"Come on, kids! Hop in the car! We're going on a hike!"
"Oh no, I don't want to go again."
"I'm tired. I just want to stay in bed today."
"I can't go now. I've almost reached the next level of this game."
"Can't I just stay in and play with Legos?"
This is the conversation in our house on most weekend mornings.
An hour later, all four kids are racing up a trail, running over bridges and climbing rocks. I can hardly keep up with these same children I had to drag here.
Every 100 feet or so, my youngest son tackles his older brother and they roll on the ground like bear cubs for a minute before they scramble back up to catch their dad.
My husband and I love to be outside. You do not have to ask us more than once to trade a day on the trail for a day on the couch. I believe my kids love the outdoors too, but it seems like they have to be reminded of how much they love it.
They remember when they are 20 steps out of the car, as soon as they see a tree to climb or a hill to conquer. Only then do their legs recall how fast they can go.
We wind around the base of a hill before the trail begins to twist and turn up the side of a small mountain. From the bottom we can just make out the remains of an old tower at the top. As we climb, we play hide and seek with the tower, catching glimpses of it from different angles on the way up.
And as we make our way through the forest and over streams, we are on quests for whomever we imagine inhabits the tower above.
There is no limit to the stories one can tell on the trail. There could be a dragon around the next corner or maybe a hobbit hole.
"How much further?" my daughter always asks.
"Just a bit." I always say, since I do not know.
She and I reach the top last, but the boys wait for us to arrive before they pull out snacks and treats. We take swigs from water bottles and photos of the view below.
Once they have had their bites of chocolate and fruit, the boys are climbing the old tower, sword fighting with sticks and bragging about who can get up the highest.
Eventually, my daughter will join them, not wanting to be outdone by her brothers.
Beneath these hilltop towers in Scotland, we are imaginary mercenaries. Knights and princesses. Even kings and queens.
Trees and rocks make great playgrounds, and we relish our days free from school and other obligations by playing hard in the woods.
We bring the kids home muddy and tired, and after they get cleaned up, they settle more easily than they do on weekday nights. They are less restless and strangely content.
I always think that the next time I announce that it is time to go for a hike that they will jump at the chance to get out in the woods again. Surely, I won't have to drag them next time.
Of course I am wrong, and the following weekend, I will ignore their grumbles again, but I only have to get them to the trail. Then the woodlands will work their magic on these reluctant hikers once more.
Photos by Alison Chino. More woodland wanderings and walks can be found on her blog.