With the snow mostly gone from the valley, we pulled out our backpack, filled up our Camelbaks, and started to discuss our hiking plans for the next day. Aaron suggested the Five Hills Hike – a beautiful hike that inspires random outbursts of song, while dancing around with your arms spread wide like a young Julie Andrews. The hike seemed particularly fitting as Sprout is obsessed with the Sound of Music. However, after our hikes last summer (and our failures with snowshoeing this year – Sprout refused to ride on our backs) they often ended in frustration due to differing perspectives about how to hike between us and Sprout, I dreaded the idea of a fairly steep (too steep for Sprout’s own legs) and long-ish hike (There was a time when we though a 5-ish miles was a short hike. Oh how parenting changes your perspective). We needed a change of perspective.
So I proposed an alternative — a short and mostly flat hike that Sprout should be able to do on her own two feet. I want Sprout to enjoy our hikes. I want our hikes to be peaceful and enjoyable for all, to be quality family time and time with nature. Not the headaches of recent hikes. Something needed to change, and quite frankly that something was us, not her.
We needed new goals. Rather than aiming for a hike that got our heart pumping, we decided to focus on the other benefits of hiking… uninterrupted family time, connection with nature, and serenity. Once our goals changed it was easy to see how we needed to change how and where we hiked.
New goals led to different types of hikes. Instead of choosing cool hikes with awesome views and destinations, we began choosing hikes that allowed us to just walk without any pressure to get somewhere. No destination. No pressure to make it to that destination and back before dinner time. Just a peaceful walk in nature.
Our new criteria for a good family trail:
- Minimal elevation gain
- Near home (so we can visit often and not have to worry about how long or short our hike is)
- Flexible in length (so Sprout can hike as long as she’d like)
- Few or no serious hazards (i.e. no steep cliffs)
Giving Sprout choices and being flexible helped her get excited for our hikes.
- We try not to rush her out of the house for our hikes. She wants time at home to play with her toys and she doesn’t get much of it during the week (she is in daycare), so we try to give her some time in the morning to just be before heading out on our hike. This wasn’t really possible when we were trying to log longer hikes, but with shorter hikes, we can have slow mornings and still hike.
- We started asking her what type of hike she wants – a longer hike and nap on Mama’s back or a shorter one where she can mostly walk herself. She typically chooses the latter.
- We let her choose her snacks and packing her own bag (She uses a kids camelbak to carry her water, snack, and Dr. Who). We only fill the bladder with 0.5L of water so as not to weigh her down and because she doesn’t need more than that at this point.
- She decides when to walk and when she needs a break. Sometimes this is a rest on a rock or she’ll want to go on my back, but either is fine. We do try to encourage her to space out the breaks a bit (she often requests a snack break about 5 minutes into the hike), by encouraging her to make it to a certain tree or wait until we find a good rock, etc., but ultimately she can walk as much or as little as she wants.
- As she gets older, we may try some of these other tricks, such as toys, games, though we’ll probably continue to reserve whistles for emergencies only.
Lastly, we make a big deal about Sprout being a little hiker. We talk about how awesome nature is. We listen for the birds and talk about what we are seeing on the trail. We talk about what an awesome hiker she is and praise her for following trail rules – staying on the trail, picking up food/trash she drops, etc.
We are only a few weeks into this new approach, but I think we are all so much happier. Aaron and I still want to be able to go on longer hikes (we may start trying to do a few a month without Sprout), but we are able to be more mindful on these short hikes and that is good for our whole family… including our little hiker-in-training.
As a working mama, the weekend is my time be with my family and get some much-needed exercise in. When Sprout was younger (18 months and younger), our weekend hikes were a great opportunity for Aaron and I to talk, as Sprout was content just going along for the hike and we were free to hike which ever trails we wanted. I thought that hiking would get easier as Sprout got older… how I was wrong. (I’m sure it will get easier in a few more years).
By the end of last summer, it seemed like we all ended our hikes frustrated and angry, rather than reinvigorated and connected. It was all wrong and I found that we were going on hikes less often. Sprout wanted to explore every rock, leaf, and stick (very normal behavior for a 2-year-old) and take an hour to go less than a mile. She was angry if we tried to move her a long or put her on our backs, and we were frustrated that we wouldn’t be able to do the hike we had hoped to do. When she was on our backs (which she was only willing to do for short periods of time), she wanted to be in the conversation. She is quite the conversationalist. Aaron and I longed for our stress-free, heart pumping, meditative hikes that we once had.
