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Trail Tales

Hiking with Kids: What I've learned since becoming a father

Back to Trail Tales


Having been obsessed with statistics for most of my life, I’ve also been very goal oriented in much that I do. If there aren’t any inherit goals in an activity, I create them. This has carried over into my hiking: a desire to take on the toughest trails I can safely handle, wanting to improve my performance each successive time I hike a trail and in general, just pushing myself to limits of my abilities, if only to see what I am capable of.

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Family photo by the park entrance. All Photos: HikingGeek.com

Trail from the toddler's view

After my son was born, I did not know what to do with myself. For the first few months, he would happily sit in a child carrier for a few hours. We stayed close to home, taking him on local trails. I enjoyed the challenge of carrying the extra weight, but it just wasn’t the same.

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million. —Walt Streightiff

Starting at around age 2, he decided he wanted to hike on his own. He could hike at a surprisingly fast speed for his age, but stopped every 5 or 10 minutes to pick up sticks and rocks, or to run in circles for no apparent reason. This cut into the time we actually spent hiking. I eventually learned that having an itinerary or making plans was nearly pointless.

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“I’m on the bridge Mommy and Daddy! I’m on the bridge!” (Not really kiddo, you’re not even touching it!)

Chillaxing in Utah
On a trip to Zion a few months ago, I had to remind myself of this. Last year, I would have been trying to figure out just how much I could cram into our three days, but for this trip, I made no plans. The time during which I would normally be exploring a canyon or challenging my fear of heights, I was taking multiple rides on the shuttle (my son’s first time on a big bus), taking an extra long lunch break to pet the doggies, watching my son cross the same stream in the same spot again and again and again, and slowing down so that he could use his hands to brush the sand off of every step-up on the Emerald Pool Trail.

Img 003 DSC04484Excitedly waiting for the shuttle bus.

Shifted Perspective
A few years ago, I couldn’t have imagined spending 12 hours in a car knowing that these were the type of activities that awaited me. Sitting here now, I can’t wait until we can go it again.

Now I have a different type of goal, one that will follow me wherever I bring my son and in everything we do: cultivate and encourage my son’s sense of adventure and wonder. Help him dream big and believe that anything is possible. Build a respect and awe for Mother Nature. Help him understand why he’s collecting stamps showing his visits to National Parks, instead of collecting autographs from fictional characters at Disney.

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The author testing the waterproofness of his Oboz Beartooth BDry boots.

The trail ahead
I know that the bug to hike the toughest trails or speed up a mountain will occasionally pop up and bite me, but looking over to see my son’s beaming face as he’s splashing in a babbling brook or running down a trail as fast as he can is enough to remind me of what I’m here for. Soon enough, he’ll be taking on those challenges with me and I’ll look back fondly at these times.

Lyndon is an avid hiker and blogger. You can read more about his experiences hiking with his son on HikingGeek.com.

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