A hiking pack filled with a few essentials for the day is the best start to an amazing adventure for children and adults. You probably recall when you or your child first started school with a lunch box and a book bag. It was so exciting to pack your “stuff” and head off to the unknown like a little “big shot.” Hiking is very similar except the explorations involved take place outdoors instead of in a school building. Here is how the preparation, the journey and the lasting memories can affect a child via my childhood memories.
Childhood Hiking Preparation
At 8 years old, my original “backpack” was a homemade make-shift backpack and my trail was a forest in Redfield, NY surrounded by the Salmon River Reservoir waters. Every summer my parents took me to my aunt and uncle’s camp there, which signified weeks of trekking, swimming, insect capturing and moments of awe. The daily preparation began with a lunch, because it would be a full day outing. Our mothers packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, cookies and Koolaid in a thermos for my cousin and me. We were on private property and willingly explored every inch of the surrounding woods as our favorite pastime. We relished it as the most fun we ever had and the best form of entertainment we knew. Little did I know then that I was being molded to become an adult who loved nature as much as the kid in me.
A Hikers Journey Is Worth The Trek
Our hiking pack travels took us for what seemed like miles through dense forests of pine, maple and oak trees. No two hikes were ever the same, since there was always something new that we discovered each time. Familiar landmarks like the tree our parents had carved their initials into and the beloved footbridge we trampled across. The bridge was over a beautiful creek we fondly named “our dream stream.” In your own hikes, you can make it your dream time and discover your individual memorable landmarks.
When it rained , the creek would flowing rather strongly. If summer drought made it dry, we enjoyed it even more, because we could do some impressive rock jumping instead of using the foot bridge. Many crayfish and frogs were caught in a coffee can to show Mom, as a trophy, when we returned to camp. Your kids will feel pride with every discovery because it becomes a whole new world to them with each step on the trail. Kids love to explore, and there is no better education than nature provides.
There was always a nice sunny boulder or a big tree stump to sit and have our lunch. You can bring a picnic lunch and take a break during your hike simply by packing your meal in your hiking backpack. You can also bring snacks for rest breaks. Why not encourage the children to find shapes in cloud formations, just like we did when we rested in open areas on a blanket? Sometimes we hiked further on the path to a sandy beach where our older siblings met up with us. They left the camp via canoe and took the water route. We always opted for the wooded trail because it was way more fun.
Hiking Families Can Forge Their Own Trail
On hiking pack trips, you can choose any trail or path you want. Better yet, let the kids decide since it’ll make them feel part of the hiking plan. For us, we always opted for the forest. You couldn’t find blackberry bushes bursting with juicy berries from a canoe. We’d fill up our paper bags and bring them home where they’d miraculously be made into scrumptious pies. Many trails have wild berries, which kids love to pick.
Hiking can be sweaty work, but there was always a shallow creek or pond to cool off in. We were always drawn to water, as are most kids. We would jump in, no fear or hesitation. Hiking trips that involve places to swim or collect rocks or bugs in the water will delight any child.
We’d giggle and screech with joy when one of us discovered a new bug or a water snake. We’d make walking sticks out of broken tree branches and turn our bandannas backwards to keep sunburn off our necks, after we dipped them in the cold creek. Ahhhhhh it was refreshing. Part of the beauty of hiking with kids is how simple things mean the most to them, just like it did with us back then and still today.
Hiking Treks Require Respect For Nature
We would scope out the plants and bushes, being taught early on what poison ivy looked like. One experience with the resulting rash taught us to never go off the trail without scoping out the plant life first. Our homemade walking sticks made a good bush separator when we went off path to forge a new one. You can guide your kids to make their own walking stick, they’d be cool with that.
Encourage Kids To Be Kids
We girls each had a brother a little older than us, and they too would take off on their own hike. The air was so clear we could hear our brothers burping in the woods, even though they were significantly further away from us. We decided to have a contest between the girls and boys to prove who could burp loudest!
Gross, I know. But as kids, we thought it was funny and loved the echoing sound through the forest. As ridiculous as that may sound, kids being kids and laughing is the moral to this story. Other than courtesy rules on public hiking trails, let children be themselves in nature because that’s what makes them happiest.
Nature Hikes Produce Lasting Memories
What we experience as children, good or bad, can undoubtedly influence our memories and viewpoints as an adult. The excursions I had with hikes through the woods opened up a new world for me that was completely different from my suburban living in a neighborhood.
Early Exposure To The Outdoors Is Beneficial To Kids
Being exposed to nature early on shaped me into an adult who respects and thrives in an outdoor environment. Granted, things change from generation to generation, but what usually does not change is a child’s thirst for learning about what makes everything move, grow and become.
Decades later, you will still stumble upon questions of how plants grow or how wild things thrive within their environment. You will never stop learning or growing, which is why hiking is the perfect education play time.
Adults Who Hike Can Teach Youngsters
Let’s say you didn’t have a childhood that included hiking. Learning along with your children is another incredible experience of discovery together. It is so worth the journey. Just because you didn’t have early hiking memories and encounters with nature, you can still make new ones with your own family. Aunts, uncles and grandparents can spend quality time on a day hike with their loved ones. Why not invite a child’s friend who has busy parents to join in?
The Great Outdoors Is There For Everyone
We can all teach someone about the great big outdoors and create lasting impressions on a young mind. You will undoubtedly enjoy the heck out of each moment. Teaching children about nature and the science of natural things around us in invaluable. The “teacher” in you will receive every bit of enjoyment that the child sustains. That will ultimately make it a positive experience for both of you.
Your Trekking Experiences Should Be Shared
You may have a family member, may volunteer with children, or you might know of a kid who seems distant, bored or in need of attention. The most meaningful thing you can do for them is to take them on a hiking adventure and discover nature together. Showing children the amazing attributes of the outdoors won’t be difficult. Nature will do the work for you.
The folks at Nature Trail Backpacks welcome your comments below and for your shares of this article to friends to make an impact on our young people who would love to learn more by being in nature. Happy hiking!