Screen time. There are no two words that are destroying our youth more than those. You can’t go out to eat without seeing a family sitting at the table, many times each of them farting around on device, including their small kids. So many parents have found an easy babysitter with their smart phones. Heck, I’m guilty of it. Sometimes you need that extra 5 minutes of quiet to browse a website or play a game after a hard day’s work. Unfortunately, those 5 minutes can easily turn into 25 minutes then an hour. Next thing you know you are scrambling to get home work done and hair washed and then it’s bed time. The day is over and you have spent more time looking at FaceBook than your kids cute little face. Back when I was kid, my dad would grab his portable radio, put on the Giants game, and we would go outside and play ball. There was no screen time unless I was watching a show on TV or a ball game. Even then it was still in moderation.
Kids these days seem to be performing worse in school, worse in PE and are not healthy. That is not the life I want for my little ones. As they have grown from infants, to toddlers, and now small children, their love of the outdoors has grown exponentially. We have gone from tears and having to carry them down 95% of a short trail to very little carrying and no more tears. We have gone from short strolls in a meadow to summiting peaks. Looking back, those early trips that were so hard, could have been much easier and much less stressful and it all has to do with expectations. That’s what I want to share with you today.
What can you expect out of your kids on the trail? At first, not a lot. If you are reading a trail report and it says it takes 2-3 hours to hike it, you should expect it to be at least 4 hours. Whether you are carrying your kid in a pack or they are walking hand in hand, the pace is going to be much slower than if it was just you. Many times we set out to one of our favorite day hikes at Winnemucca Lake. It’s only a shade over 2 miles each way and not much gain. Usually a nice 45 minute stroll. When the kids were small, after 45 minutes we were lucky enough to make it the first mile to Frog Lake. This ended up being the day’s destination. The kids would have fun and not be miserable being pushed past what they are capable of. Was I bummed that I wasn’t going to be casting for brookies at Winnemucca Lake? Sure. But we still had fun and the kids had a blast.
This was the case until around age 6-7. All of a sudden Winnemucca Lake was an easy day trip to with them. Yeah we would have to carry our daughter in a pack most of the way, but our son was able to walk it all the way in and out without complaining. That led to me getting the bright idea of taking them up some peaks. I had mixed results here. There were lots of complaints and a couple times where they petered out short of the prize. Climbing 1800 feet in 1.5 miles was probably not the best agenda, but they actually did it, even though it took us 3 hours longer than most of the trail reports. At the start of this summer, we could barely get them both to hike 2 miles. By this Fall, they both summited the highest point in South Dakota (Black Elk Peak) on a 7.5 mile round trip.
It’s so important to get the small kids out of the house and start raising the next generation of outdoorsmen and women. Here are some of my tips:
- Pack light on your own gear. You are going to be carrying extra stuff for your kids like an extra set of clothes, jacket, snacks, and water.
- Only hike as far you are willing to carry them. Lugging a 45-pound kid up and down a mountain is not easy, and you will be carrying them.
- Pick a fun destination. Kids don’t care if you are going to see some special rock or a 5,000 year old tree. They just need a place they can run around, climb on rocks, and make things splash. If you can find a lake that has fast paced action with the rod & reel, that is a huge bonus.
- Always error on the high side of hiking times. If it says a 2 hour hike and it’s going to be dark in 3-1/2 hours, don’t even attempt it.
- Above I mentioned picking a fun destination, sometimes the destination ends up being the hike itself and you need to be ready for that and not be bummed out you didn’t complete the hike. The day is about them, not you.
- Most of all, just have fun!
So what are some of your tips for getting the kids out into the wild? I’d love to hear them in the comments section below. Feel free to contact me if you want to find out about some good family hikes in Northern California.
Last modified: February 22, 2019