Hike-a-Thon Adventures with a Toddler
Susan Elderkin's Hike-a-Thon began this past weekend with four hikes and...six miles hiked. She shares her tips for hiking with kids under 5 and her experiences on trail.
My Hike-a-Thon began this past weekend with four hikes and...six miles hiked.
Yes, this is the life of a hiker mom. My son Aidan is almost six, strong, and if motivated, he could hike a fair distance. Aliza is 2 1/2, and while she is quite the determined little girl, she's at what I believe is the most difficult hiking age of all. She's too old for the backpack ("baby backpacks are for BABIES, Mommy") but not yet old enough or strong enough to go very far.
Hiking with kids under 5 years old is very different than hiking with adults or older kids. You need to plan ahead and choose a hike that fits their abilities and interests AND you need to adjust your own expectations. Here are some of the lessons I've learned over the past six years.
- Kids like water, but don't care about views. Wildlife is the best.
- Short hikes are essential to maintain optimal happiness - under 3 miles round-trip for kids under 5.
- Pack extra food and water, along with a jacket.
- Stop often to rest and explore.
- Be willing to turn around short of your destination.
- Pack patience and perseverance.
We followed all of these rules this past weekend, but it still wasn't easy.
Our first hike was at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. With the wide-open boardwalk and trail, Aidan and his cousin skipped on ahead. But Aliza, ever competitive, wanted to lead instead. Screaming, running, falling and lots of tears ensued. We turned back upon reaching the boardwalk. A repeat of this scene occurred later on Saturday along the Silver Lake loop trail at Seaquest State Park, and I started to doubt whether I would be able to take the kids hiking again this summer.
But Sunday was another day. We drove up to Johnston Ridge Observatory and hiked the half-mile Eruption Trail. Well rested and well fed, things were better. But Aliza still did a face plant trying to catch up to the bigger kids.
Finally, we hit it right for our final - and definitely best - hike of the weekend. On the 2.5 mile Hummocks loop trail we split our party in two. The older kids went ahead (and out of sight) with one adult, while Aliza stayed back with the rest of the party. Everyone was happy. Her 11 year old cousin or I held her hand most of the way, because she slipped often. We watched butterflies and dragonflies. We stopped for water and snacks. And ultimately, my husband and I traded off carrying her in our arms.
Too old for the baby backpack, but not too old to be carried. Seems like I should earn extra Hike-a-Thon miles when I am hiking for two.