New Year's goals and road ditch adventures

Well here we are three weeks into the new year. How are you doing on your resolutions or goals for the year? Is your enthusiasm starting to wane or are you still motivated? If it’s the latter, take heart. They say it takes about six weeks of consistently doing something (or not, as the case may be) to develop a habit. Keep at it, you’re halfway there.

Last month I encouraged you to infuse your new year’s resolutions with time outside. I resolved to do the same. Now, halfway into the habit-formation timeline, I thought I’d give an update on how I’m doing on my goals for the year.

One of my primary goals this year was to make a point to get outside with the kids for at least a little while every day. You’d think this would be easy. But winter, and schedules, and the allure of SpongeBob on TV makes this harder than you’d think, even for a conservation guy like me.

But we’ve done decent at this. We’re probably averaging four out of five weekdays and I think we’re 100 percent for weekends thus far. On weekday afternoons as soon as we get home, we immediately get our winter gear on, which is a good 15-minute-or-longer process with a two- and five-year-old, and head outside. At first, we just wandered the yard, breaking through the crust of ice and throwing snow and making snow angels. But after about two days, all that back-jarring breaking through the ice crust got old and the kids got bored with the same old yard they know well. So then we took to making short hikes up our gravel road, exploring the tracks left by marauding foxes, intrepid rabbits, and hungry pheasants. We found that the local wildlife had taken to eating tree buds and cedar berries because I’m sure it’s hard to access anything on the ground under the sheet of ice beneath the snow.

As it turns out, for two- and five-year-olds, a stretch of unexplored snow and ice-covered road ditch is as good as any mountainous wilderness area. It took me a lot of “c’mon, let’s keep going” pleas before I finally realized that, for kids, being outdoors doesn’t need a destination. A road ditch in sight of home is adventure enough. So with the exception of one windy day during which we retreated to the nearby woods, the stretches of cedar-patched road ditch has been our go-to. I’m sure we’ll tire of it soon enough – or it will fill with melt water – after which we’ll turn our attention to the woods.

But we’re lucky enough to live outside of town where “wild” road ditches are plentiful. What unexplored “wild” areas might exist in your neighborhood? What animals prowl the back streets and alleys at night, leaving tracks to identify in the daylight? What local park or woodland is just a short hike or drive away? SpongeBob can wait.

As a kid, I often played in the road ditch and the attached wooded ravine in front of my parent’s house.

Which brings me to another goal of mine for this year. Go on a trip with my dad. For as long as I can remember, I spent more fall weekends than not in the duck blind with my dad and various other friends and family members. But as it goes, family and work obligations kept me and my siblings out of the blind for more and more weekends each year. For two years now I’ve not spent a single minute in the blind with my dad. We still get together for deer season but that’s only one weekend, maybe two, compared to the dozen or so we used to spend together in the great outdoors.

I get that it’s a natural process to see your parents less as you have your own family to focus on. But I also know that the time I have left to spend outside with Dad is limited and getting less every day. A dozen weekends in the duck blind isn’t an option for me at this stage of family life, but a few special weekend outings certainly aren’t too much. So we’re planning a fishing trip this summer. Just the guys. Maybe we’ll catch fish. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter. That we made the conscious effort to spend time together is what does.

And fittingly, doing more fishing is another one of this year’s goals. Because everyone should fish more. And if I teach my kids to fish with me now, maybe thirty years from now they’ll carve time out of their own busy schedules to take me on a fishing trip for the few weekends a year I get to see them.

And that, to me, is a goal worth having.


  1. This is great! I enjoy your writing, Chris. It helps that is mostly about where I grew up :) and I also relate to getting the kids outside.

  2. Thanks! I must be doing something right. Yesterday evening my girl begged to go outside, even though she's not feeling great (seasonal sinus crud). We finally gave in, to momma's chagrin, and went out for a bit. I think she'd have stayed out till dark. 13 degrees is not a problem for a 5-year-old when there's fresh snow to explore.


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