Dark clouds had crept across the sky, and a cold rain was falling, but Jamie Westervelt and her family decided to walk the trails near Carlyle anyway.
“We don’t melt!,” Jamie said when asked if they were still up for an adventure.
The group consisted of Jamie and her kids Wyatt, Griffin and Jolee, along with Beans, the black Boston Terrier.
Jamie’s parents, Leah and Michael Oswald, had also come along for the journey. The two of them usually walk the trails for about 30 minutes each night, swearing by its positive effect on their moods.
The excitement was palpable, which is understandable given that the two families had been separated for several weeks during the stay-at-home order.
Jamie is an addictions counselor at the Substance Abuse Center of Kansas (SACKS) and has been working from home for the past three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her husband of 18 years, Corey, works at M&W Manufacturing.
Have you enjoyed working at home?
“No!” she said. “It’s hard to work from home, especially when the kids are going to school, and keeping them on track.”
Jamie noted she’s been a counselor for 10 years, and at SACKS for a year and a half.
The two boys missed seeing friends and the “social time” of being surrounded with others.
“We’ve been doing more walking,” she said, hitting the trails with greater frequency especially in the absence of sporting events for the kids.
Leah and Michael said they had begun taking advantage of the trail system a couple months ago, following the recommendation of Michael’s physician. Jamie and her kids soon joined them in the habit.
“This is the first night we’ve walked in the rain though,” Leah added.
Their usual route is to jump on the line at the Carlyle trailhead, then sojourn north under the sprawling canopy of trees — each with their own shade of green, everything from bright lime to dark olive.
As one approaches Colony from the south, there are also soft hills to climb, and the possibility of encountering deer, rabbits and many other forms of wildlife.
Soon, according to Leah, there will also be fantasy creatures hiding along the trails for people to find, in connection with the library’s reading programs — such as the troll from “Three Billy Goats Gruff.”
Leah is youth services librarian at Iola Public Library.
When asked about her own experience of exploring the trails and why she likes them so much, 3-year-old Jolee enthusiastically exclaimed “It’s good for you!”
“This has helped [Jolee] sleep at night,” Jamie pointed out.
It didn’t take long, though, before shyness got the best of her, just as the sickly sweet smell of honeysuckle began to permeate the air.
“There’s not really a good place to walk out here [by Carlyle] besides the trails,” noted Jamie, as the sound of fine gravel crunched beneath everyone’s feet and the rain grew heavier.
Griffin, age 13, chimed in that under normal circumstances he’d be practicing for the swim team, suggesting that he’s been going stir-crazy without being able to get outdoors as much.
His swim events are the freestyle 100 and freestyle 50.
“It’s pretty peaceful” out on the trails, he said, though by contrast seemed to have mixed feelings about spending extra time with his “baby sister” due to having school at home.
Is middle school challenging? “No, not really,” he said, expressing excitement about the challenge of playing football for Iola Middle School.
Speaking of challenges, Griffin and Wyatt will often ride their bikes along the trails clear from Carlyle into Iola and back.
“Gives me something to do,” chuckled Wyatt, 15. Otherwise, he finds himself getting pretty bored.
Hence he’s looking forward to working at the Iola pool this summer.
As the entire family paused on the trail bridge, Beans the dog made his appearance known, as the rain poured down through the clearing.
The large drops continued falling, breaking against colorful umbrellas and soaking little Jolee’s dark hair.
Soon the family turned about to make their way home along the verdant path.
Listen to the full interview with the Westervelt family on our podcast “Registered.” Visit iolaregister.com/registered or find us wherever you listen.