When Hiking Isn’t Just About The Miles

The summer I got pregnant with Walker (who is nearly 8) I was at my pinnacle of hiking. I was aggressively chasing trails and miles. I knew my life would change a lot with another child, if we succeeded. Until that point though, hiking had always been about the miles and how far could I go. The first time I topped 20 miles in a day I was on a mental high. But to be blunt, I barely remember those trips. I didn’t take a lot of photos during the 2008/2009 hikes.

To do higher miles, you give up a lot: taking long rests at pretty places, photo taking, stopping to eat. Rather you spend a lot of time looking at your feet, your watch (or phone for the time these days) and at the sun, tracking just how much time you have left.

It didn’t hit me hard though until after I had kid three and then I really was slow. Just getting out of the house became overwhelming. And did that make me angry. I just wanted to hike, was it too much to ask for? Apparently it was. It drained me for the first year or so, as I tried desperately to get in any hike with three kids.

As I have written before, we’d often not leave town till past 10 am and by the time on the trail it was lunch. The miles were low those years, and well, I don’t see them bumping up much in the next few years.

But I saved my sanity and my enjoyment of hiking by finding other things to expand my view of hiking. How so? I found hobbies to do while we hiked, that allowed all ages to enjoy it.

  • Photography – This was the biggest one. Before having more kids, my photography was pretty cringe inducing. Now I often take breaks wherever I see things that grab my eye. And the kids are happy to dink around as Mama shoots shots of flowers, bees, and whatever else. I pick break areas where there are many wildflowers and a babbling brook for them to play in. And, I often pack an old point and shoot digital camera for the boys to play with.
  • Bird ID – You can only go so far in life with calling every bird a twitter bird because that’s the sound they make. Learn what is native to your area, and when the birds migrate. Kids love it.
  • Flower ID – When I first started hiking I had no idea what the wildflowers were, though I had figured out quickly the sequence they bloom in. Now I often carry a thin book with me for the boys and I to go over. It is well worth the weight, and frankly, paper is better than an app for the outdoors.
  • Trees – It’s not enough to know it’s an evergreen or pine, learn to ID by bark and cones, or leaves. Learn which trees have medicinal bark.
  • Wildcrafting – If the children need a break, have them gently collect downed twigs, leaves and cones. They can make little shelters for birds or whatever. At the end, spread the forest litter back into the woods.
  • Clouds – Lay back at lunch and forecast the weather. If you hike in the mountains, this is actually a great skill to get.
  • Berry picking – With the promise of fresh wild berries, those two clowns can’t wait to get into the truck. They are like little bear cubs. And should the berries be at the turn around or the halfway spot on a loop, so much the better. It keeps them moving.
  • Corny, yet entertaining tales/yarns for the kid – Those cheezy tales about the mighty Douglas Fir protecting the tiny mice in a forest fire are silly, but are great for teaching plant ID and it makes the miles go by faster.

I can’t guarantee it will make it easier or better for you. But it helps you change the mindset, which leads to a happier mind. And you might find you enjoy the slow, shorter hikes just as much.

2 thoughts on “When Hiking Isn’t Just About The Miles

  1. Thanks for this post. Soon to have a 2nd and haven’t got out nearly enough lately. I really relate to the sense of worry and loss. I knew things would be different but wasn’t able to predict how changing the pace would impact our lives.

    I particularly like your tip for corny yarns. My wife and I have been planting trees with our toddler and she loves the stories that accompany them. I hope she continues to grow and appreciate everything nature has to offer.

    Would love to hear more from you on this subject!

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