The answer could be that you’re (I’m) nuts or a masochist. While those are two completely valid reasons, I’d like to offer a third:
Hiking is an opportunity framework that few other things can replicate.
At home, when the going gets tough, the tough get Netflix binging. When we splatter lunch all down our front (or am I alone in this) we simply run to the dryer and whip some clean pants on before answering the front door. There are 55 snack options each afternoon. There’s a languid atmosphere lent by the fact that we can exist as slugs in comfort and stimulus overload. Our bodies and minds are taxed in the sense that we live in a frantic society with a love affair for judgment and bad news, but not in the sense that we are utilizing any of our deeper, core instincts and powers of survival.
By contrast, hiking forces us to disconnect from most devices, to utilize our observation skills, and to engage more fully with those around us. It’s not a guarantee of greater purpose, sharpened intuition, or meaningful interactions (though I could argue some good is received through hiking without effort). But it affords us a much greater chance of experiencing these things when the background noise of everyday life has fallen away.
While hiking, the resources at hand are the only things we possess. We’re likely miles or many minutes away from extra snacks, shelter, or clean clothing, so we must steward what we have, well. If we are bored, we must content ourselves with the beauty of our own thoughts and surroundings. If we’re too hot, too cold, too sweaty, hungry, or sore, we must improvise. Since our immediate safety is sometimes at stake, we must pay attention, work together, and respect our limits.
Parents sometimes wonder how to tear their kids away from electronic devices, impart a love of fitness and healthy living, build empathy, compassion, and perseverance in their children, and guide them to understand and value themselves deeply. There are prerequisites to these virtues, including stillness, tackling a variety of challenges, working in partnership to achieve goals, mutual communication, and attentiveness to our bodies. Hiking provides all of that. It’s a substantial, quick, and relatively effortless way to remove ourselves from the things that often inhibit the growth of these valuable qualities.
Hiking presents us with truths we should be building our lives upon: My family is important. This earth is a beautiful, communal inheritance worthy of awe. Living with intention is the best and most important adventure we can ever go on.
At home, we can content ourselves with less. In nature, we’re assaulted with more, and within this framework, have the opportunity to solidify and build upon the lives we really want, for ourselves and our kids.
So, if the question over hiking with kids is “Why?”, my answer would be “Why not?”
Hope From the Trail
Hope From the Trail features original content related to the healthy pursuit of self, others, and nature. Be sure to stay connected for all things outdoors.