Families take many shapes and sizes. Right now, our family looks like two parents, two tween girls, and a Kindergarten boy. In some ways, we are in an ideal spot for outdoor activities like hiking and snowshoeing. The girls can walk for decent chunks of time, and our little guy is starting to keep up with everyone well.
Whatever shape your family takes, hiking is an excellent activity for everyone. Going on a hike doesn’t need to be an intense activity. We mostly stick to the Rail Trail system which features wide, flat trails. It’s more like going on a walk, but you get more interaction with nature than in your neighborhood.
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Benefits of Hiking as a Family
Why would you take the family out for a little adventure in nature? There are several benefits for all.
You make memories and bond together. Opportunities to instill character into your children naturally occur. Everyone experiences the health benefits of moving and enjoying nature. And it is one of the cheapest family activities you can do.
I love it when someone in our family starts a sentence with “Remember the time that we…” and then tells a story about being on the trail. There was the time we saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree. There was the time my daughter spotted bear cub tracks. There was the time we made miniature snowmen on the trail. The list goes on.
The family that plays together stays together. That’s an adage that holds in our experience. We have grown closer as a family through our many outdoor adventures. Whether we stick to the trail that runs through our hometown or travel to new places, we have built a unique bond.
Part of the bond we build is on our shared narrative. This goes back to making memories together. We are writing the story of our lives together. The more the stories overlap, the stronger your bond with each other.
We have found that our time on the trail presents excellent opportunities for building up good character in our children and ourselves. We have learned patience and endurance when we are having a difficult time. We care for our community by learning and following proper trail etiquette.
You can read in-depth about the many health benefits of getting away from electronics and out into nature in Vitamin N by Richard Louv. He summarizes countless studies that show improved cardiovascular and mental health simply from being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Add to that increasing your heart rate through exercise, and you have a recipe for bettering your health.
The best thing about family hiking is that it doesn’t have to cost a dime. There is no ticket to entry or cover charge. Simply find a public trail, and off you go. Having some gear can make your hiking experience better, but is not necessary. The few basic supplies you need are not expensive or already around your house.
The list of things that you should bring on every hike is very short: water and a small first aid kit. You may be tempted to skip the first aid kit when going on a simple walk. I have tried to make a habit of bringing at least a few band-aids and an antibacterial cream. A minor cut or scape doesn’t have to turn your whole party around.
Next week, we’ll look at reasons to begin hiking on easy trails like the Rail Trail system and how to pack a simple day-pack for short hikes. In the meantime, take a family walk. And bring your water and band-aids.
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