If you had asked me five years ago what I considered a “hiking adventure,” I would have said something like “hiking a 14er” or “beating my record in the Manitou Incline (a grueling 2,000 foot elevation gain over 0.9 miles).” Fast forward to today, and my definition of “hiking adventure” is very different. Having a child changed my mindset on what it means to have an adventure. While I continued to hike and reach peaks while my son was a baby, he started to tolerate the long climbs less and less as he got older (especially once he really started walking). He wanted to be down in the dirt following the path of a trail of ants or chasing a butterfly through a meadow. I had to start being flexible with my plans in order to avoid a screaming session that would leave us both in foul moods and possibly tears.
A perfect example of this occurred this past summer when one of the hike hosts in my previous Hike it Baby branch had a tough hike planned that involved a fairly steep climb with an epic view at the top. I was looking forward to the hike, but I was a little worried about how my toddler would handle it. This was an adult-paced hike, and he had been tolerating only short periods of time in the carrier lately. Thankfully, I knew the area well enough that I could turn back or find a connecting trail if needed. The day of the hike, we had had a pretty rough morning with a meltdown at breakfast and an all-around cranky attitude. When we began hiking with the group, he was already getting squirmy and asking to walk after only a quarter of a mile. I informed the hike host that we would take a different route at the next trail junction.
In order to prevent the inevitable chaos that ensues when one toddler gets to walk and the others have to stay in their carriers, I waited until the group was well up the trail before I let my son down on the connecting trail. We slowly made our way along what I call the “Narnia” trail. It has incredibly lush, green vegetation and eventually loops around to a lake beach. I was fighting the disappointment I felt at not being able to reach the peak when I heard an excited giggle and a “Mommy, look!” from my toddler. He was laying on his belly on the ground watching a tiny red-spotted newt wiggle its way across the trail. A little further down we saw 3 squirrels playing tag up a tree and a brown toad perfectly blending in to its surroundings. By the time we made it to the beach, we were both in great moods. We spent the next 45 minutes splashing in the water and watching the minnows and salamanders scatter as we got close to them. That hike turned out to be one of the most memorable adventures I have had with my little dude and one of my favorite hiking memories throughout my life (including my pre-child days)!
Like many parents, my reality changed when I had my son. While we still climb mountains on occasion, it’s no longer about reaching the peak every time, but making memories along the way and finding adventures that are better suited to kid-sized epicness. I am finally starting to embrace these adventures and see things through my son’s eyes. Even on my adult-only or solo hikes, I have started to enjoy the nature around me rather than quickly hiking past it all to reach my destination. I take the time to follow the path of an interesting bug or close my eyes and listen to the birds call and the leaves rustle in the breeze. While I still have a destination in mind, I don’t get as annoyed or disappointed when I don’t reach it. I still hope that one day I will be hiking a 14er alongside my son, but with the same nature-loving, “stop and smell the flowers” mentality that he has taught me as a young child.
What epic adventures has your family experienced? Let us know in the comments below!
Photos courtesy of Rebecca Hosley.
Often in the Hike it Baby community, the question is asked what “adventurous” means when you are a parent. And the answer is different for all of us. For some, it’s climbing a mountain with a frame carrier fully loaded or doing a huge backpacking overnighter with a new little. For others, it’s ditching the stroller for the first time and trying a dirt trail, or just letting the kids spend leisure time climbing rocks and jumping in puddles. There are so many levels of “adventure” when you have little kids, and we wanted to share stories of families who have redefined adventure on their terms. We hope it inspires you to get out and have adventures YOUR way too.