I am having some serious lack of motivation going on over here. My kids and I are certainly getting outside time, I have activities planned and learning that is happening but I just don't have motivation to take pictures or blog about it.
Not sure what is going on, sorry about that.
But one thing that I did want to talk about for just a minute is how CRAZY it is that I saw kids bigger than Sam going on hikes at the Mount Rainer park being CARRIED in backpacks! These kids were clearly older, bigger and stronger than my daughter and should have been walking the trails alongside their parents.
Let me explain a little bit further. If a parent is going backpacking and plans on hiking some serious distance I can understand maybe needing to have a way to carry a slightly bigger kid to make sure they can make the whole distance. But these families were not backpacking and they were not doing anymore than 5 miles on the mountain trail.
Now, questions you may have and the answers that I will offer (this is just my opinion, feel free to share your opinion in the comments!) -
- Is the trail steep? Yes, in some areas the trail we were on was steep. But if you take it slow, make a game out of how many steps you are taking and pack plenty of motivating snacks the steepness should not be a problem. In place of the backpack offer your hands up over their head as a way for them to hold on and for you to help support some of their weight.
- Did the trail have dangerous drop-offs? Yes. In many spots there were dangerous drop offs right to one side of the trail. I can see how this might make some parents nervous. If you are worried about this instead of a backpack try bringing along a walking stick. Have two adults hold the stick with the child in-between them. The child should then hold on to the stick like a hand-rail that will keep them from falling toward the dangerous edge.
- Was there climbing involved? Not too much but you did have to watch your feet because the trail was a bit uneven. If you have a child that seems very distracted and keeps falling try focusing their attention on things they can find on the ground. Can they find neat rocks or insects on the trail while they walk?
- Was the trail too many miles for a young child to hike? Nope. The group might have to make more stops, walk slower and appreciate the scenery more than if the child were being carried but isn't that what we are all out there for anyway? And there were tons of different trails to pick from at this park, all with amazing scenery and their own challenges so if a parent knows their child is limited by distance then choose a shorter trail!
- Would the added elevation make it more difficult for the child to hike? Probably. But it does that for adults too. If the child is use to hiking then they should do just fine. If you are winded they will be too which may require more rest stops. I am not an expert on whether altitude will affect kids worse than adults but it just takes a closer eye on the child to see how they are doing.
- Was the trail crowded with a fear of the child getting lost among the crowd? It was a holiday weekend and a major attraction in the area so yes, there were tons of people out on the trails at the Mount Rainer park. But hikers are not swarming you on the trail. If they need to pass you it is in a pretty orderly fashion and for the most part you have to step aside to let people pass. Parents can very easily hold onto a hand while other hikers are around to be sure the child is safe.
Now, why does this bother me? What is the difference between a child going on hike on their own feet versus being in the backpack? EVERYTHING! I am sure most of it is super obvious but I still feel like I need to say it;
- Health. Hiking is the most amazing exercise. If you are out there getting a good workout why would you not want that for your child too?
- Exploration. When a child is down at their own level, on their own two feet, they have a completely different experience. They go where they want, step where their own feet take them and see what is at their level. It gives them control to point things out to you, make discoveries on the trail that are their own and stop on their own when something grabs their attention.
- Accomplishments. We all want to have confident kids that feel they can do anything they put their minds to. There is no prouder moment for a kid then making it to the top or completing a long hike all on their won. When they can do the same things that their parents are doing it is a great feeling that they will take with them into other parts of their lives.
So, how do you set your child up to be able to hike a serious mountain trail at a very early age?
HIKE THEM EARLY AND HIKE THEM OFTEN!
I was talking to my sister in law on the trail and told her that as soon as Chester can walk start letting him do short portions on the trail, any trail. Start early teaching them your way of hiking, how to keep up, and how to have fun on the trail. When they are walking well then start letting them tackle short hikes (1-2 miles of pretty level terrain or shorter distance if the trail has elevation) all on their own but bring the backpack with you just in case. Once they have done some short hikes without needing the backpack show them you have confidence in them by leaving the backpack in the car! Keep changing up the hikes and do them as often as possible.
Okay, so what do you think? What age do you give up the backpack? Do you think there are certain circumstances where parents should be pulling it back out to use with their older child? How did you get your kiddo ready for the trail?