Do these questions or thoughts enter your mind when you think of a “family hike?”
- · How do I fit another activity into my over-scheduled family calendar?
- · There are dangerous things in the woods.
- · I don’t know where to go hiking. Where are the closest and best trails for my beginning family?
- · I have never been on a hike before. How do I start?
The word “hike” can be intimidating to parents. Some parents visualize scenes of skyscraper mountains, deep canyons and vast, never ending forests. Big scenes that can be a little scary. Some parents can’t visualize anything because they don’t have a point of reference or connection. Let’s break the word down and use the less intimidating word of “walk.” More parents can visualize this word – a walk down their neighborhood street (with or without the dog), in a neighborhood park, or along the beach. These are known, provide a point of reference, and create a connection. Now, think of a walk in the woods, along a stream, to a pond, in a wetland, or many other possible places.
A hike is synonymous with it takes a long time to do - an all day event. Whereas a walk means a shorter period of time – an hour. Add a family’s perceived notion that a hike is an all day event together with their overscheduled lives, this equals a barrier to hiking on a trail. Yes, families today are overscheduled but let’s dispose of the perceived notion that a hike lasts all day. Instead, insert the word walk and go for an hour long walk on a trail with your family. When does your family have an hour in its schedule? Where is the nearest trail to walk for an hour?
The nearest trail is one click away:
- · Montgomery Parks or any municipality’s Department of Parks or Recreation or a state’s Department of Natural Resources or Environment.
- · Trail organizations, for example Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) or the Washington (state) Trails Association.
- · Trail books and guides – PATC guides or 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles.
- · OhRanger, type your zip code or click on a state to find a park with trails near you.
None of these sites or resources is geared to help families navigate which trails or “walks in the woods” are best for kids but below are some.
- · Trail Discovery for Kids, learn about trails with great playscapes (e.g. Billy Goat Trail, Section C).
- · Books – Family Hiking in the Smokies: Time Well Spent or Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine: Best Hikes for Kids. Search “kids hiking books” on Amazon and you will discover many resources.
- · Nature Rocks – type in your zip code and find a park/trail near you.
Don’t feel comfortable taking your family for a walk in the woods because danger lurks around the next tree or you have never taken a hike. Don’t fear, Washington DC and many major cities have organizations that guide families to explore and experience fun adventures on kid-friendly trails. These hikes provide opportunities for parents to feel comfortable in an unfamiliar activity in an unknown place and everyone can participate in unstructured play in a structured event. Check out this family hike opportunity.
Family Hiking 101: Exploration, Safety and Leave No Trace
Sunday, May 15, 2011
2:00 – 5:00 pm
Join two expert guides from Hiking Along and The North Face on a two mile circuit hike around the perimeter of Theodore Roosevelt Island. The trail is natural surface and raised walkways through two ecosystems, a deciduous forest and wetlands. The hike is great for children of all ages with fun natural playgrounds: rocks for climbing, water for skipping rocks, and the monument plaza for a game of hide and seek. While hiking, learn about hiking safety, Leave No Trace, and the plants and animals surrounding the trail. Enjoy an afternoon in the middle of the Potomac River engaging in the great outdoors! The cost is $15 per family. To register, email email@example.com.
This spring, make it a family goal to venture outside of your familiar comfort zone and embark on a hike or a walk, if that word feels more comfortable. Seek out the extraordinary amount of resources available both on the web and with organizations whose mission it is to get more people, including families, outdoors. Hiking isn’t a scary word in your family? Then, step it up a notch and venture to adventure on a new level or outdoor activity. Happy trails!