Children are so fun and honest. Do you take your kids or grandkids hiking? This post by Ambassador Jill will have you laughing out loud, as well as give you some great tips on hiking with children.
My husband, Dale, and I had just returned from a Labor Day weekend trip to one of our favorite places to camp, hike and ride 4-wheelers – the Uncompahgre Plateau in western Colorado. We took our 4-year-old grandson, Jackson, with us. He loves camping, fishing, 4-wheeling, and just plain being outdoors. So, we decided to take him hiking on the Indian Trail with us.
The Indian Trail is a 9.6-mile trail which offers spectacular views of red rock cliffs in the Tabeguache Creek drainage. We thought a short hike on this trail would be a fun first hike for Jackson.
Late Sunday morning, I loaded up his backpack with water, extra clothes and lots of snacks that only a 4-year-old would love – string cheese, crackers and cheese, crackers and peanut butter and chocolate. Of course, those snacks are Grammie’s favorites, too!
We loaded up our Polaris Ranger and headed to the trailhead. As we were riding, I explained the rules of hiking to Jackson:
- Always listen to what we say
- Never lose sight of Grammie and Grandpa
- Carry your own backpack
- Always drink lots of water
- Never wander off on your own
- Never touch something without letting Grammie and Grandpa know what you’re touching
- blah, blah, blah…
At the trailhead as we unloaded. Jackson announced that he wanted to use hiking poles just like mine. He didn’t care about how you use them, he wanted to be a hiker just like Grammie. So, Dale fitted Jackson with poles. We strapped his backpack on him and we headed down the trail mindful of the fact that if we lose him or hurt him in any way, shape or form, we’d have to answer to his parents. Not a conversation I was looking forward to. So, we kept a good eye on him at all times. After all, I have lost that very same child in a Penny’s store before. Not a problem for him. He knew where he was. I didn’t.
Along the trail we showed him acorns, Fireweed, a bovine jawbone, a snake, bear scat, a waterfall and how to use his poles to bushwhack through the tall Hawthorn berry bushes without getting scratched. I love taking pictures and was documenting every moment – my favorite was the look on Jackson’s face when I was photographing bear scat – “Grammie, why are you taking pictures of bear poop?”, he asked. “So we can learn from the pictures and compare with other poop in the forest”, I answered.
We also taught Jackson how to use his poles to cross a small stream without getting wet – no small feat for a 4-year-old!
Jackson is his grandmother’s grandson – his favorite part of the hike? Snack break! He sat down and dug out the snacks he had helped me pack for him. He ate cheese and crackers, jerky, an orange and some fruit snacks. Dale surprised me with a nice refreshing drink!
As we headed back down the trail to the 4-wheeler, Jackson practiced his elk bugling and sang songs. We pointed out more flowers along the trail and where we thought snakes may be lurking under rocks. Round trip? Probably a mile. We didn’t want to wear him out and make him not want to go with us ever again! It was a great first hike for him.
At the end of the hike, we loaded back up into the Ranger and headed to our camper. On our way back, Jackson wanted to recite the rules of hiking. Here are the rules through his 4-year-old’s eyes:
- Always bring water, hiking makes you thirsty
- Never lose sight of your partners
- Always keep moving
- There’s no crying in hiking, unless it’s Grammie
- Carry your own backpack
- Always carry out trash
- Never go off on your own
- Always whisper, never yell
- Be quiet as much as you can
- Always pack good snacks you will want to eat
- Always hike downhill. Going uphill is hard.
- Stay away from the edge of the cliff, it scares Grammie
- Take lots of snack breaks
- Always point your poles down in the dirt, never in the air like a spear
- Always watch what you’re doing and where you’re going
- Wear clothes that don’t make you sweaty. Sweaty is gross.
- Always go with Grammie and Grandpa because you get chocolate at the end of the trail
- Always take a nap in the camper after hiking (those were his words, not mine!!)
Later that afternoon, Jackson said he loved his hike and wanted to do it again. He couldn’t wait to tell his mom and dad about it. But, first he needed a nap. We actually wore him out? The next morning he woke up and wanted to hike the Indian Trail in the Tabeguache again. My job is done!