This article is part of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trail Moments initiative—to elevate new and tried-and-true trail voices around the country, and how trails impact the lives of Americans. Learn more at trailmoments.org and #TrailMoments on social media. Share your story, or view a collection of trail moments stories.
“Our family journey has always included trails,” said Cece Roudabush, a newly retired teacher from Coralville, Iowa. Before her children Spencer and Haley—who were born 22 months apart—could even walk, Cece and her husband would take them for hikes in the woods strapped up in packs on their back.
“Once they were able to walk, we always had what we called the ‘spring walk,’” Roudabush reminisced. “As soon as it was warm enough to put your boots on to counter the squishy ground, we went out. We would hike throughout the summer and into the fall.”
It was no surprise to Roudabush that her son Spencer would one day begin his own family in the very place that was so special to their own. The picturesque paths around Coralville Lake and the Iowa River, especially the Squire Point and Woodpecker Trails—longtime family favorites—wind through the park that Spencer and his now-wife Beth chose for their wedding day.
“I remember her walking up the steps to the gazebo with her mother holding the hem of her wedding dress, and she said, ‘We came to this gazebo on our first date,’” Roudabush recalled.
Roudabush hiked a lot during her own southern Iowa childhood and continued the pastime through her own courtship, including a honeymoon spent hiking in Colorado’s Estes Park. As a family, they relished their local trails and their playfully competitive leaf races in a fast-moving brook. They also sought trails out when they traveled; in trips to Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Badlands National Parks, hiking featured prominently.
“The Badlands had a wooden plank walkway, and the second we got to it, I recognized that trail as something my parents had taken me to with my brothers and sisters decades ago,” enthused Roudabush, who comes from a family of eight. “When you have a big family, you can’t go to an amusement park because of the cost, so what my parents always did is take us to museums, campgrounds and hiking—so I don’t associate vacations with Disneyland; I think of a state park with trails and picnic tables, a playground and maybe a pool.”
Today, Roudabush’s growing family continues to enjoy nature: Her son Spencer and his wife Beth take long walks together hand in hand, and her daughter Haley has channeled a passion for the outdoors into rock climbing with her partner Josh in Nevada. When Roudabush thinks about trails, the word that comes to mind is generational. “I’m still out on the trails, and I can’t possibly fathom that my children wouldn’t have their children out on the trails when that time comes,” said Roudabush.
A Path for Two
A few states away, in the Pittsburgh area, another couple’s love journey was also shaped by trails. It was 2018, and Arias Flory arrived in the city without knowing a soul. A professional trumpet player, she was fresh from earning her master’s in music performance at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and was looking for places where she could teach music lessons. Her now-husband Stephen owned the Monroeville Music Lesson Center in the area, and the two met for an interview, which went well.
“As I left the studio, I noticed that he had a bike on his car,” said Flory. “And I like to ride bikes, so I said, ‘Do you want to go ride bikes sometime?’ So that was the first thing we ever did together was go for a bike ride!”
Fortuitously, the two had a showstopper close at hand—the Great Allegheny Passage (gaptrail.org), a Hall of Fame Rail-Trail stretching 150 miles between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Maryland, which is dotted with old railroad tunnels, soaring trestles, historical sites and other attractions, and gorgeous views. They regularly rode the trail together as friends, and when they became a couple, it served as the meaningful setting for Stephen’s marriage proposal in late fall 2019.
For Flory, who grew up on a farm “in the middle of nowhere” Ohio, trails would always be a beloved part of her past, present and future.
“The only trails we had were the ones my dad made, but they were super important to me,” she said of her rural childhood. “I rode horses when I was younger, and so the outdoors has always been a huge part of my life.”
Arias and Stephen tied the knot outside with a small ceremony during the 2020 pandemic at his family’s farm in Virginia and now enjoy trails together with their fur-baby Ollie, a sweet and adventurous puppy.
So what’s next for the happy couple? Riding the Great Allegheny Passage from end to end and exploring more trails, of course. The two plan to visit family in Colorado and Utah later this year, where trails are “definitely going to be the main event when we travel—we love finding outside things to do!”
Have you recently discovered trails, or are you a long-time trail enthusiast? Either way, we hope you’ll share your “Trail Moments”—and the stories of how trails have impacted your life during COVID-19. Take the survey below, or share using #TrailMoments on social media.