Want Some Free, Fun, Family-Friendly Fitness? Take a Hike!

It was a rare lazy afternoon in the Riechmann household.

Faced with the prospect of another round of Nintendo Wii Lego Star Wars or joining an impending shopping trip with Mom and the girls, my 6-year old son Braden and I had a decision to make.

Stay home or jump in the minivan?

Fortunately, we talked it over and decided to try something new…

Let’s Go Hiking!?!

I’ve always enjoyed being out in the woods and getting close to nature.  As a bowhunter, I spend a lot of time up in a tree in the Fall, and I like to get out to run or cycle on our area trails whenever I get the chance.

I even took a spring break trip in college once specifically to go hiking.  I spent most of a week hiking around the desert and ridges of Big Bend National Park in Texas.  And I loved it.

However, hiking around our home is not something that’s ever really occurred to me.  We live in a mostly flat area outside of St. Louis, and it’s not exactly a renowned hiking region.

In our quest for “something different,” I decided to do a little internet research (naturally), and I found an article that talked about hiking trips.

It sounded cool, but where would we hike around here that wouldn’t resemble a journey across a hot, humid pancake?

Looking a Little Deeper

I decided to search for hiking areas around our area, and I was reminded that Pere Marquette State Park offered 12 miles of scenic trails overlooking the bluffs of the Mississippi River.

Braden said he was game, so off we went.

After spraying down with some Deep Woods Off and grabbing some water for our backpack, we set off in search of a trail head.  Braden was excited but a little nervous, asking a bunch of questions:

  • Are there wasps here?
  • Are there mosquitoes here?
  • Are there bears here?
  • Are there Indians here?
  • Are we gonna fall off that big hill?

He totally takes after his mother! 🙂

An Awesome Hour and a Half

We found the Dogwood Trail first, and it was marked as a moderate-difficulty 1/2 mile loop.  When we reached the first intersection with another trail, I asked Braden if he wanted to keep going or loop back toward the parking lot.

Even though it was an unseasonably 90 degrees, and we had already had several close encounters with wasps and bumblebees, he excited answered, “Let’s go on a BIG adventure!”

Stoked, we continued on and hit the 1/2-mile long Ridge Trail, which is the only trail in the park marked as “difficult.”

It was really steep and had us both drenched with sweat, but we were rewarded with some amazing views of the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers when we reached the top.

At this point, I was sure we should be doubling back, but I showed Braden the trail map and let him pick our route – “shorter” or “super-long.”

Still catching his breath and guzzling some water, he told me “Let’s go farther than anyone has gone. Maybe we’ll see some cool animals.”

So, we crossed a big ravine and hit the 1 1/2-mile Goat Cliff Trail, which is aptly named.  It follows the rocky bluffs overlooking the river bottom, and it required some hand-holding moments where a misstep would have had me in MAJOR trouble with Mommy…after a trip to the hospital.

Fortunately, we emerged without incident and were closing on the last 1/4 mile of our journey back toward our car.  It was then that we heard a really loud “knocking” noise that Braden couldn’t figure out.

I explained that it was a woodpecker, and I tried to explain it was like Woody Woodpecker…before I realized that he had no idea who that was! 🙂

In a really cool moment, we were able to locate it and sneak through the woods to get an up-close look.

We snapped a photo that Braden could show his Mom when we got home, and we headed back to the parking lot.

The Best 775 Calories I’ve Ever Spent

When we got back to the car, I gave Braden some more water and stuck up my hand for a high-five.  Instead, he gave me a big hug and said he loved our adventure.

According to my profile at My Fitness Pal, our hilly hike burned about 775 calories.

It was a great workout, but it never felt like exercise. It was just one of the best afternoons I’ve spent with my son in a very long time.

If you’re looking for a fun, free and memorable way to spend an afternoon with your family, I’d definitely encourage you to go take a hike!


  1. This is a story of a great day with your son Dustin! I used to take my kids out hiking and hunting in the fall when they were younger. Over the past year with all the turmoil I have been dealing with in my failing marriage I have not done many of these fun things with my kids. BUT in the past few months I have been getting my head screwed on straight and have been spending more time playing with my kids. I think I am growing into a better man because of it. I am inspired to pack the kids up and get out to the trails for a hike.

    • I’m glad I could inspire you, Randy! Even without the maritial discord, I know that I can easily let my priorities get out of whack and not put my family first. There is no doubt that when I spend more time just playing with my kids, I am a better man.


  2. Thank you for such a great post Dustin. I am an advocate for camping and the outdoors. I believe that the experience you created and will create in the future for your son will last him a lifetime. I can tell it will by how he responded at the end of the hike. I also believe that getting outdoors and getting your kids outdoors away from their electrical paradise is key in helping battle the obesity epidemic that the kids in America are facing. Not only does going on a hike benefit you physically, but it also has an emotional and spiritual benefit as well. I am always excited to read stories like the one you share with your family and the experience you create together when you get outdoors.

    • Brett,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I checked out your site and stand in total agreement with you. I’ve been an outdoorsman my entire life, and I can that while it’s difficult at times to make sure our kids get out and experience nature, I am ALWAYS glad after we make that effort.

      Please definitely keep in touch and let’s spread our shared message for healthy families.


    • Thanks so much for sharing Dustin’s story.Pierrette & I are grandparents to 7 kids and we love to spread good health around.We take them fishing and hiking and give them a taste of Perfect Health.
      Kids respond as much as we did.
      Let’s all get the country moving again,one family at at time.
      Pierre & Pierrette
      Thee Quest For Perfect Health

  3. Hi Dustin,
    Great story that needs to be shared.Both you & your wife value your family life and you are proof that “when their is a will,their is a way”.
    Being in Perfect Health is all about people becoming more aware of the tools around them.
    Being in Great Body, Mind & Spirit can be an adventure every day.
    Congratulations to both you and your wife. You are both great examples for today’s parents.
    Thanks so much for sharing your feelings and emotions with others.
    Pierre & Pierrette
    Thee Quest For Perfect Health

    • Thanks guys! I loved writing this post and sharing our adventure. My son continues to talk about it, so it clearly left a positive impression.


  1. […] stress in your family life, be sure to get a healthy dose of regular date nights away from the kids, time alone with individual children so you can bond more directly, and give your spouse some time to be alone and just focus on taking […]

  2. […] You could take dance lessons (not my cup of tea, but maybe that works for you). On the more manly side of things, you could try rock climbing or take a long hike. […]

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