What makes a good family hike has some subjective aspects for sure. Some would like it hot and sunny so they can work up a good sweat. Others would like a crisp autumn day to enjoy the leaves and breeze.
We can agree, I’m sure, that good attitudes, having fun, and no one getting hurt are things on the list for a good hike.
Whatever definition you hold for nice weather, get the family out on the trail on those days. I try to consistently write a few details about the forecast into my day planner at the beginning of the week. That way, I can see which days are prospective hike days as the week moves along.
I used to put ‘take a walk’ on my list for the day only to be disappointed when the sky and air didn’t cooperate. Then I have a day planner filled with walks we never took and feel like a failure.
No One Gets Hurt
We have had a few wipe-outs on family bike rides. Thankfully, we have not experienced any injuries while hiking. There are steps you can take to make sure everyone has a safe time.
The first injury prevention strategy is to have proper footwear for everyone. Do not follow our example when we hiked Bromley Mountain in flip-flops and crocs. We were lucky to have a good hike that day considering we didn’t plan.
To give you the background, we were traveling to northern Vermont to visit relatives and ride the Kingdom Trails. We stopped to stretch our legs on Bromley Mountain in the Green Mountain National Forest. We didn’t make the summit because we had to get back on the road. But I should have made sure we had better footwear handy in the car when we stopped.
Carry basic first aid for small cuts and scrapes. Scrapping a family hike over one skinned knee is a real bummer for everyone. Use a small backpack designated for family hikes that hold a small first aid kit, snacks, and a water bottle or two.
Everyone Has Fun and A Good Attitude
I know that wrangling kids for a family hike can resemble herding cats for a bath. Sometimes there are few willing participants, and they bring their claws to show it.
You can set the tone for enthusiasm. Don’t approach family outdoor time as a check box on your To-Do list. The kids will pick up on this and dig heels in more. “If mom doesn’t even want to go,” they’ll reason, “then why should I?” Ask me how I know.
Loosen up and have fun with it. Make your hike into a scavenger hunt. Play I Spy along the way. Take photos of flowers and bugs along the way so you can identify them later. There are many ways to keep each hike unique.
Don’t think about how slowly small children walk or how long they linger over an interesting bug or untied shoe. The goal is to enjoy the outdoors together. Complaining breeds complaining so don’t be the one to plant the seed.
What To Do When Things Go Wrong
As much as we like to plan and have contingencies for our contingencies, we can’t make everything go right. Someone might fall or get stung by a bee. Siblings squabble over who gets to catch the frog. It can all spin into a bad time fairly quickly.
Keep your chin up as the parent. When you stay calm and collected, that attitude spreads too. Your kids, especially if they are young, look to you to have some measure of control over the situation.
At times I’ve had to shake my head and say, “This will make a funny story someday.”
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