How to hike with kids and how to teach kids to love the outdoors


I vividly remember my first race after giving birth to my daughter, Nora. She was about six weeks old, and I fed her, handed her over to her dad, and left the house in two sports bras and an oversized t-shirt, determined to get some of my old back. me active. I was operating a Swiss cheese-like night’s sleep and dripping milk through my shirt, but I was still in the world, moving my body. I ran, slowly, to a spot on the bike path that’s just over a mile from my house. Then I peed my pants a bit, turned around, and waddled home. It was liberating.

My daughter is 7 now and her brother, Otis, is 5. Since their arrival, I’ve resumed the outdoor sports I was passionate about before they were born – ski touring, running, mountain biking – but it’s a It’s true that it’s not quite the same.

People with kids will tell you: Seeing the outdoors through your kids’ eyes is like seeing the world anew, a remarkable journey you can take together. And that’s true. There’s nothing more fun than chasing your 5-year-old on skis through the twists and turns of a snowy forest, or tracing animal shapes in the constellations while sitting around. a campfire with your child. If you love nature, you know that breathtaking beauty and self-discovery are easy to find in nature, and it can be even deeper when you add a child’s unique wonder to the mix.

But also: have you ever tried hiking with a toddler who refused to wear anything but glittery silver ballet flats? Did you change a diaper on the side of a trail, when you forgot wipes and had to use your own shirt instead, or packed a breast pump in your ski touring bag? Or pushed a running stroller up a hill with a screaming baby and toddler in it?

My tolerance for outside risk is practically nil now. I no longer look at avalanche-prone slopes in the backcountry and think, “Wow, that looks like a perfect line to ski on.”

Try hauling your ski gear, your kid’s gear, and possibly the kid too, from what seems like the farthest parking spot in the parking lot on a crowded Saturday to weave through two whiny Haribo gum-filled tracks on rabbit slope before nap time and tell me parenthood isn’t the hardest job in the world.

But I’m starting to see the light. As my children get older, I see them getting stronger, tougher and more skilled. They can already climb a full route at the climbing gym, ski from the top of the mountain, and cycle on dirt trails (but don’t put a hill in the way). I also see my freedom extending a little further, allowing me to go away longer or more frequently to do things on my own.

When I was four months pregnant with Nora, my husband, Dan, and I took a ski trip with some friends to the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan. While we were there, I skied in deep powder, reluctantly refrained from eating sushi, and only took mini-dips in the country’s famous onsens, or hot springs. During a ramen night, a friend of ours (an adventure photographer who understood the end point a new baby would put on those adventures) said, “So this trip is your last hurray, huh? “

I broke down. At the time, I despised the feeling that having children meant the end of your life as you knew it, that all great adventures and wondrous journeys would come to an abrupt end the moment you learned to swaddle. I planned to continue doing the activities I loved, and even better, I wanted to take my child with me. Having a baby wasn’t the end of the story; it was the beginning. To the right?

Fast forward to the first day of kindergarten – when my once well-used expedition duffel bag has been replaced with an oversized mommy bag littered with crushed goldfish crackers – and I begin to understand what my friend meant with his unsolicited comment. Don’t get me wrong: I always love big mountain adventures, and I take them on the rare occasion when all the pieces line up perfectly (eg Grandma is ready to babysit for two whole days!) . But my approach to “going rad” there has changed significantly. For starters, I don’t care about going rad anymore. Give me a morning on skate skis, followed by a coffee I can drink while it’s still warm, and I’m happy.

My tolerance for outside risk is practically nil now. I no longer look at avalanche-prone slopes in the backcountry and think, “Wow, that looks like a perfect line to ski on.” Instead, I see the last will I signed with my lawyer friend, where I relegated my children to live with my sister if both Dan and I were to die (insert: in an avalanche). Dark, I know, but no powder ride is worth not going home with my kids.

If you love nature, you know that breathtaking beauty and self-discovery are easy to find in nature, and it can be even deeper when you add a child’s unique wonder to the mix.

A 2015 study in Germany found that both men and women become more risk averse after the birth of their first child. While women experienced a slightly higher increase in risk aversion than men, the difference is small. In other words: we all change our behavior when we are charged with the responsibility of a child that we must keep alive. This attitude towards risk rises sharply during the first years of a child’s life, and then eventually falls. The study found that (Shocker!) people without children have a higher risk tolerance than those with children.

When climber and new father Alex Honnold was recently asked in an interview for Climbing magazine if he would continue to free-solo – climb big walls without ropes – after the birth of his daughter, he said: ” I’m totally prepared for (June birth) to (restrain) my risk-taking a bit, although I could see that it wasn’t having an impact either….I’m open to the possibility that I just want to stay at home and play with my child.

I appreciate that. He doesn’t plan on changing who he is, but he’s open to the idea that his preferences might change. What is the mindset you need when you have a child. Because when you’re raising a child, there’s not much you can do to control the outcome. Parenting is unpredictable and difficult. It’s a bit like going on a mountaineering expedition of a lifetime, from what I can tell.

Some aspects of the adventure are much better in my current time: life after the kids. I am convinced that a woman’s endurance capacity skyrockets after giving birth (sorry, guys, I don’t know if it’s the same for you). I ran my first ultramarathon after having kids, and it was no big deal compared to 15 hours of work. My body feels stronger now, like it’s been through so much.

I savor the moments I have outside. If I can squeeze in a 30-minute run or do a few laps at the ski resort with a buddy, I’m pumped. Gone are the days of five-hour weekend ATV rides with friends that end with a swim in the lake. But in its place is something else magical: an appreciation for every outing, big or small.

When the kids were three and five, Dan and I decided to take them on their first overnight backpacking trip. I planned what I thought was a doable two-night desert itinerary of California’s Lake Tahoe desolation. We would start with a two mile hike to a beautiful alpine lake, where we would spend the first night, and the second night would be another mile or so on the trail to another lake.

Dan and I—plus a generous friend we recruited to help the Sherpa—loaded our bags with camping gear and enough food for a full preschool class. We gave the kids mini-packs with water, so they felt like they were contributing. But I was a little behind on my distances and as a result it took almost five miles of walking to get out on the last day. (Sidenote: I often inadvertently put my adventure buddies in sandbags, and apparently my kids are no exception.) It took us over five hours to cover five laboriously slow miles, with the kids demanding snacks every the 20 steps. I had to start rationing food for adults.

When we finally reached the car at the trailhead, both kids were sleeping when they hit the car seats. On the way home, Dan and I sat in blissful silence. The sense of accomplishment would come later, after a shower and a meal that wasn’t a half-chewed granola bar.

That’s often how it goes: in the moment, those missions with our kids in tow seem absurdly difficult, like we can’t even go out in hats and gloves. But when it’s over, no matter how junk it was, it always feels good to get out there, to share those raw moments that only happen in wild places. This sparkling retrospective—the memories we’ll cling to even if they’re only half-truths—is the reason we keep coming out.

This story appears in the May issue of Desert Magazine. Learn more about how to subscribe.


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