One thing I have struggled with since Kathryn died has been how to honor her and keep her memory alive while at the same time charting a new course for the family. I have felt guilty at times even thinking about doing things differently than how Kathryn did them. It could be something as simple as how we clean up after dinner. Kathryn had a system and it worked well but if I think about changing that at all, I feel like I am disregarding seventeen years of marriage. I know it’s extreme but I doubt I’m alone among widowers in feeling that way. So, my debate is how to lead this family forward in a way that honors Kathryn and yet embraces a (slightly) new course for the family. I’ve taken some steps towards that goal but it’s going to take somewhere in the range of 2 million more!
From time to time, Kathryn and I would dream about hitting the road with the kids. We were and are a homeschool family so we had at least one less root keeping us in a geographical area. It was a “wouldn’t it be cool if…” kind of dream. Those are the kind that usually stay daydreams, but every once in a while they can turn in to something real. Now to be clear, I’m not trading the house for a tenement on wheels like Cousin Eddie did, however, in December I bought a 25 foot camper with four bunks in the back for the kids and a bed in front for me, and I also bought a Chevy Suburban to pull it. Mid-life crisis? Check that off my bucket list. We’ve got an adventure ahead of us!
Since I started primarily running on trails over the past several years, trips to state parks became even more exciting. William O’Brien (Willie Mo Brian, as the kids call it) or Itasca State Park have alluring trails that called to me and these parks hold special memories with Kathryn and the kids. I think that’s where the idea was born to run all the trails in all the state parks in Minnesota. This is the project the kids and I have taken on for 2021! Starting in April, we will spend most weekends and some weekdays in our state’s 67 state parks and a couple of the State Recreation Areas that are runable. I hope to be finished with all the parks by the first week of November. There are roughly 1,070 miles of trails and I estimate it will take somewhere near 1,300 miles to run all of the 1,070. (The trails in most parks criss-cross each other and so to set foot on all 1,070 miles of trails, I will need to cover the same ground more than once.) The first park we will camp at will be St. Croix State Park near Hinckley. It’s the largest of the state parks and hosts 127 miles of trails. It’s a doozie.
The output of this adventure will be multiple things, both tangible and intangible. I plan to write a Runner’s Guide to Minnesota State Parks but I also plan to write about Kathryn, our life together, her cancer journey, and what we hoped our family would be. There is so much of her story yet to be told, things she longed to share but couldn’t find the right time or the right way, sacrifices she made, people she impacted, and people that impacted her. I hope the intangible things will be incredible memories for the kids and a new family identity that honors every ounce of love Kathryn poured in to all of us.
If anyone wants to join us this year, let me know. We would love to have families to camp with, and although I love to run alone, I love running with others even more. Let’s go!
6 thoughts on “A New Adventure”
WOW! Oh, the places you’ll go! We are looking forward to hearing about your adventures. If they are not already a part of it, the kids might like to join the Junior Park Naturalist program.
We love Minnesota state parks and enjoy hiking their trails. Enjoy making new memories while honoring the old.
And best of luck on your writing adventures. We had been thinking that you should write a book..you are such a good writer!!
This is so exciting, Aaron! Kathryn would be so happy about this. What a great thing to do as a family! May God bless your adventures, your running and your writing, but especially your family!
I’ll chime in too. Hats off to you Aaron and the Hill family. Since I worked for the state and with a lot of DNR folk, I have some small appreciation for what you are undertaking! I would be surprised if it’s ever been done. Our family has visited about 55 of the parks but it’s taken 41 years! So all the best on your new adventure and by all means, put your considerable writing skills to use. As I’m sure you know, there have been many books written on MN state parks, but I’m not aware of one devoted specifically to running the trails. Good luck!
So excited for the adventure to begin. Wow 1000 miles n one season. you have to keep us posted about all the fun things maybe the kids could add in to the journal also. Love that you are writing about the last few years journey. Such a wonderful tribute to Katherine. Love you all
Aaron, I just found your blog – don’t know how I missed it all this time, but it is good to ‘hear from’ you. I think of you and the family often and although we love to travel in an RV, that period in our life is over, so go enjoy, savor, drink it all up for us. We love traveling Minnesota – our first time was with two little boys with a tent contraption on the back of our Chevy station wagon in 1959! Go forth!
Ellen and Lynn