A Fit Family Challenge Adventure: Lost in the Woods

A trip to McDowell Nature Preserve not only resulted in a day of exercise, but a day full of adventure.
Blog Wk31

It wasn’t our intention to get lost in the woods. I was hoping to get Lena and myself out for at least 30 minutes of exercise, spend a little quality time together and maybe snap a few pictures that I could use in my next Fit Family Challenge blog. Lena and I have come to really enjoy the time we spend at the nature preserves since relocating to Charlotte … and I’m not talking the kind of ‘enjoy’ where the kid tolerates the activity while asking, “What are we gonna do after this?” I’m talking the kind of ‘enjoy’ that is expressed vocally, over and over again with no chance of misinterpretation because the person’s main goal is to persuade you to agree with them and then get YOU to do something about it. Classic kid-tactic, used when I was young most commonly when there was an ice cream parlor in the vicinity. So far, Lena and I have walked the trails at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, Latta Plantation and Reedy Creek Nature Preserve. This particular weekend we were venturing out to uncharted territory for us, the McDowell Nature Preserve, our new love.

On any given day, Lena and I may jump into the car and drive to our many destinations before I’ve begun to think about what time it is, how long we will be out, do we need snacks, and who-knows-what about dinner. This “normal” weekday grind of ours can sometimes flow right into the weekend. But not on this day. On this day, I planned ahead! I’m wearing a noble grin as I type this! After picking up Lena’s friends, Patton and Reagan, we made a brief stop home rather than rushing right out. My primary reason for stopping at home before going to the trails was to make sure we didn’t head out with empty bellies. I can withstand a lot, but listening to children asking to eat every five minutes in the middle of an outing is not a situation I was wired to endure with any amount of grace.  So, we ate lunch at home. Then, thinking ahead (which I am often way too busy to do), I knew that we’d most likely work up our appetites much sooner than the time that we had planned to return home. 

Earlier during the Fit Family Challenge onboarding process, Nutritionist expert Tricia Azra suggested that I keep a small cooler in the car to keep fresh snacks handy at any time. With a cooler in the car we can have fruit, veggies, cheese and cold water whether we’ve planned a full day outing or just running errands. Packing our own snacks can save me $15-$20 per excursion and help us better manage our calorie intake. Win-win. Whaddya know…with just a few tips from the Fit Family Challenge experts the Fit Family Challenge has just turned us into a financially fit family as well. I’m down with that!

So, with a cooler packed full of food already in the fridge (no grocery shopping necessary. I love that.) we headed to the nature preserve. I chose the McDowell Nature Preserve because it was a new destination for Lena, myself and her friends and it’s located right on Lake Wylie. That beautiful lake. I figured a relaxing sit-down by the lake would be my our reward after a little exercise.

The girls and I had a fabulous time. We visited the nature center, played at the playground, had a picnic at the lake and walked about three miles along the trails. All for FREE! The trails were great. We walked one fairly easy trail then went slightly “off-road” and found ourselves on our new favorite trail called Chestnut Trail. Chestnut Trail at McDowell was like a living version of the new Jungle Book movie. It was awesome. The trails were winding and twisted and had these fun inclines and bridges. It felt like we were going on a treasure hunt. And what made it even more adventurous was that we unintentionally left our map in the car when we happened upon this particular trail. We trusted our gut (and the trail markers, of course) and walked the entire trail not thinking for one moment about food, what we were missing on TV, what we were going to do next … I was so captivated by this experience that I took only one picture while on the trail. I didn’t even think to pull out my phone while walking the route – we were that much into the experience.

We saw toads, salamanders, butterflies, a pair of turtles swimming in the lake and tons of squirrels running through the forest who sort of freaked us out. We saw beautiful canopies of trees, bunches of wildflowers and these gorgeous landscapes of fallen tree trunks, sloping hills and winding creeks. The girls even made a connection between our trail walking and their third-grade science unit on the life cycle of plants. They asked me to take a photo of them next to the base of a tree that had been uprooted so they could show it to their teacher (Hi, Ms. Banas!). The diameter of the tree base was as tall as the girls! This was the only picture I took while on the trail.

It rained pretty heavily late Saturday afternoon. The girls and I were making our way to our car just as the rain began to fall. Our emergence from the woods couldn’t have been timelier. We scurried up the steep “off-road” hill that led us to Chestnut Trail just as raindrops began to fall. We laughed and screamed dramatically while encouraging each other to run up the hill (we decided that we couldn’t get wet, because if we did we would melt!). We all scrambled to the car, jumped in and slammed the doors in the nick of time. The large, but patchy raindrops had built itself into a heavy shower by this time. We sat in our car for a minute to let the rain subside and as we drove the long and winding road out of the preserve we left with such appreciation for nature and the time we spent together. The sun began to reappear as we made our way out of the soggy woods and onto the main road.

Other than being captivated by the beauty of the lake and the woods on this unexpected adventure, we were never actually lost, but it sure was exciting to pretend that we were!

Ami Hill, 35, and her daughter Lena, 9, are participating as one of our 2016 Fit Family Challenge spotlight families. Learn more about their healthy family journey here, and follow along with Ami as she updates us this Spring and Summer in the Fit Family Challenge Blog.

Want your family to get active towards a healthier lifestyle? Register now for the Fit Family Challenge.