Would you like to get your children more involved with nature? Would you like to enjoy the great outdoors together? Are you wondering how to get started?
Here at Elk Lake Resort, we believe the natural things, the simple and wholesome things are the best. Thus our all-inclusive adventure vacation package includes guided hiking. However, you can plan hiking into your own custom designed adventure either with a guide or treking across country on your own.
More and more people are turning to the simple, enjoyable, wholesome fun of hiking. Hiking is affordable, healthy, emotionally rewarding, and a great way to escape the rat race, get out into nature, and leave the stress of the world behind. But, how do you get your kids interested in hiking? Can you even go hiking with little ones? Yes - emphatically yes! In fact, in our article Hiking With Children we give you some practical tips and advise on how to make this not only a reality, but fun! Here are some more thoughts to keep in mind:
- Hiking with babies and toddlers is not as overwhelming as it sounds. Hiking with your children really requires nothing more than planning, patience, and flexibility.
- Keep your plans simple and open-ended. Let the children lead the way and you'll have more fun than you can imagine. Not only are they closer to the ground (thus they see more), but their imaginations haven't been dulled by the daily grind (thus everything around them becomes an adventure).
- Use all your senses. We all learn by using all of our senses. However, as adults living in a look-see world, we often overlook our other senses. Our children, especially the young ones, aren't laboring under this handicap. Let them lead the way. One way to stimulate their non-visual senses is to play a game. Put everyone into pairs. Blindfold one partner. Now, the idea is for the non-blindfolded partner to lead the blindfolded one to places where he/she can touch, smell, or hear nature. Talk about what they are experiencing. After a bit, change places. IMPORTANT: Caution the 'leading' partner to watch for things their blind partner must step over (or around) or duck under.
Don't forget nighttime. A warm summer evening is a wonderful time to look at nature from a different perspective. Not only are there stars (by the millions here at Elk Lake Resort) to marvel at, but with your vision limited, you hear more - wind whispering in the trees, owls hooting, waterfowl quietly communing, and more!
- Bring along some simple 'implements' - a magnifying glass, a butterfly net, a journal, a compass, and more. Each one of these tools will come in handy as you explore and as you teach. Simple field guides which are area specific are also great for identifying rocks, insects, butterflies, plants, trees, and birds. A 'bug zoo' (a milk carton with some small holes punched in the top for air) makes a great addition as you can bring back a few specimens for further study. One note on the journal - encourage all your reading/writing aged children to make simple notes of what they're seeing. Simple drawings (even if they are barely recognizable) are great for helping them remember what they've seen and making them feel more 'scientific'.
- Encourage books - building a collection of kid-friendly reference books greatly enhances your children's knowledge and feeds their interest in the great outdoors. Usborne books offer several wonderful 'nature' based books - specific to plants, animals, birds, rocks and more!
Now that you've gotten a few ideas of 'what' you'll be doing, you're ready to plan the event.
- Select a trail. Get the whole family together and look at the options. Consider the elevation gains as you decide on the 'right' trail for your family. Then, get input from all the hikers.
- Make it fun. Plan for regular snack breaks - and pack a few 'surprise' treats to make it even more enjoyable. Collect bugs or play games as described above. Journal about unusual trees, birds, or rocks you encounter - or see how many birds, tree species, or types of rock you can identify.
- Plan for safety and comfort - discuss what to do if you get separated. Give everyone a whistle. Put the slowest hiker in front (or pace yourself for that hiker's comfort). Wear a hat, sunscreen, and bug repellent. Take lots of water and more food than you'll think you need (in case your return is delayed). On the other hand, don't overpack - a heavy pack gets heavier with each step. Dress in layers, but modestly as you'll be warm. Make sure everyone has comfortable shoes.
A few more notes about journaling. Some things to encourage your children to include in their hiking journals (or to include in your own hiking journal) are - who you went hiking with; the trails you traversed; who you met (or didn't meet); the weather; anything unique which occurred or that you saw; and more. Encourage your children to write in their journals on your hiking breaks or as soon as you return to the resort.
A dayhikers checklist:
- Map and/or simple guidebooks
- Compass or GPS
- cell phone (although you won't get coverage in several areas)
- plenty of water
- pocket knife
- flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries
- waterproof matches
- insect repellent
- simple first aid kit
- sun protection (lip balm, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses)
- toilet tissues (in a plastic bag)
- journal and a pencil
- day pack or fanny pack
- camera and film (or plenty of storage space on your disk)
A few ideas on clothing. One obvious but too frequently overlooked point is footware. Our website offers a complete article on choosing the correct footware and another on caring for your feet as this is key to an enjoyable hiking experience. In addition, think about taking a wind / waterproof jacket (Goretex is great), an extra pair of socks, and wear at least a short sleeve shirt topped by a sweatshirt or fleece pullover. In the mountains, the temperature can drop dramatically - and quickly. It is best to be prepared.
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