Hiking with kids is an adventure. Sometimes a fulfilling success, sometimes a complete failure. Kids are volatile and make everything more difficult, but they share with us the purest joy in discovering the natural world. Hiking is an ingrained part of my family and what we love to do. We hike very often and most of the time our hikes are wonderful family experiences. Those hikes are the ones I always share with friends and family and online – the ones where everyone goes in and comes out with a big smile. I don’t (and I think we don’t as a hiking community) share our hiking failures often enough. Anyone who hikes often has them, but those pictures of tear-streaked toddlers, large “trail closed” signs, or miles spent wallowing in self-doubt and frustration never get shared.
The bad days are tremendously hard to move past sometimes. The hikes where we plan the whole trip, but are so overwhelmed that we can’t even get past the snack-making and stuff-packing stage and we never make it out of the house. The hikes where we have a parental failure and don’t properly research the hike and we drive 1.5 hours and reach the trail and the road is completely snowed in and the trail closed.
The hikes where we set off full of pomp and promise and our kids whine, scream, or cry the whole time. The hikes where we are somewhere new and with three intelligent, experienced hikers, we still somehow manage to get lost at the absolute furthest point in the hike miles from the car and experience the panic of unpreparedness.
The hikes where the trail gets way too steep to safely be wearing the hiking backpack and the destination ends up being many more miles away than the guide noted so you have to turn around early. It starts snowing on you out of nowhere, and your kid is not wearing warm enough boots and cries the whole way back that her feet are cold, so you feel like the worst parent in the world.
These are a few of my hiking failures. And that doesn’t even count the mundane forest temper tantrums, running out of snacks (how do they eat soooo much once we hit the trails), some slightly graphic diaper incidents, scrapes and bruises, fumbling through feeding and napping, and solving the toddler problem of the moment without access to the amenities of home. Every hiking family has unsuccessful hikes and sometimes they are hard to overcome.
Embrace the Bad Moments
After a particularly bad string of hikes where we couldn’t seem to get it together, I did a bit of contemplation on how to move forward and get back to the trails. I think the best way to cope and not let the bad moments linger is to embrace them and be proud of them. And maybe even to share them more often. No matter what caused the hike to be unsuccessful, you tried to get out there and give your child a positive experience. Learn from your mistakes. Or don’t and just accept that mistakes happen, sometimes you must write it off and take the lows with the highs and come back next time just as enthusiastic about the adventure.
I think getting started is sometimes the hardest step, whether it is your first hike or hundredth hike, getting out the door and onto the trail can be more challenging than any steps you take on the trail. Maybe every once in awhile we should all share out #hikingfailures in solidarity with all those sitting home wondering if they should try again?
Yes, the trail has become a river and yes my toddler is screaming in this picture. #hikingfailure