Monday, March 26, 2012

Know trail quality before forcing kids to hike

Knowing a little about the quality of your trail can help
you and your children better traverse it. Image courtesy
of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotosnet
Knowing the quality of your trail is vital to ensure your children can traverse it. If they can’t, they’re more likely to get injured and frustrated with hiking as a pastime.

There are three elements to consider about the trail’s quality:
g Turf – If the trail surface is extremely rocky or sandy, children will have difficulty walking across them. Maintaining your footing on rocks is difficult, and feet tend to sink in sand. This is not to say a trail ought to be void of rocks and sand, but it shouldn’t consist entirely of them where young kids are concerned. A smooth trail is best.
g Width – Trails that are too wide or too narrow can pose problems. A wide path, such as one larger than a single lane road, removes kids too much from nature and tends to leave them exposed to sunlight. A narrow path not any wider than your body often means children are going to rub up against bushes and tree branches, potentially resulting in scratches and ticks. A trail that is a little wider than an adult body and no more than a single lane of road (known as a jeep trail) usually is best.
g Overgrown – When plants block portions of the trail and prevent you from seeing where you are going, the path has become overgrown and is in need of maintenance. Young children are certain to be scratched and cut on such a trail. Stepping through the overgrowth also is a good way to surprise animals, some potentially dangerous, such as snakes.

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.