miles of the hike. He however, pointed out that he enjoyed the open air feeling after spending so many hours in the woodlands. He appreciated the birds and butterflies we saw, but as much as he tried could not land a photo of the swallowtail.
All along the way these tiny details unfold some of the things we will remember most from the trip.
The last thing I learned on my walk with my son was time is the most valuable gift you can give to a person.
The fact that he volunteered to go with me did not go unnoticed. As parents we often cajole or prompt our children along certain lines of behavior or even in decision making. However, there was honestly none of this included on my part for him to make this decision. Spending three days with a college age son in the country side of Wisconsin is an absolute joy. There were no movies to watch, no computers to interrupt or work obligations to tend. We spent many hours talking over a variety of important topics, but as the hours went by our dialogue traveled down less frequent roads of conversation. We each spent some time listening to MP3 players with music loaded on them during the second day. Starting out on our last morning Scott suggested we just talk to each other, as he felt the time passed more quickly when we were involved in interesting conversation. We each would take a turn at suggesting a topic. This could range from a theological question posed to one another to our opinions in regard to the most compelling characters in a particular movie. Scott is a good communicator on an everyday basis. However, imagine a ten hour stretch of time to discuss whatever your heart desires with your 22 year old. This was the best gift he could give me. I was able to hear his opinions and he was able to hear mine. Of course, if I expressed any amount of fatigue he reminded me that I did not have the burden of a spear in my belly. Even in the midst of important topics Scott has a way of adding humor to the moment. He also has a bit of self deprecating humor that can take a lull in a serious conversation to fits of laughter. At one point he started imitating the voices of the Hobbits and said his back pack was as heavy and burdensome as the ring on the journey to the dark land of Mordor. I think it was only about 25 pounds, but he was weary of the thing even so.
At one point our conversation went to the desires of how we wished to be remembered and what our legacy would be. We did not come to a firm decision on this one topic. I can tell you that the memories and laughs we shared during our three day 75 mile walk, to Madison, will be some of my most cherished times with my precious son Scott.