Monday, July 4, 2011

Do we always have to hike?

Written by Adam

We make it a point to hike every week, but sometimes hiking just doesn't work out. Thunderstorms, a disappointing location, or just not feeling it can all bring the hike to an end. So we allow ourselves flexibility and keep alternatives at the ready, just in case.

Taking Emily to see my playground as a young boy. 

I am fairly particular about my outdoor experience. Growing up, I always had plenty of land available for hiking and exploring in sparsely populated areas with lakes, rivers, and forests. I took them for granted at the time, but today long for their accessibility. 

Now when we travel for treks, I maintain high expectations for what the hike should be like. If my expectations are not met, I rather bag it instead of suffering through the disappointment. Thankfully my companions feel the same way. If we look at each other and say, pardon the expression - "this sucks," we readily move on to something else. But what else is there to do? 

Here are a few activities I employ to cope when a hike goes bad. Some can be spur of the moment, but others require forethought and planning, so prepare a few ahead of time to pull out when needed.

1. Stay home

When I am at home, I know there are always things that need to be done - fix something, balance something, attend to something, work work work. But sometimes leaving the house is just a waste of time and gas (during downpours with lightning, for example), and I hate wasting both time and gas. 

So I need to be mentally strong and almost revel in the irresponsibility of reading a book all day, drawing (read 'doodling'), tying flies for fishing, rearranging my gear, enjoying some hobby, playing Farkle or Monopoly or Guess the Next Card, basketball, eating all day, not showering... well, maybe nix that last one. 

You get the idea - there is always a chore or household repair to do, but there are other important things to do at home as well  - have fun.

2. Thrifting

Thrifting is a fancy word for going to flea markets, thrift stores, and tag sales. 

The best thing about thrifting is you get that good feeling of buying something without the regret of spending too much, or buying new when it really isn't necessary. 

I keep a wish list handy of things, some practical, some not so much. 

What is on my list? A canoe, bamboo fly rods and old reels, yard tools, table saw and other woodworking tools, book titles, an air compressor, outdoor gear (like a surprisingly useful inflatable seat, pictured below), a cool woodsman ax, stuff like that. 

With a (somewhat) practical list in hand, and a budget in mind, the search for treasure is on. And I just may find an item or two, all the while staying clear of the mall.

3. See the sights

Gillette's Castle in Connecticut.

This one takes some planning. We are not touristy people, but there are plenty of great things to see around our area. 

For my day job, I spend significant time traveling around the state and when I pass something interesting, I add it to my list of things to do, complete with location and hours if available. I keep this list in my phone so items can be added the moment I come across them.

Because Connecticut was in the thick of the Revolution, we can see where Rochambeau marched, or a signer of the Declaration of Independence lived. Also old New England has early American mills with cool architecture, farm days and reenactments - the list goes on and on. 

Drive to Old Sturbridge Village where a family membership is only a little more than the day pass and we can go back a few times a year. Many local activities have no admission or just request a small donation, making it very affordable. If I am stuck, I grab the newspaper (the local free ones) for the calendar section, or I can get real proactive and contact my Chamber of Commerce well in advance, as they always know what's happening.

Here is my one important rule - I make sure it is something I want to do, and not something I have to do. We all  have plenty of things we have to do during the week, so make your free time just that - all yours.

What activities are on your alternate list if Plan A does not work out for your family?

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