We love being an aunt and uncle. We get to swoop in and pick up our nieces and nephews, take them on incredible outdoor adventures, and bring them back home filled with awesome stories to tell their friends. You see, we travel full-time in our RV and have been on the road for 2.5 years. Kids LOVE RVs and our nieces and nephews are no exception. We recently decided to take each one on an RV trip with us when they turn 10. We built up the excitement with our oldest nephew, Nihaal. After he waited patiently for a year and a half, we finally swooped in to take him on his adventure this past summer. With Nihaal being older, we were able to expand our outdoor experience to include more gusty activities. He wanted to do a lot of firsts: hike mountains, tent camp, whitewater raft and stand-up paddle board.
He wasn’t too picky about where he wanted to go – as long as it included mountains. We started in the delightful town of Stanley, Idaho, the gateway to the Sawtooth Wilderness, and set about tackling this adventure-packed list. Stanley’s remarkable location on the Salmon River surrounded by jagged Sawtooth peaks made it easy to plan our outdoor adventures.
Here’s how we attacked his list of excursions and what we learned along the way while adventuring with our school-aged nephew.
We started off our adventure with a scenic 5-mile hike in the Sawtooth Mountains right out of our beautiful campsite. We admired the wildflowers and the outstanding views of the valley as we hiked to the top of the mountain. At the top, we crossed a saddle onto another mountain where even more yellow and blue wildflowers greeted us. We were impressed with how Nihaal scampered up the mountain despite the 1000-ft elevation gain, and even joined us in running the trail back down. Hike mountains = check!
Tips & Tricks
Very quickly, we realized hiking with kids is all about the journey, not the destination. Seeing the world through their eyes made the hike a completely different experience – every flower, insect, and bird was worth noting and discussing.
A great way to make a hike exciting, especially with younger kids, is to make it into a scavenger hunt. Sometimes it’s simply hunting for litter we find along the way and packing it out. Not only is it fun, but also teaches kids about the importance of preserving and protecting our natural places.
After packing up all of our camping gear, we set off on our bikes and rode 7 miles. We were so impressed with Nihaal’s stamina, especially considering he was used to biking in Georgia – not the Rockies!
We set up camp and spent the night amid giant peaks in the Sawtooth National Forest. It was our nephew’s first night ever in a tent, and he loved helping us pitch the tent, start the fire and cook our dinner. We prepared some leftover Indian food – which turned out to be a delicious camping meal! Nihaal slept the night away peacefully, while we tossed and turned, painfully aware of our deflating camping pads.
The next day we finished off the rest of the loop – another 7 miles of singletrack riding through even more picturesque meadows ringed with snow-capped peaks. The views were astounding! Mountain bike packing = check!
Tips & Tricks
Getting kids comfortable with the uncomfortable (like backpacking without all of home’s comforts or hiking a tough trail) at a young age is beneficial for both them and you. Pushing their boundaries and stepping outside their comfort zone (while keeping in mind their limitations) not only prepares them for challenges in life, but also makes incredible memories.
After our bike packing trip, we visited the awesome crew at White Cloud Rafting. We did a half-day class II and III rapid trip that Nihaal will remember forever. Before we launched, our guide Geoff made sure we all knew what to do if anyone fell out of the boat, which ended up being useful!
We encountered gorgeous scenery and several sets of spirited rapids. Not long into the trip Geoff asked if we’d prefer hitting a particular rapid straight on with the possibility of a “swimmer” (someone falling out) or taking the mellower side. The answer was a no brainer and off we went down the little wall directly into the churning torrents. Geoff was right about the swimmer – Nihaal popped out of the raft at the tail end of the rapids, making his day. Nihaal beamed as Geoff announced that he is now a proud member of the Salmon River Swimming Club! Whitewater Rafting = check!
Tips & Tricks
Did you know rafting helps boost kids’ brainpower, improves self-esteem, reduces stress and releases endorphins? It also gives you a great chance to bond together.
Kids of all ages can enjoy rafting – and your outfitter can help you choose the perfect trip for them based on their age. Good guides will help encourage hesitant kids to overcome their fears and provide plenty of entertainment to keep even the most inattentive kids occupied and happy.
Stand-up Paddle Boarding
For Nihaal’s intro to paddle boarding, we headed up to Wallace Lake – a calm, high alpine lake in the Salmon-Challis National Forest west of Salmon, Idaho. We had the lake to ourselves with the exception of a few fishermen on its shores. The serene lake was perfect for Nihaal’s first-time paddle boarding, and after a few seconds of showing him how to get on the board, we set him loose. He got the hang of the paddle board quickly, and we spent the afternoon paddling around the petite lake’s scenic shores. Stand-up paddle boarding = check!
Tips & Tricks
Stand-up paddle boarding is a great activity for kids. It is a low impact sport, with a lesser risk of injury, but enhances their balance, improves cardiovascular health and is an amazing full-body workout.
Smaller lakes, calm water and non-windy days make paddle boarding much easier. Your child should know how to swim and wear a PFD at all times on the board.
Kids & The Outdoors
This trip wasn’t our first outdoor adventure with our nephew, and over the years we have seen him evolve into a more capable outdoor adventurer. It’s wonderful to be able to expand our adventures and include more daring activities as he gets older. Spending time outdoors has benefited him in so many ways – he is more confident, stronger, happier. And perhaps the most important, he appreciates nature and is passionate about protecting the environment.
We returned Nihaal back home to his parents after our adventure, filled with awesome stories to tell his friends. What we didn’t fully realize at the time but have now come to understand, is that we also had an incredible adventure and are filled with awesome stories to tell our friends.
About the Author
Julie Singh founded TripOutside.com with her husband Reet out of a shared enthusiasm for outdoor adventure and travel. In 2017 they left their corporate careers to pursue their outdoor passion and build a better way to get outdoors. An easier way to research top outdoor destinations, figure out how to find gear and adventures, and book it all online. TripOutside’s vision is to have a world where people recreate in nature more often and work towards preserving it for future generations. They now explore full-time in their RV, curating top outdoor destinations and making friends with outfitters and outdoor enthusiasts along the way.
About Hike it Baby
Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Photo courtesy of Julie Singh.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily the opinions, thoughts or recommendations of Hike it Baby.