It might seem strange to write this post at the beginning of December. Why think about hiking when winter is just settling in? Well, like an avid gardener, an avid hiker starts dreaming of next year while this one is still winding down. Our hiking has slowed down considerably in October and November, with only one hiking trip in each of those months. While I am not certain we will do any hikes in December or January (although we may attempt a Moab trip if there is not too much snow), I am certain that by next February and March, we will be back in hiking season.
We were not always hikers. Only about 7 years ago, we took a trip to some of the most scenic hiking country in Utah and saw it from the CAR with only a 3 mile hike on a 4 day trip! What helped convert us into strong hikers? One thing that really helped was that my parents began hiking a lot and inviting us along on their trips. Four adults with four kids was more do-able than two adults and four little kids. Another thing that really helped was the kids getting older – of course than can hike longer and stronger. But mainly, like nearly every difficult thing in life, the problem was mental. We had to decide that it was important and that we wanted to expend the effort.
The conviction that outdoor physical activity was an important part of human life was emphasized to me as I read The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. His hypothesis that mental illness and depression in our society stems from the lack of exposure to nature rang true to me. I factored in Psalm 115:16 that says about God, “the earth he has given to the sons of men,” and my own feelings of relief and satisfaction after a day spent wandering the mountains or desert, and I realized that at least for me and my family, I wanted to be closer to creation. That would involve getting away from other people – far away, if possible – to where we could really be alone with nature.
About the same time, my aunt gave me a book called Hiking with Children by Maureen Keilty . It outlined some easy and harder hikes, some near, some farther from our home. Many of them, as I spoke of them with my husband, he was aware of, but had never taken us to those places. We began doing very short hikes with a beautiful destination. Some of these local hikes were:
Cecret Lake in the Albion Basin (less than 3 miles round trip)
The Grotto in Payson Canyon (less than 1 mile round trip)
Fifth Water Hot Springs in Spanish Fork Canyon (about 5 miles round trip)
During this stage, we scheduled some hiking trips. These involved hotels, nice dinners in restaurants, and several short hikes. We were able to visit Moab, Escalante, and Capitol Reef National Park in this way. We still enjoy taking a trip this way when we have enough money, but that seems to be quite rare now, so we began camping and hiking. All through this time, our day hikes kept getting longer and longer. When we realized that we came back from a five mile hike with plenty of energy and day left, we planned longer hikes.
Just two years ago, we began backpacking. So far we have not done any long trips, our longest being a two day overnight with the kids in the Uintahs. But just like a gardener going through seed catalogs, I am beginning to pick some of the hikes for next year. I am planning ahead, looking through our gear and saving up to replace a few things. Hiking season is just around the corner!
Tomorrow I am going to share a few of the things you can do to prepare your family for hiking. Any specific things you’d like me to address? Leave me a comment below.