Nature Girl: Rediscovering Nature as a Mom


How About This Pandemic, Huh?   

In March, I was prepared for two months of a lockdown during the pandemic and missing my birthday to keep the vulnerable safe. Which by the way, is always worth it, but as the months have dragged on with no end in sight I’ve been clinging to things that make me and my family happy. Everything about this year has been nontraditional or not how we planned. We’re prepared to have odd holidays this year and haven’t been to many of our favorite places. In short, it’s been rough. It’s been rough for everyone.

My parents instilled in me that life isn’t fair, which I read some ridiculous blog about how harmful that is. I think so much of the world’s issues are that we think everything is fair and if bad things happen to people they deserve it. Life is full of disappointments. I know not getting everything you want all the time is good for people. But, the fact that so many things aren’t available for my kids to do has been hard. That being said, my family is incredibly lucky right now and we are dealing with inconveniences compared to the tremendous amount of loss so many are dealing with.

If you have money to spare, I would suggest donating to a local food bank. Monetary donations are awesome because they go further in feeding the food insecure. But I do want to talk about a positive thing that has come out of this for my family.


I have gotten to know my family so much better. I’m lucky because my husband and I make each other laugh every day and while this hasn’t been easy, I do feel like I’m part of a team. We have an infant and a three-year-old and we try to get out of the house when we can. We’ve been decorating more. Walking more. My mother is basically podding with us so that’s been great too. While our routine has stayed the same…something kind of awesome happened.

Getting Back To What’s Important

I realize I always start these with, as a child, but really when you have kids it’s amazing how many childhood memories flood back. Books you’ve read and the things you saw. Things you want your kids to experience and things you want to protect them from. So basically, as a child, we were outdoors all the time. I spent my early childhood out West in the mountains and my adolescence was spent in a house with a huge backyard. I stopped loving the outdoors when I was fifteen. I don’t know why. I think women’s clothes aren’t really meant for exploring. I also got a huge phobia of snakes and I hate being sweaty. 

But now I’m in full “pandemic mom mode” where I never wear makeup and wear what is comfy, it’s been a game-changer. Leggings are pants. I love nature in a way I haven’t since I was a kid. I love being outdoors. I need to be outside and I’m a billion times happier when I get to do long hikes.

Anyone with preschoolers can tell you, this time has been full of kids bouncing off the walls and all children should be able to experience nature. They are so tiny they get to see all kinds of cool stuff that you don’t even notice. They make every time you are outside a little bit of an adventure. Infants like being outside too and it’s just great to bond as a family now.

The Natural World

I love finding long hikes and taking pictures of everything. My son has this backpack that we fill with things we find. We know how to look for trees with acorns or walnuts. We’ve been looking for maple seeds. We went to Shale Hollow and crossed the creek looking for cool pieces of slate and acorns to put in the backpack. After seeing the gorgeous rock formations there and learning that they were fossilized dinosaur teeth and jaws (!!!), I did some more research. We found out that those were from the Devonian period and that Ohio used to be a tropical paradise. The slate we were looking at was the ocean floor from millions of years ago.

So I looked up fossils in Ohio and my kids and I trekked down to Caesar Creek and picked up fossils. You can call ahead and get a permit and you can only take fossils that fit in the palm of your hand and you can’t sell them. But it was an excellent trip for a kid who just loves to pick up rocks. We had a great time identifying shells and brachiopods. My daughter is little but she can hang out in a carrier and we’ve been looking for fun hikes all over central and western Ohio.

This rock was once a dinosaur tooth!

A year ago, if you had told me that my favorite things would be looking for little nooks in hiking paths so I could get closer to the water and identifying trees and rocks- I would have looked at you like you were crazy. But there is something so magical about being outside and exploring. Because it’s never the same.

The foliage is never the same and the light is never the same. You can see the world in a different way. It’s so great because you just get to process things. When I meditate I like to think of places I feel the safest, one of them is Bear Lake from Rocky Mountain National Park. Those were some of my favorite memories ever. I loved being with my family and I hope my kids have memories like that too. I just felt safe and loved.

My family recently went to Tall Pines and I just took a deep breath and it was the most beautiful smell in the world. We just got to forget that we were in the city and we just got to be. We also had space to be out of our home and still feel like we were in a private space. It’s literal breathing room and right now that is so necessary. My son is obsessed with waterfalls so I looked up more places to find them and the trail level to see if it was appropriate for kids. We hiked the Inman Loop at Glen Helen near Yellow Springs and my son gasped when we crossed the bridge and saw the grotto waterfall and the yellow spring. Heads up, I read this blog article about how it’s a great trail for kids and it’s lovely but you have to go up and down these steep stone steps. It’s a trek. We love Prarie Oaks and Battelle Darby for more even ground hikes. Really you just want to get outside and who doesn’t want to see bison? 

These bison were boss!


I’m the worrier in my family. I’m an anxious person and I definitely live by the maxim that Philip Roth posted in the Plot Against America “Anything can happen to anyone, but it usually doesn’t. Except when it does.” This pandemic is like my anxiety come to life. It’s who I am. I have a terrible back so my husband has the baby in the carrier. This means I get the rambunctious preschooler who rarely gets to leave his house anymore. It’s forced me to be braver and cross rock bridges, be the one who literally gets her feet wet “creekin’”, and the one who goes off trail the most. My son and I have really bonded over it. We find cool rocks and I’m the Ohio DNR site looking up old brochures on rock formations (BTW how awesome are rock formations?!).

My son calls Orton Hall at OSU  “The Dinosaur House” and it has a geological museum. Also, young hip college students that can’t see you talk to a preschooler get really confused when you excitedly yell “Dinosaur House!” on campus. We got some looks. We were in the middle of the city and I was like “check out that concretion from Shale Hollow!” just outside Orton Hall. The whole building is a straight-up gem.

A rad fossil we found! Look at those prehistoric shells!

If you have any suggestions of where to go to find cool Ohio rocks please mention them in the comments because we have a backpack and we want to fill it with cool stuff!

Chilling at the Yellow Spring!
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Alison Gehred
Alison is an Air Force brat, who was born in Wisconsin (and she still visits there often to see extended family) and lived all over the West before her family settled in the Dayton area. Alison received her BA from Bowling Green State University where she met her husband, best friends who are like family, and worked at her college radio station. If there was a cool band in the mid aughts, chances are Alison played them on her show "My Aim is True." Alison received her MLIS from the University of Wisconsin and moved back to southwest Ohio. She reconnected with her now husband Mark and moved to Columbus a year later. Several years later, she is still working at Nationwide Children's Hospital as a medical librarian and they have a little boy named Rhys and two feisty cats. They are enjoying re-discovering Columbus as parents and enjoy what the city has to offer in the food, music, and art scene. Alison enjoys fashion, cult movies and tv shows, discovering new music and meticulously keeping track of it in various journals, BBC crime dramas, SCIENCE, reading all kinds of books, and cooking. Alison has her own personal blog about her life and things she finds interesting at She loves to write and hope you enjoy her vignettes about motherhood and this fair city.


  1. This is a wonderful article, Alison! I have seen my own children bringing their little ones into the woods. The park and trails have been full of families since last March. Just this morning we met our daughter and her family for a winter solstice walk complete with cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate. This evening we’re hoping to see the Christmas star! Some good has surely come out of this dark year. Keep up your writing! You have a gift!

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