Hiking with Children

“My kids loved going on hikes! They always chattered eagerly as we got our gear ready, and again      in the car to the trailhead. They walked briskly, alert to everything around them, breaking off only to clamber on rocks, study a sunbathing snake, or ask if we could stay out a bit longer today.” Or:

“The announcement of a hike brought about an atmosphere of sour acceptance, and filled the car with tense silence all the way to the woods. I got tired of stopping on the trail to urge the kids to keep up, of answering ‘how much further is it?’ again, and of laces being tied for the 50th time in 100 yards. Things only livened up when someone screamed when she nearly stepped on a snake.”

Take your pick. Hiking with kids can go either way, often on the same hike.Sentinel Mountain

I got thinking about this after listening to a man last week who took his young children on truly great adventures. I’ll return to him in another post. Right now my train of thought is running to Sentinel Mountain.

A while after our youngest daughter was born I took the older girls away for a few days to give mom peace and quiet with the new arrival, and to give the “big” girls a break from our baby-dominated home. (There was nothing in this for me, you understand.) We went to Maine – mid-coast, then Acadia National Park, and finally Baxter State Park. I considered my daughters – at 7 and 5 years  – too young for Mount Katahdin, but wanted to climb something with them. So we set off for Sentinel Mountain. It was a rough trail – lots of roots and rocks, and of course a climb. We talked about the bears that were surely in the woods around us. It all became a bit too much for the younger girl in particular. There was sobbing (hers, not mine). But here’s the thing. When we clambered onto the summit, and the trees finally gave way, the girls broke into fulsome wows, and looked over the miles of empty country they had walked with immense pride.

Which brings me to my simple advice about hiking with children – do it! Take them with you. Look after them (stops, compliments, even food and water if they have been good), but make it clear that they had better get on with enjoying it, because no amount of whining will make you turn around. They will rise to the occasion.

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