For the past two years my kids and I have participated in the
Hike Lake County Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to
hike seven of the 12 designated trails in the Lake County Forest
Preserves. The trails range in length from one to two miles. The
hikes need to be completed between Aug. 15 and Nov. 30 of the given
year. Once you complete the hikes you can turn in your travel log
to get a free commemorative shield for your walking stick.
Now, we don't have any walking sticks, but my kids are
determined to get those commemorative shields. Last year we hiked
only five of seven trails and they were rather disappointed that we
didn't meet our goal. But, we hadn't begun our hikes until
mid-October. This year, we started in August and only have one
trail left to hike. We will get our shields this year.
We've experienced extremes in weather over the two months that
we've participated. Last week we struggled through a 1.6-mile
cloudy, cold, windy hike with our hoods up and gloves on. In
September, we hiked on one of the hottest days of the year. It was
95 degrees in the afternoon sun at Cuba Marsh.
It was on this very hot hike that my sons got lost.
My sons, ages 9 and 7, got ahead of my daughter and I and
apparently turned the wrong way on the clearly marked path. She and
I followed the markers and made our way back to our car. The boys
weren't there. They had no water with them and a storm was
I wasn't completely freaking out because the park isn't that big
and it's not heavily wooded - more prairie-like than forest. But I
was worried about setting off to try to find them, only to have
them come back to the car and not see me there. Would they get back
on the trail again, leading us to follow each other around in
circles until we were dehydrated, drenched from the rain or
electrocuted from lightning?
As I walked back on the path toward the first turn, I decided
that I would call my husband in five minutes if I didn't find them
and then I would call the police. I felt confident that we would
find them, but needed a second person to meet them if they came
from the other direction.
We continued walking on the path, rounding curves as we went. No
sign of them around the first curve. No sign of them around the
second curve. No sign of anyone around any curves. Then my mind
started to really worry. What if one of those hikers that we passed
earlier took them? No stop that. They're fine. They're just
At that moment, I saw them round the next curve. They appeared
hot and tired, but OK. We had only been separated for about 20
minutes, but it's amazing the thoughts that can run through your
mind in such a short period of time. We discussed how dangerous it
is for them to walk so far ahead of me and that they should keep me
in sight at all times. They were scared enough to heartily agree.
We left the forest preserve just as the rain and lightning
We've hiked five more trails since that hot and scary hike. They
have stayed close by on every single one. Seems we all learned a
good lesson the fairly easy way.
Kate Hall is a married homeschooling mom to her three kids, all of which were adopted from China, living in the lovely suburbs of Chicago.
See more of Kate's stories here.
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