My entire perspective changed when I started hiking with little legs by my side.
If there’s one thing I can do well, it’s hike along a trail. Through blisters, ingrown toenails, sprained ankles, and even fear. I’ve hiked through lush forest ferns, through raging rivers, alongside wild animals, and up steep canyons. I’ve climbed along headwalls and spent the night under the stars and swam in blue glacial lake water so cold it’s taken my breath away. I’ve put one foot in front of the other in freezing weather until I finally reached the summit of Mount Hood in Oregon. And even after all that, I had to re-learn how to hike once I had children. The first time we took our son out on the trail when he could walk on his own, it was as if I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to go slow. I didn’t know how to savor and see the world through his eyes. My entire perspective changed when I started hiking with little legs by my side. It got so much better.
A few months ago, our family was out on a trail I like to call the ‘Hold My Hand Hike’, and it turned out to be this beautiful lesson in disguise. It’s true what ‘they’ say about it being about the journey and not the destination; and children are the perfect vessels for reminding us of this valuable gift. If we hike fast, we miss the moss and the tiny mushrooms and the fans sweeping across the forest floor. If we don’t stop, we miss the sound of the birds chirping in the canopy above and the feel of a cool creek flowing over our bare feet. If we rush our kids along, we miss the magic and beauty of a small butterfly dancing amongst the wildflowers.
So now we hike with our kids, the 18 month old in the pack and the almost 4 year old at our side, and we savor. We know it might take us hours to get wherever we are going, but that wherever we are is more important. We are depositing memories and building a foundation and love for being outdoors.
My husband and I still hit the trail solo once a month, so we can get in those higher elevations and longer miles and time together doing what we love (and the kids know we are out hiking together and that their parents are investing in marriage), but we also do a lot of family hikes together moving at whatever pace is set by our son. There is so much value when life is lived under the big open sky, beneath the towering evergreens, immersed in the sweet smell of pine, being part of the world. I can’t think of a better gift to give my children.