The outdoors have always been an important part of our lives. Back in the day (“the day” being the late 90s when Matt and I started dating) you could always find us at a local park lying on a picnic blanket with our boom box in tow, trying to backpack on the Appalachian Trail (note that I said try; we actually packed canned food and gallons of water on our first attempt…rookies) or taking a walk along one of the beautiful rivers in our area. It wasn’t until our first child was born that we both really felt the mountains calling.
More like shouting, actually. We knew that raising our boys on the trail was incredibly important to us in this day of excessive screen time and overly planned schedules. So at 6 months old, into their carriers they went and up the mountains we climbed. We’ve learned many things in these past four and a half years since becoming parents and many of them we have learned both on trail and from our kids. Here are a few to note:
Take it slow.
My husband is a bit of a speedy hiker and you just can’t do that with a preschooler and toddler in tow. Slowing down and taking in the surroundings makes every adventure more pleasant. Looking at the outdoors through your child’s eyes will make every hike more memorable.
The more you go, the more it just becomes your way of life.
Just like any scheduled activity, hiking becomes part of the kids normal routine that they look forward to.
Use every teachable moment.
Sing songs, play I spy, tell stories… But also use the trail to talk about Leave No Trace and animal habitats.
Take the time to dream.
Our family always comes up with our craziest and most fun ideas while we are out in the woods. It must be the abundance of fresh air or something, but somehow we always finish a long hike with a new travel destination in mind.
It’s not about the summit.
Say what?! Ok, I love an amazing summit view just like every other hiker (including my kids!), but when you are out there with your family, that is not always what it’s about. It’s about the the journey and the adventure, not necessarily about the destination. It’s all about making memories, growing as a family, and appreciating this beautiful world that we have the privilege of living in.