Our plans went awry when we took an alternate path back to the inn at Turkey Run State Park.
“It's not much farther,” I said over and over again, though the terrain looked less and less familiar.
Eventually, we found ourselves wandering through a nearly deserted campground that led to a separate park exit.
The kids had been ready to storm the dining room even before we left on our “short hike,” but it wasn't open yet. Hungry and demoralized, they balked at the prospect of having to retrace our steps through the scenic but mucky woods.
“You'll probably just get us lost again,” muttered Ben. Ten-year-old Colleen, who'd been sick the last couple of days, looked like she was about to cry.
Looking over the map posted at the campground, we discovered we could cut a big chunk off our return trip if we left the park and simply followed the highway back to the main entrance. But neither my husband nor I was thrilled at the prospect of herding four increasingly grumpy kids along a busy road with no sidewalk.
We decided the fastest way out of our predicament would be for Ben and I to jog the mile or so to the main entrance, retrieve our van from the inn parking lot, and drive back to pick up the others.
This wasn't the first time I'd gone jogging in Crocs. Shortly after I started running in 2010, inspired by Christopher McPherson's natural running manifesto “Born to Run,” I slipped on a pair of these colorful rubber clogs and lumbered around my parents' driveway — fantasizing all the while about running light and free as the canyon-dwelling Indians in the book.
Running eventually did make me much, much lighter (though I quickly went back to wearing shoes). But during the months I was cutting weight, I often wondered if I was being selfish, prioritizing daily exercise to the extent that some other things on my busy mom's to-do list fell by the wayside.
“Sometimes it was bad,” Colleen said later, when I asked the kids for their perspective. “There was this one month where it seemed like everyday you were out running.”
But in the long run — so to speak — they all agreed it was worth it. The new me has more energy, is better organized, and fixes healthier meals. These days, my workouts often include at least one of the kids.
“You're a better mom now that you've lost weight,” Colleen admitted.
None of us ever imagined that my running skills would one day prove useful. Of course, this was hardly an emergency. But it was nice to think that I was helping my family out of a jam, however trivial it might seem in the grand scheme of things.
The park attendant eyed Ben and I with amusement as we approached the gatehouse. In our jeans and inappropriate footwear, we weren't exactly running light and free. I'd managed to keep my Crocs in the general vicinity of my feet, but I'd picked up a bunch of pebbles along the way.
She didn't remember selling us a park pass a couple of hours earlier — and I'd left the pass in my purse back at the inn.
Finally, she waved us on through. We found the van, picked up the park pass and drove back to the campground where we left the rest of the family.
Naturally, they were nowhere in sight. Thank goodness for cell phones. It turned out that while we were gone, my husband had remembered there was a convenience store not too far away. They'd managed to locate it, bought drinks and settled into a booth to wait for us.
“Wow, you guys got back here fast!” said Bob as he and the girls piled into the van, much more cheerful than when we'd seen them last. “You're at least five minutes ahead of the earliest time anybody selected in the pool we set up!”
I was relieved that this little misadventure was already fading from an epic disaster to an amusing anecdote. With any luck, over time, they'd forget that I was the one who got us lost in the first place.
Tanya Isch Caylor, a News-Sentinel copy editor, blogs on diet and fitness at www.90in9.wordpress.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.