Truly one of our favorite family pastimes is hiking. We’ve hiked parts of the Napali Coast, Waimea Canyon, Mt. Tam, Santa Cruz Mountains, Desolation Wilderness, Pacific Crest Trail, The Grand Canyon, Sedona and State Parks all over Northern California. We start the kids as soon as they can be in a front carrier, transition them to backpacks and when they can walk, they do. As our family has grown, our older ones motivate the youngers to keep up. Our loyal dog of 13 years was along for so many of these hikes as well. We’d look for hikes with water nearby especially for him to splash and swim in as we walked.
This summer one of our family hikes took us to Five Lakes in the Granite Chief Wilderness part of the Tahoe National Forest. The hike began near Alpine Meadows with a steep long incline. It was an overcast day which was perfect for hiking with kids. The views from the top of the mountain were magnificent. It was interesting to pass the unfinished chairlifts on private land that may some day link Alpine Meadows to Squaw Valley.
We are often asked how we get our kids to enjoy hiking. I have three pieces of advice:
1. High expectations, kids always seem to rise to the occasion even if they are moaning at the start. As we began this hike, a young family was at the trailhead examining the map and debating if they should do it with their young child. They asked how old our youngest was and was surprised that she could do they hike so young. Truth was, we hadn’t been on this trail before, but we weren’t going to assume she couldn’t do it before giving it a shot. What’s the worst case scenario anyway, turning around early. High expectations by friends. When kids know we believe in them, they believe in themselves.
2. The Skittle Fairy. She comes along with us on hikes over a few miles. What started as encouragement for my oldest when he was our only hiker at 4 years old, has become a fun family tradition that isn’t even necessary anymore, but still so much fun! The Skittle Fairy doesn’t come out until at least 1/2 to 2/3 the way through the hike. She will periodically, when you least expect it, place a skittle for each kid on the ground, rock, tree stump, wherever for you to get a little sweet treat. It’s become equally a small sugar hit as well as a fun competition between the kids. After all, the first one there gets to pick their favorite color. You wouldn’t believe how fast they can hike just when they thought they were done!
3. Found Art. We usually stop for a snack or lunch, have a walk in a creek or dip in a lake while soaking up the views at some point. This is also our favorite time to watch the kids’ creativity soar. They can make the best natural masterpieces out of materials they find along the way. This particular hike they spelled out our name with twigs and collected little seed pods and moss for a beautiful still-life. Then they worked together to collect a ton of tiny pinecones and line them up along this tree trunk. It reminded me of something straight from an Andrew Goldsworthy sculpture.
The trail guide to this hike can be found at every trail. It is a fantastic website and app for trails all across the world. A few of our favorites are here, here and here. For more info on our adventures around the world and close to home, you can follow me on Instagram.
All images were taken with my new Sony NEX-5TL