Friday, March 22, 2013

Plenty of good reasons to take up day hiking with kids this spring

With spring’s arrival, it’s time to hit the hiking trail in northern climes. If cabin fever isn’t enough to get you outdoors as the temperatures warm, consider just a few of the many good reasons to go day hiking.

Chief among them is spending quality time with your family. The trail marks a place where you can grow closer, where unhindered by the distractions of mobile phone texts, emails, and the next television program, family members can talk with one another, where you can revel together in discovery. Hiking with your children can lead to a family tradition, experiences that later in life both parent and full-grown child will reminisce fondly about.

As humans, we need the natural world because we are incomplete without it. A walk alongside a lake or through a quiet forest allows us to get away from the pressures and hectic pace of modern life. Nature helps us relax and relieve stress. The sights of the natural world can raise our spirits and inspire us.

Hiking is a low impact exercise that’s energizing. It helps strengthen muscles, the heart and lungs, builds stamina and endurance. Walking certainly is necessary, especially at a time of high obesity in the United States – but why limit yourself to walking alone on a treadmill inside a building when you could be with your family breathing in fresh balsam-scented air or feeling the breeze off Lake Superior run through your hair?

Rambling and exploring in nature can enrich our lives. We can revel in the sight of soaring eagles and water gently flowing over rounded stones, sights we don’t otherwise see in our lives. If with children, the experience is magnified. Kids notice things in nature that we adults have long taken for granted. A child can reawaken our wonderment of and appreciation for the natural world. The trail is where children learn to enjoy, respect and love nature. Hearing the varied sounds of birds and feeling against one’s cheek the splash of a waterfall builds the compassion that raises our children to become stewards of the natural world.

Indeed, kids exposed to the outdoors at an early age usually love the outdoors through their lives. Hiking can be a fun, healthy, safe, social activity that they enjoy during their trying teen years. As they enter adulthood, their love of the trail can lead to mastering other outdoor activities, such as rock climbing, trail running, mountaineering, caving, canoeing, fishing, kayaking, skiing, snowshoeing, ice climbing and more.

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