So this year, we are taking a different approach (I’ll write about it soon, so stay tuned). We are working to become more patient and mindful, reminding ourselves that a child who appreciates nature is a wonderful thing. Give her time to explore and soon she will be complaining that we are too slow!
For those interested, we had a similar experience with snowshoeing this year (she refused to be on our backs)… I’m sure I’ll get use out of my new snowshoes eventually… 🙁
I am not an expert skier. In fact, I have only skied a handful of times in my life, so I may not be the most qualified to offer a review on skis. However, I don’t think most toddler skis are meant to created expert skiers (quite yet), so hopefully I can provide some insight for others hoping to expose their sprouts to skiing before they are ready for official lessons.
I scoured the internet and asked locals to find as many Halloween events as I could in Cache Valley! Please let me know in the comments if you hear of any other events, so I can add them to my list! The list is sorted by dates so that you can make sure not to miss anything that interests you. Happy Halloween!
Everyone needs a vacation, but with a little Sprout and a shoestring budget, our family has about one reasonable option: camping! Good thing it’s something we love to do. Around the holidays, our New Mexico family expressed interest in joining us on a camping trip in the mid-summer somewhere in the Four-Corners region. We eventually settled on planning a four-night camping trip at Mesa Verde because, not only is it a geographically unique and naturally beautiful feature, but it is culturally significant, with over 600 ruins of cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Puebloans — including the Cliff Palace, the largest known cliff dwelling in North America.
After about 6 months of using traditional bibs and having the Velcro get stuck to all our towels and other things in the wash, I decided I was done with bibs. I made a few of these bib clips and never looked back. They are so functional, compact, and easy to make, I don’t know why they aren’t more popular. It didn’t take me long to realize that these little clips are good for much more than bibs at home. I keep one in my purse so that I can turn napkins into bibs at restaurants and we always have one with us when we hike to hold Sprout’s sleeping buddy: Dr. Who. Since these aren’t commonly found in stores, I decided to make a quick tutorial so that you all can experience their greatness as well! Let me know in the comments if you have found other uses for these clips!
With all our camping trip this summer, we are quite behind on our hiking posts. This trail, which we posted last year, is such an awesome hike that we did it again this past May. I wanted to make sure to post again with a bit more details for families (rather than just our story of the hike) so that I could add it to our Utah Hike List, even though the Riverside Nature Trail is no secret to locals. It was actually the first hike we did in Logan just over a year ago. It was beautiful then and is beautiful now.
My family and I are going to Mesa Verde National Park this week (a place I have wanted to go to for years), and I am super excited. As I do in preparation for any trip, I read about the park, the campground, and people’s experiences in general. One complaint seemed to come up repeatedly: there are no hooks, shelves, or soap in the campground bathrooms. Where do you put your toothpaste when brushing your teeth? where do you put your soap?, etc. We will be meeting up with my mom, sister and her family – dealing with multiple kids and stuff at the sink without anywhere to put things, seems like it would be an unnecessary challenge.
Sprout, in contrast to her cranky parents after a rough night in the tent, was in good spirits to hike. After a relatively quick breakfast of yogurt and strawberries, we stopped at the Moose Junction visitors center to stamp Sprout’s National Parks Passport, fill our Camelbacks, and check in with the rangers about the Jenny Lake parking situation (the Park Newspaper stated that parking was limited due to construction). Despite the ranger’s assurances about finding a parking spot, when we arrived at Jenny Lake, cars were parked in the shoulders out the entrance. We parked at the loading zone by the trailhead temporarily so that Jacqui and Sprout could get started while Aaron parked the car. Continued
We have another camping trip coming up next week, so I am giving some thought to what to pack since we actually ended up over packing on our last trip (I forgot that the sun wouldn’t set until late, so the temperatures didn’t drop until after we turned in for the night). I have always prided myself on being a light packer, but when you are camping with a toddler you want to be prepared. You don’t want to end up with a wet and cold child, as that would make the trip miserable for everyone. Consequently, I try to balance the desire to pack light and my need to be prepared. Continued