Heidi Holliday McKitrick moved to San Marcos two years ago from Kansas City with her family. Within a week of moving, she and her two young boys were out exploring the trails and starting their first 52-hike challenge. Heidi grew up (literally) in her parents’ bicycle shop in Wichita, Kansas, and biked across the country in 2006 with her college roommate, then biked the Santa Fe trail on her honeymoon in 2007. Before moving to San Marcos, she spent 13 years in Kansas City, where she helped to create an urban trail network called the Rozarks and worked as director of several different nonprofit organizations. She lives in San Marcos with her husband, Matthew, and three kids: Alex (6), Isaac (3), and April (3 months), and is a consultant specializing in working with nonprofits and small businesses.
Why do you value the natural areas?
The first time I visited San Marcos to see my in-laws, I fell in love with the river and the trails. I remember thinking how I didn’t realize Texas was this beautiful! (Ironic coming from someone who finds beauty in the plains of Kansas.) As I learned more and more about the importance of the natural areas and the unique geography and ecosystems in San Marcos, I grew increasingly passionate about exploring and protecting them.
As a parent, I want my kids to value and enjoy nature. It’s incredible to have this many miles of trails in the city—and equally incredible that within those natural areas, there is such diversity of geography, plants, and animals. One thing I’m really proud of is that my kids are now requesting to go hiking on the weekends, and the oldest is especially interested in completing our 52-hike challenge every year.
Finally, the natural areas have provided an incredible social value to me. I’ve spent so many hours exploring the trails with my kids, and I’ve invited other families to go hiking with us. I love being disconnected from our devices and screens and spending quality time together.
Who or what most influenced your view of the natural world?
My parents definitely influenced my views the most. As I mentioned, they started a successful bicycle shop in 1980 because they were (are) passionate about getting people outside into nature. Our family vacations growing up were primarily camping or biking-related, and we would go backpacking together for a week in Colorado or Wyoming. From them, I learned how to be a good steward of the Earth as well as the power of awe in nature. My mom started two rails to trails nonprofits over 20 years ago back in Kansas and has been instrumental in building over 16 miles of rail trails. I still volunteer with them from afar because I love the work they are doing in my hometown. My dad would spend Sundays outside, finding awe in nature instead of a church. And they both helped with trail clean-ups and organizing bicycle rides and in local advocacy efforts. Now they have been wintering in San Marcos and enjoying the trails with us!
What is your favorite trail? What do you like about it?
This is a hard one! I like them all for different reasons. My kids really enjoy Schulle Canyon because of the library –they love reading the book as we go along the trail, and they love seeing the deer. Last summer my husband, oldest son, and I hiked to the Grotto in Purgatory, and that was absolutely amazing. We also frequent Spring Lake quite a bit because it’s close to us, and we love seeing the fossils and the wildflowers.
What do you most enjoy doing when you visit the Greenbelt?
So far, we go hiking, as my middle child wasn’t quite ready to bike the trails. We also like to identify the wildflowers and fossils we see, and we have a tradition of bringing a bag of M & M’s to help the kids keep going when they get tired.
What recommendations would you give new users of the trail?
Definitely bring water and start early in the summer! Have a map with you, and let someone know where you’re going. Don’t be intimidated though—the trails are beautiful at all times of year.