Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Building Alaskan Hikers

Eagle PeakWhile I take a break today (I promised the kids a walk on the beach and a trip to the library) I'm sharing with you another Alaskan blogger. Ben Schneider lives in Eagle River, outside of Anchorage, and blogs about his family, Alaska, and his yurt (What is a yurt? You'll have to just visit his blog to find out) because today he takes us hiking. . . .


Hiking, skiing, biking, and canoeing are things I do in order to keep sane--or I used to. I still get out, but it’s much more difficult now that I have kids and I now find myself wishing I could share those outdoor pursuits with my children. Not to just carry them around as another piece of equipment, but really share the experience. I recently had the chance to do just that with my oldest child.

Mount BaldyMy son, three and a half, looked out our window and said to me, “Papa, can we go up that mountain over there?”

I scooped him up, hugged him, and said, “No.” The mountain he was pointing to, Eagle Peak, would have been a 15 mile hike, 6000 feet of elevation gain, and require technical climbing skills.

“But, I know one that we can.”

Mount Baldy is Eagle River’s short-but-sweet, straight-up-the-mountain hike. The trail is about a mile long, climbs 1,300 feet, and offers the chance to see excellent views, bears, moose, marmots, and many different types of wildflowers. And, on one slightly rainy day in May you could have seen an excited dad walking beside his preschool-aged son, coaxing him up the mountain.

Hiking in AlaskaI set out on this adventure knowing that we might not make it to the top. My number one goal was to make it as positive an experience as possible and I wanted him to associate hiking up mountains with good times and to want to come back for more.

We stopped when he wanted; we poked holes in the ground with our hiking poles when he wanted; we ate, drank, watched bugs, rested, and swung from tree branches when he wanted.

I fought my usual urge to push and hurry up the mountain and I just let him go at his own pace. About two thirds of the way up he just sat down, poked holes in the ground for the twentieth time, and refused to go any further--I knew he needed some extra motivation to keep going and make it to the top. With my selfish drive to get to there and not knowing what else to do, I did it. I brought out the big guns.

“If you get to the top I’ll give you the brownie in my backpack.”

Bribery, it worked and I’m not sorry about it.

Hiking in AlaskaEveryone hiking up the mountain that day picked up the pace a little bit because of the brownie in my backpack. No one wanted to be passed by this little preschooler as he charged up the trail. When we crested the top he demanded his brownie and I happily gave it to him.

We spent the next half hour sitting at the top eating food, pretending the rocks were different parts of our house (kitchen and bedroom) and then made our way slowly and carefully back down. He slid down on his bottom every chance he could.

It was a fantastic shared adventure. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves but for much different reasons. I was able to get to the top of something and look out over a beautiful vista. My son was able to swing on branches, poke holes in the dirt, find small pieces of trash (treasure), throw snowballs at his dad, and get as dirty as he possibly could. It wasn’t as ambitious and didn’t have the same pace as the trips I’d taken before kids, but it was a shared experience. It was his first unassisted hiking trip up a mountain and one of many more shared adventures to come.

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Peruby said...

Whoa! That must have been some brownie! Awesome post.

Susan said...

Great story! So important to share your love of hiking, brings back memories - ours would run ahead and hide behind a tree or rock to scare us when they were little, then later would roll their eyes and shuffle along when they were teens.

Brownies are great inspiration!

Lynn said...

I, too, would do (almost) anything for a brownie...

Great story!

Chrissy said...

Hi Ben! Xander took his first unassisted at around 19 months - he could never stand to be papoose-d so we just started going out there as soon as he could walk. Now he sometimes out-paces us. Love your first article on Scribbit - can't wait to see more!

cndymkr / jean said...

Now that's the way to get your kids to complete something. Make it as fun as possible, let them go at their own pace and give them positive reinforcements of chocolate.

Stephanie said...

We love hiking with our two little girls (ages 1 & 3). So far, our furthest distance has been about 7 miles roundtrip. Our 3-year-old can hike for a mile or two on her own, but then my husband carries her in a backpack carrier the rest of the way. I carry our 1-year-old in an ERGO carrier. :)


Daisy said...

Isn't it fun to let kids take things at their own pace? Poking holes in the ground, swinging on trees, no hurries, no rush. Well, no rush until the brownie came out! What a great memory.