You are standing at the trail head, drawing designs in the dirt with your toe. Your two year old tugs impatiently at your hand, asking where his friends are. The baby on your chest wriggles in the carrier, ready for a nap. “Two more minutes,” you say. “Let’s just give it two more minutes.” You’ve been there for twenty minutes already, and are fairly certain no one will show. Your Facebook post had only received a few tentative “I might show up if the baby naps/doesn’t nap/if the weather cooperates.” The parking lot is empty except for an elderly couple out walking their dog.
The weather is less than ideal. A bit cold, a bit drizzly. You start to wish you hadn’t showed up either, and could go home and curl up on the couch.
Then you look down. Your toddler is now running circles around the trailhead sign. Your baby has fought the good fight but is starting to close his eyes. “We’re here,” you think. “Might as well hike for a bit anyway.”
Your toddler asks again where the other kids are, but happily agrees to go for a walk with just the three of you. He takes off running down the trail, and then promptly stops. He has found a twig, or a bug, or a stone that is too interesting to run past. You start to prod him along, and then you realize you have no one’s schedule to keep but your own. The baby is snoozing contentedly as you rock side to side, watching your little one explore.
The sun comes out and your frustration starts to slip away. You catch yourself wondering how anyone could stay inside on a day like today. The birds peek out from behind branches and you point out a couple different species to your toddler, who admittedly, is still more interested in the twigs, bugs, and rocks on the ground.
You miss your friends. You wanted to tell someone that your baby finally slept through the night, and ask if they have any potty training suggestions. But you figure you will see them next week. You walk a little farther up the trail. The baby is awake now, and three of you sit down on a grassy patch. At least momentarily, until the toddler and baby start running and crawling after each other, laughing. You smile, and realize you are glad you made it out today after all.
Some days, no one shows. Maybe it is one off day, or maybe it’s been a few weeks of trying to drum up interest in a particular location. It is easy to find ourselves discouraged and even annoyed. But remember – someone showed up. You. You caught a bit of fresh air, showed your children the beauty of nature, and had a chance to spend some quality time together. Time spent outdoors is never wasted, even when no one else shows.
Jackie is the branch lead for Helena, MT. She started the branch in an attempt to keep up with her oldest boy’s boundless energy. Jackie lives in Helena with her two boys, Gene (2.5), Charlie (1) and her husband, John. They love exploring the trails around their city.