We are a homeschooling family. This may lull you into a false sense of stereotyping where you assume we have all the time we need to prepare for a hike…or any outing for that matter. Well, you’d be mistaken. We have 2 problems working against us to be ready to get out the door in a timely manner.

Problem one: With 3 kids and 2 adults, we have TOO much stuff to keep organized, which means we forget something. Every. Time.

Problem two: We are a military family. Frequently, we plan a great weekend trip to Big Bear or a sweet hike up Digging Hill with friends and then the Navy prevents us from doing it. They have myriad ways to prevent us, but that’s a blog for another day. 

On the opposite end of the Navy life spectrum, my husband will randomly and with NO notice, end up with unexpected days off. While this is less frequent than the former, it’s still worth mentioning because we try SO hard to make the MOST of those days. Hiking helps us do that.

Overcoming Obstacles to Getting Out the Door

How do I plan, prepare, battle, and generally not get beaten down by these obstacles? Simple actually. I committed to teaching my children a love of nature. That commitment quickly turned to a realization that time spent outdoors held our best memories and our best selves. Why would I let ANYTHING stop me from doing that? I wouldn’t.

Lets look at our specific roadblocks of getting out the door and how we overcome them. Maybe they’re similar to what’s happening in your house.

Problem One: Unorganized stuff!

  • Our biggest step toward fixing this was Camelbacks (hydration packs) for each walking child. (My youngest will be 3 in July, and she will get one for her B-Day). In their pack, each child is responsible for filling the water (with assistance where needed), and placing 2-4 snacks depending on the length of the hike.
  • Which leads me to the next organizing tool that changed our process for the quicker. Hiking snacks. We have a whole basket of them. We use them for other things too, such as when we’re running late to an event, we may grab a hiking snack for the car ride. Or if we’re headed to a restaurant at a peak day and time, we’ll grab a hiking snack to hold them over while we wait for a table.
    Things like granola bars, fruit bars, trail mix in pre-made amounts, dried fruit are some of our go-to snacks. Additionally, the fridge has individual quantities of any fresh fruits and veggies as an option to drop in the pack.
    Side note: Having kids pack their own snacks has a world of benefits. Making choices, being responsible for those choices, spacial management when they have to fit 4 bananas in their tiny pack and eventually decide to diversify their choices. So while the kids are picking their snacks and placing them in their pack, I’m gathering gear. For most of our time in a previous duty station, our hiking gear was always in a bag by the door. That’s how frequently we used it.

  • Organizing Gear. We were somewhat spoiled in our last station in that the weather never changed. So we always needed the same hiking gear and that made keeping it compiled easier. However, since moving back to the mainland we have found similar processes to help us.
  • Rain boots are a must right now in Oregon, so that’s always what we wear. We have a bag in each car with emergency clothes for each family member. The kids have an entire outfit, and parents have socks, shoes, and maybe a sweater or shirt.
  • We also keep at least one towel in each car. We have found that these essentials have assisted us in almost any trip. If we play in the creek too hard and our rain boots are filled and our socks soaking when we are finished, no worries. We strip them off and crank up the heat on the ride home. Not going straight home? That’s where the emergency clothes come in handy.
  • We also learned years ago that each car gets it’s own soft-structured carrier (SSC). When my daughter was born, she was walked to sleep every night in our Tula. Which means the next day as we pulled up to the hike, I would realize we forgot to grab it. So each car got one. I borrowed SSCs from friends for our “stays-in-the-house-never-does-anything-but-put-a-sweet-baby-to-sleep” carrier. The car SSCswere ours and were WELL loved. Cause, really, who has funds for that many carriers to just sit in cars? Not us. 

Now that snacks and gear are organized, we’re ready to jump the next hurdle.

Problem Two: Flexible Schedule!

Flexible schedule is my ‘nice way’ of saying “infuriating-changing-schedule-that-we-can-never-depend-on.” But call it what you like. We have become masters of “flying by the seat of our pants”, thanks to years of military service. So listen carefully.

  • Be ready. Gear is clean from the last hike where everyone slid down the muddy mountain. Snacks are replenished frequently so they aren’t depleted on your hike day, and you have a list of 3-5 varying options to choose from. This list may change regularly. It may be compiled from a book on local places or from HiB locations you enjoyed or missed and want to check out. 
  • Just go. Don’t overthink it. Don’t compromise it away (you know, “we’ll go hiking next weekend”, cause it never comes). Just. Go.
  • Acknowledge your emotional tie to the day’s activity. More than I care to admit, I was miserable all day because our hike (or other exciting plan) was canceled unexpectedly. I had to learn to get past it. A list on hand of non-hike options assisted with these days, as it took the pressure off my fuming brain to come up with and/or decide on what we should do instead.
  • Don’t be afraid to go to the same place four times in a row. I used to get SO overwhelmed at thinking every opportunity to get out HAD to be somewhere new and different and exciting. It was too much pressure, to be honest. And the moment I let us have fun at places we loved, or explore a place we had hiked only once, our spur of the moment trips got better, infinitely better. That “getting better” made it easier to keep the “Compromise Monster” at bay. (More on him in future blogs, I’m sure).

Get organized in whatever way makes most sense for you, your family and how and where you hike. Even if your plan seems silly. Trust me, I was not convinced that an entire outfit per child would be that handy. I thought it was wasteful. I was wrong! And stay flexible. Even if you’re plans rarely change due to work and changing schedules. I’m sure they change due to kids getting sick or having off days or they change when you suddenly have great days where the kids want to explore. Everyone can benefit from practicing flexibility and having a plan for such days.

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