Logging more trail miles with kids

hiking -

Logging more trail miles with kids

I signed up for a 16 mile hike next January. It sounds impressive maybe, but one friend signed up to RUN it, and another to run it TWICE, so I’ll keep my bragging to a minimum. 

My solo hiking has fallen by the wayside for the past few years. I love taking my girls to a new or beloved spot and letting them splash and explore. We bring friends and the dog and follow the trail and leave margin for unexpected discoveries. We rehome wayward beetles and fill pockets with the rocks that sparkle most in sunlight. 

When I have goals for myself, the tension of the miles I want to cover can take the fun out of hiking with my kids. “Cool find! Ok, let’s keep it moving” with a forced smile. 

My youngest is still (just) little enough to fit in a pack on my back when she gets tired. It is, and will forever be, my favorite part of mothering little ones. A daughter on my back under a canopy of trees, walking, chatting, listening, snacking. 

I am trying to rediscover how to cover more miles with a little one (and make it home before the bigs get off the bus).

Here are my strategies:

  1. SNACKS! No matter how many times you hear it, it’s the number one thing I have learned. I used to bring a single granola bar for each of us and be miserable trying to parse it out or carry a grumpy noodle-limbed child the last mile. Now I load up. Current favorites for me are collagen bars, Liquid IV, and almonds. My 3 year old loves dried mango, pecans, granola bars, and fruit/veggie squeeze pouches. I carry a big water bottle on a carabiner on my carrier, and wear a fanny pack with snacks and keys (and my pepper spray). Fuel is key to getting my little one to hang past a few miles. Bonking is a real thing. I also leave some fresh fruit and treats in the car for when we return. 
  2. Well-fitting footwear appropriate for the conditions. When it’s cold neoprene boots are an absolute must. In warmer months a neoprene sandal that stays on and dries quickly is key. 
  3. A comfortable backpack carrier. I have used soft-structured carriers for a decade and they always do exactly what I need. I love that I can buckle it around my waist and forget about it until she wants to ride. Borrow from friends or check out a local babywearing group to find a style and fit that serves your needs. 
  4. Intentions, not imperatives. I head out on each hike with a goal in mind: 3 miles, 7 miles, hit the big ascent, whatever it is. But within that I try my best to be flexible. If she wants to walk, we take a route I think will keep her interest. If she wants to be carried I may skip the scramble and do another lap on a flatter path. 

I encourage you to challenge yourself and your kids to do hard things, but have grace for the days when it isn’t in the cards and take what does come with as much joy as you can. 

Oh and pack yourself an iced coffee to greet you in the car when you get back, that doesn’t hurt either.