There's just something about the journey

Jan. 13, 2014 @ 08:43 PM

She is toddling about in the tall grass.

It is cold, and her toboggan is tight and the gloves annoy her and the broom straw tickles her nose and she strains to see the wood ducks on the pond. She is beside him and she is a giggling and wiggling and rambunctious creation of work, and for a moment she might eventually forget.

He hushes her and lifts her to his knee so that she can see. He is all of a kindergartners, and he is flannel shirt tucked into brown pants and his pant legs are stuffed into his boots, and he is a brown belt and camouflage hat and vest and he totes the stick and he points to the trees.

They are walking a creek bank and he is tossing stones and overturning decayed limbs, and when they reach a place where the water is deeper than boots with pants stuffed inside he grabs him by the hands, swings him in a giant circle, once, twice and a third-time for a more robust grin, and then deposits him on the other side.

She is determined not to wear the earrings she received for her 8th birthday because they are, “too flashy,” she says.

Her camouflage sweatshirt and pants and socks and boots and bag do little to hide her enthusiasm and her drive and her mission to hunt all day no matter the wind or the cold or the hills or the briars.

She doesn’t ask for help. She doesn’t wince. She doesn’t complain. Even though the briars are clingy and the weeds are tall, she follows his steps and his path and the way he makes. He is one week away from driving, and still he appreciates the passenger seat.

On a Saturday, when the frost was heavy and the wind gone and the sky is open and the sun is slow, she drives him to where an old path begins its meandering and winding and impressionable ways. He is a passed-down single shot and a bag with a warm egg-and-bacon sandwich and cold chocolate milk and a compass and his boots are laced tight.

When the door is shut and the truck pulls away, he begins his journey into the woods. Here he lifts himself atop a felled log so that he may see. Here, after he is warmed by a fire by the creek, he swings from a sapling tree and lands across the creek, repeats, repeats again and repeats again, too.

Here he follows a well-worn and known and familiar path. Here he is his own vehicle, his own driver and passenger, and each step he takes on a day-long journey is by his own speed and pace and pursuit.

At the other end of a path and the other end of a creek and the other end of a field of thorns and the other side of a grassy meadow where the broom straw is tall and the wood ducks occupy a cove of water, it is how one arrives that really matters.

Along the way, help is needed and following is essential.

Arriving there is the way outdoors.

Reach outdoors columnist Jason Hawkins at hawkinsoutdoors@msn.com