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Vacation Hiking, the Perks?

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father and son hiking down a wooded trail

Vacation Hiking, the Perks?

On this hike, my family and I went a little off the planned trail. We let our curiosity guide us to look for a specific cave that someone once hid in to avoid the draft. While we didn't find the cave, we still saw many fascinating things and learned a few things in the process.

Something to remember when hiking with younger ones is to make sure you have plenty of water and snacks. I like to bring markers and a notebook to record some of what we see in a nature journal on our hikes. My son is still getting into the idea of nature journaling, so we do it together. It doesn't have to be the best artwork or anything fancy, just doing the activity and maybe having them dictate what they saw and writing it down is great.

I like to use unlined notebooks for our nature journaling, and we even use them to create stories at home. These are perfect for that.


For the first part of the trail, I was extremely surprised to see the amount of wildlife we did, especially within Branson city limits. Our first encounter was with a slow-moving box turtle. This little guy sped up to an impressive speed for a turtle once he saw us, but I was still able to get some great pictures.

box turtle crawling across gravel trail

My son loved watching him and seeing how he walked. We talked about how his backbone is his shell, and I taught him a few other facts about box turtles, including how they don't venture far from where they were born. He thought that was amazing and wanted to look for its siblings, but we kept moving instead.

We next came across a doe and her fawn. They were difficult to spot, but we were able to see them. My son was excited, and honestly, so was I. Growing up in Southeastern Oklahoma around Beavers Bend State Park, I grew up seeing a lot of deer, but I never tired of the joy of seeing a new fawn.

In case you don’t know what a doe or fawn is, a doe is a female deer, and a fawn is a baby. We saw two whitetail deer on this hike. We didn't crowd them, but I got a few pictures to remember them. We let them continue to eat grass in the brush and continued along the trail.

As we walked, we saw various birds, lizards, bugs, and even came across a snakeskin. It looked pretty fresh, so we didn't linger very long where it was. I wasn't sure what type of snake had left it, and I didn't want to find out. Always be wary of snakes when out on a hike, and never try to catch them. Snake bites can be serious, especially if you’re bitten by a venomous one.


Looking at the smaller caves after branching off the easy trail was a blast. The change in temperature from the outside of the cave versus the inside was incredible. We didn't venture too far into the small one we entered, but the change in the rock that we could see was beautiful. It was an excellent place to take a break.

I asked my son what colors he saw, and we felt the walls as we pointed to each one. I’m hoping to inspire lifelong learning in him, and when traveling, there is so much to take in! We talked about how there are different layers in the earth and what year the layers we saw as we explored the area around the caves may have represented.

We looked for rocks and crystals while climbing the stairs further down toward the bottom of the hill.

We never did find the cave where the man hid from the draft because it became too much of a challenge for us; specifically, it wasn’t safe to move forward with a five-year-old, but the trek down and then back up was so worth it.


I guess you can safely say I’m that mom that made everyone go hiking on the first official day of vacation, but we came away with a ton of memories. Hiking and getting outdoors is an excellent way to decompress and let your soul free. It’s rejuvenating out in the woods, at least for me. I know that not everyone fills their soul like I do in the woods, but my family and I were all in excellent moods for the rest of the day and even the rest of the trip. We may have been sore because the stone steps down and up was no joke, but with some stretching and walking, the soreness eased up.

What are some of your favorite places to hike? Let me know in the comments below.

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