Happy (Clever, Goofy, Heartwarming) Trails

Last weekend, Greyson and I hiked the sprawling Appalachian Trail. Well, not quite the whole thing. Just 0.8 miles out of 2,190. But let’s not quibble over details.

We hiked in a southbound direction, and I could almost smell Georgia from the point where we had to turn around and head home to eat breakfast. Maybe next time we’ll walk north and see if we have a better chance of making it to the other end. I think we’re a bit closer to Maine than Georgia, so as long as we walk a bit faster I think we can make it all the way to Mt. Katahdin. (But just to be safe, I’ll be sure to pack a lunch.)

Hiking with Greyson is one of the preeminent joys of my life. The one-on-one bonding time it offers is unlike anything else we do together. It gives me a chance to see my little guy explore the world in a tactile way, on his own terms. It gives the two of us uninterrupted time in which we can discuss anything that might come up (although for now I haven’t tackled anything too daunting). And it gives us fresh air to breathe and an endless supply of natural wonders to behold.


It also inspires a downright bounty of cute, curious, clever Greysonisms. I’d rather share these with the world than hoard them for myself, so I have scattered last weekend’s gems (at least the ones I was able to transcribe in the moment) throughout this post. I hope you smile at them as much as I did.

“I could bring the puffin along! He’s never been to the woods much.”

Greyson carries a stuffed animal along with him everywhere he goes, and lately it’s always a bird. On this day, he selected a puffin to be his hiking buddy. The last time we hiked, he picked a pelican. He sleeps with birds, he hikes with birds, he takes birds to Grandma’s house. He even takes birds with him when he sits on the potty. His favorite Portlandia sketch, without a doubt, would be “Put A Bird On It!” (But I think I’ll wait a few years to expose him to absurdist hipster comedy.)

I love Greyson’s precision in the way he discusses his animals and their habitats. He was excited to take his puffin hiking specifically because he knew that puffins don’t typically spend time in the woods. What a gift Greyson gave that arctic little fellow, showing him the lush wonders of the Appalachians! I like to imagine the puffin regaled all his stuffed friends with tales of his hiking adventures when he got home.


“I’m on top of a rock!…

I’m on top of a mossy green rock!…

I’m on top of a very big rock, underneath the starry sky!”

These were Greyson’s words when we were 1 minute into our hike — roughly 30, 60, and 90 feet up the trail. He stopped on every rock and proclaimed his whereabouts in an ecstatic state of nature-induced fervor.

For me, that last quote attains a kind of poetry. I like to think that William Wordsworth would have been proud. Or that Walt Whitman might have considered this to be Greyson’s sweetly “barbaric yawp.”

“That looks a little like Indiana! Not quite, but a little like it.”

“The rock looks like the washing machine, and the washing machine looks like New Mexico.”

Greyson is the master of seeing things in other things. More specifically, he sees animals, letters, numbers, and states in the rocks (and leaves, and sticks) he picks up while exploring nature. A year ago, while we visited Colorado, he spent over 2 hours straight picking up every little rock in my in-laws’ backyard and giving it a non-rock identity. He even came up with a rock for every letter of the alphabet, which required quite a vivid imagination in some cases. Ater all, have you ever seen a Q- or an X- or a Z-shaped rock?

On this particular hike, Greyson located rocks that genuinely looked a a little like Indiana and a little like New Mexico. And with the latter rock, he connected it back to our washing machine, which also genuinely looks a little like New Mexico.

Here’s the Indiana rock; see for yourself.


“This piece of lichen looks like the missing dog!”

At a tree near the trailhead, we saw a sign for a missing dog. Thirty minutes later, Greyson was examining some crispy lichen on a boulder. He pulled a piece off, studied it closely, and made the above declaration. And by golly, that lichen does look like a dog! Again, see for yourself.


One thing’s for sure: I look forward to staring up at the clouds with this boy for years to come. I’m sure he’ll see a firmament teeming with creatures on any given “cloudacious” day. (Greyson coined that word earlier this summer.)

“None of the stuff in that basement is for cats.”

At the top of the small mountain knob we ascended was one of the tactile wonders of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania: An unexpected boulder field you have to climb through like a jungle gym. I’m talking boulders the size of cars, or even houses. I made some kind of reference to Greyson about the spaces between the huge rocks looking like rooms of a house.



So he started ascribing different names to the “rooms” between the boulders — a kitchen, a bathroom, a “diaper changing bedroom” (since that’s what we call our guest bedroom), a living room. After he identified the basement, he said “None of the stuff in that basement is for cats.” Why, you might (and almost certainly will) ask?

Because stored in our basement, we have some cat items like a litter box and a kitty bed that our late, beloved Dommy used.

These are the kinds of mental connections that Greyson makes all the time. Which is why there is never anything approaching a dull moment in our house.

“He walked some of the time, but not all the time.”

When we got home from our hike, we told Danielle all about our adventures and I showed her the tiny dog-shaped lichen that I had gingerly held onto. She showered Greyson with effusive praise for his hiking prowess and his various nature discoveries.

Then she asked him how his puffin enjoyed the hike. Greyson’s response, shown above, nicely straddles the line between giving his puffin credit for hiking part of the way up a steep trail and also being honest about the puffin’s limitations on rocky mountainous terrain. I respect his honest assessment.


I present this final Greyson quote, which he sweetly uttered in the minivan on the ride home, without comment.

Like my son, it speaks for itself quite beautifully.

“I like hiking. I wish we could go hiking every day!”



2 thoughts on “Happy (Clever, Goofy, Heartwarming) Trails

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