By Merisa Sherman
When I was young, my mom used to feed us breakfast and send us out the door with instructions not to return home until 5 p.m. to get ready for dinner. I didn’t have a backpack or money or anything except the complete and utter feeling of freedom to create and imagine and dream. I would have a bathing suit on underneath my clothes and a beach towel draped over my right shoulder and a chapter book hidden in my armpit. Opening that rickety screen door and stepping onto the crushed rock patio was like stepping out into a world like none other. A world where I could do anything as long as my little thick legs could carry me there. I was free to explore the world available to me or just sit on the beach and read for hours.
It was an amazing time, full of crayfish hunts, sandcastle building and “expositions,” all in the same day. There was a beach within walking distance, but you could never just walk straight there — every day you had to follow a different journey, perhaps get your heart racing by taking the hidden Snake Path or choosing the long way through Mrs. Kiss’s blueberry bushes, around the Split Rock behind the outhouse and then over the rickety wooden bridge built before the Second World War.
I spent so many hours on that bridge, hidden from the sun by the thick canopy, and dangling my legs over the side as I met friends both real and imaginary.
Without getting in a car, we made a gazillion memories climbing the mountains in our backyard and playing in the streams that ran off of them. We would cut through the woods until we thought we might be far enough to get into trouble and then turn around. We would walk south one day and then west the other, never having a real goal in mind. Usually, we just thought about what kind of trouble we could get into that our parents would never know about. But then somehow, they always seemed to know everything by dinner.
How did they do that?
The moment uphill travel was shut down, we were sitting in the car getting ready to head up to the mountain. I literally burst into tears and felt my whole world slipping away. The snow was melting quickly around our house and unless I wanted to cross-country ski on the fast grass, it was time to move on.
But then we heard from the Green Mountain Club, who recommended walking out your door and exploring your neighborhood. So, every afternoon this week, after finishing our chores, the BF and I would pull on our muck boots and walk out the back door of our house to see what our beautiful neighborhood has in store for us. And I quickly realized that I haven’t changed that much since my childhood.
With no destination in mind, we would promise ourselves we wouldn’t come home until the light began to fade and our tummies started to rumble. Instead of just a towel and a book, we’ve got a backpack full of hiking tools and emergency supplies, but the mission remains the same. We just let our childhood selves guide us. There is so much hidden in our little world. Just this week, we “discovered” a dangerously steep ravine, several waterfalls, a swamp that could be very scary at dusk, a waterway that we just might be able to paddle, and of course, all the hidden beauty of our Green Mountains. All just by walking out our back door and exploring.
We even found the perfect super secret location for the massively awesome fort that we’re gonna build.
It’s, like, gonna be the coolest thing ever!