Group of hikers crossing a swamp over a log brdge

This photo was taken on an earlier hike I hosted on the same trail at the beginning of the swampy section.

Confession: I got my HiB group lost on the last trail hike I hosted. I also accidentally touched a patch of poison ivy growing up a tree. And to round out my hike fail hat trick, I fell down with my toddler on my back in my framed carrier three times in the swamp section of the trail.

Did the kids on our hike know anything was wrong? No. Why not? Because we all stayed calm and carried a lot of snacks for this hike.

We had a great first half of the hike and then it started to get more difficult as we entered the swamp section. We decided to cut the hike short and go have lunch. Instead, we got lost.  I learned a lot that day, now dubbed by one of our branch’s BAs (Branch Ambassadors), Maricar, as “Swamp Shenanigans.”

Never shall the words “I know a shortcut” ever pass my lips again.

Two women hikers with kids in carriers in a parking lot with emergency vehicles in the background

Two of our BAs, Maricar (background) and Katie (foreground), in the parking lot after our hike with the first responder vehicles in the background

That’s how we got lost. I thought we were cutting through an area of the trail that was easy to pass through back toward the parking lot which runs parallel to the trail. Instead, we ended up in some major bushwhacking terrain very quickly and had to circle back. That’s when we lost the trail head markers. I realized after speaking with the trail steward later that the trail has very few shortcut options, even though the trail borders a very suburban area.

Make sure you’re paying attention to other visual cues on the trail.

We passed a water tower and other landmarks on the trail that we used to describe our location to the 9-1-1 operator. Yes, we used 9-1-1 to get back onto the trail and out to the parking lot. The operator dispatched an officer to the trail head but we were on the other end so we couldn’t hear him shouting for us. The county police sent four squad cars out to our rescue and turned their sirens on so we could follow the sound and get out.

Young girl with muddy boots and jeans

Bee loves getting muddy on HiB hikes. This photo was taken at Tiki Love Farm, which is next to the trail.

If you stay calm, your kids will stay calm too.

We made sure our kids were hydrated and not hungry during the 90 minutes it took to get back on the trail and out to the parking lot. If there is a recording of our 9-1-1 call, you’ll hear me singing “The Wheels on the Bus” and the “ABC Song” over and over as I worked to keep my daughter, Bee, calm.

Debrief with the group.

We did a quick debrief before parting ways. Then the other BA, Katie, did a Facebook Live post that afternoon on our branch’s FB page, sharing what we learned on the hike as well as some important reminders about staying safe while hiking.

Get back on the trail.

As soon as my hiking boots dried off, I put my daughter on my back once again and we went on another hike a few days later. Just like the adage “Get back on the horse,” I knew I needed to stop re-playing what happened that day and get back on the trail.

Hikes are my daughter’s outdoor classroom and I didn’t want one bad day to keep her from learning to love the outdoors as I do. Trails and parks are where she’s learned to climb, jump and explore. When we come home to our backyard, she knows it’s okay to dig in the dirt, pick up kindling sticks with me and help me re-fill our bird feeder. I know we’ve been on a great hike with HiB when my gaiters are covered in mud and it takes a week for my hiking shoes to dry out. Someday, I’ll tell Bee about the time we got lost and leave out the part about me falling down over and over again until I was soaked through.

Hike it Baby group splashing in a snow bank/creek

Hiking after the last snowfall of 2017 in Central New Jersey at Duke Farms.

Photos courtesy of Maggie F, Maricar K and Ali C.

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