Backpacking Advice (Outdoor Idaho: The Next Generation)
The Next Generation
By Jerry Painter
A good friend once told me: "I spent several days with my wife and young daughter backpacking to a beautiful mountain lake. We viewed Jackson Hole from the crest of the Tetons. We saw wonderful wildlife. But I've never been able to get them to go since." Why? Because, although this was dream trip for Dad, it was a doozie for his tenderfeet hikers. They became burned out after the second day on the trail. No matter how fantastic the next lake or vista was, the price in effort for them was too dear.
If you're just getting started taking your children on hikes, there are a few key things that will keep your family eager to keep going summer after summer. I tell mom and dad to first pay attention to the spoilers. The spoilers are the things which can go wrong and spoil a hiking trip. Enough spoilers and your children may never want to go hiking again. Here are a few of the worst:
There are always a few things that help to make hiking fun for children.
And if the experience is fun, you'll have made some converts to the
recreation. Here are a few ideas:
- Take along something to combat mosquitoes and sunburn. The results of several bites and a sunburnt neck will linger long after their memory of a beautiful wildflower. Always have a bottle of sunblock and bug repellent in your pack. Have your children wear hats and sunglasses on bright sunny days, especially in the mountains.
- Watch out for blisters. Blisters are usually the result of poor fitting shoes. Find tennis shoes or light-weight boots that fit properly. Also use socks that provide plenty of cushion. Try wool and orlon materials. Bring along a foot repair kit complete with moleskin and adhesive tape. When a child first complains of a sore spot or hot spot on their foot, stop and patch it up before it becomes a full-blown blister.
- Don't forget to plan. Plan your hikes to fit your group. If your group has never hiked farther than a quarter-mile nature trail, taking them on an over-nighter is probably a mistake. Build up to the big trip with a lot of little successful trips. Then make their first over-nighter an easy trip with a fun destination. If things aren't going well on your five-mile dayhike, try to paint a good face on the bit of walking you've done and head back. Be positive, "Well, we saw the best part of the hike anyway."
- Make sure everyone is properly dressed for the season. Children usually chill more easily and are bothered by those occasional "afternoon thunder showers." An emergency rain poncho may make the difference between an adventure and a miserable experience.
- Seek out trails that go some place special, such as a waterfall, lake, cave, superior viewpoint, historic site or wildlife viewing area. Just being in the outdoors is often not enough for some children, but a trail that goes to something special gives children a goal and added excitement.
- Bring along food and plenty of water. Food and candy add to the pleasure of the hike. Often a bit a candy, used judiciously, will perk up a child's enthusiasm.
- Each child should have their own backpack. Even if all they have is a small water bottle and a favorite toy, carrying their own pack adds to the child's participation.
- Talk to the children about what they are seeing. Show them the map of where you are going and make them a part of the decision making.
- Play games along the way. Ask them what names they think would give the flowers, trees, mountains, creeks and compare theirs with the names on the maps.
- Bring along a camera, binoculars or magnifying glass to add the child's experience.
"Great Trails for Family Hiking: The Tetons" by Jerry Painter will introduce your children to the joys of hiking _ safely and comfortable. Written by the father of five avid hikers, this family-oriented guide will help you select the best trails for youngsters seeking fun and adventure. Find out where to see marmots, deer, beaver, elk, eagles, even moose and bear. Plan exciting destinations that include great fishing spots, wind caves, swimming holes, ferry rides, and abandoned settlers' cabins. Easy to use and fun to read, "Great Trails for Family Hiking is ideal for families, scout troops, and other youth groups.
The book includes:
Thirty-six hikes in and around Grand Teton National Park, ranging from short nature walks to all-day and overnight trips.
Detailed, easy-to-read maps, with illustrations and photographs.
Outdoor safety, climate, and equipment information.
Tips on hiking with kids, from infant to teenager.
Games and activities.
Comments from children on the various hikes.
Jerry Painter is a writer, newspaper graphics specialist, and publisher of Backcountry Trail Guide, a newsletter on regional trails in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. He lives with his family in Idaho, just over the hill from the Tetons.