It Only Took 17 Years . . .

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It Only Took 17 Years . . .

When hiking with kids, you have to have the long game in mind. On our way down from one of the most glorious hikes of my life, I realized that it only took 17 years! 

And I'm only kind of joking. When our oldest was 9 months, Max went to the REI garage sale and bought a baby backpack. The first time we put Jonah in it, he pretty much cried for all of the hike. We put him in and took him out, in and out, in and out. 

This photo was the least crying photo we were able to get that day, and we probably managed only a mile of the 3-mile hike. 

But Max and I had the long game in mind, so we kept trying. We hiked on our own and we hiked with friends. 

When Wyatt came along, Jonah was kicked out and had to start walking farther on his own. The same thing happened until all four of our sons had taken their turn in the baby backpack. But we were still just in the beginning of the game. Next came years of hikes on little legs growing into bigger legs.

Here are my top 5 tips for hiking with kids:

1. Just get out the door! Kids will whine and complain and say they don't want to go on a hike, but once they are outside, away from their screens, something amazing happens. Nine times out of ten, the whining stops. Mother Nature works her magic and happiness replaces the whining.  

2. Bring "provisions"- code for treats. Of course you always want to bring snacks on a hike, but a little treat can go a long way with kids. Max always liked to bring Miserable Medicine (aka M&Ms) for when things got miserable. A couple M&Ms and kids just keep going.

3. Don't forget diapers and wipes when they are little. This one is from experience. Trust me, don't forget them. 

4. Have an end goal in mind, but be ok if you don't make it. It's always good to have a destination--a viewpoint, a waterfall, a cool rock formation. But with kids, there's a chance you might not make it. That's okay! If you don't make it first time, think about the accomplishment they will feel when you make it the next time. You might not make it because your child had to stop and play around in some rocks or climb under tree branches that let them feel like they're in a fort. That's part of the magic of tip #1.

5. Keep tryingSome hikes might make you want to give up on hiking with your kids all together, but the long game is so worth it. So go back to tip #1 and try again.

In the fall we took our kids on a strenuous 14-mile hike with almost 4,500 feet of elevation gain. Our oldest was seventeen and our youngest was eight, so we knew that we might split up at some point in the hike--one of us taking the older kids to the summit and the other hiking with our youngest. But then the magic happened.


No one was whining or complaining. No one was fighting or being rude, and our youngest just kept hiking. It was feeling pretty magical already. We made it to the saddle. 

We took a short rest, had some provisions, and our youngest said he wanted to make it to the top. So we kept going, and because it was his goal, his older brothers started cheering him on to climb through the hardest part.

And guess what...he did it! We all did it!

This was pretty much everything I'd ever hoped for through all the tough hikes with really little kids. Since it was near my birthday, I told the kids that this was the best birthday present they could ever give me. We made sure to take a photo with our family Expedition Flag to commemorate what in my mind was actually much more than a 14-mile hike--it was a 17-year journey that was finally paying off.

So get out the door and just keep trying--hike with your kids, even when it's tough. The reward, even if it takes longer than 17 years, is so worth it. 

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