Editor's note: This is part of a series of personal stories on resolutions that worked — or didn't in 2012. Eleven years ago I was expecting my first child. My job as an environmental educator had kept me outside in all seasons, and I thrived in that setting. When my son was born at the beginning of the summer and I quit working, I deeply felt my sudden lack of nature time. So I started thinking about hiking with my baby. My first hike with my eight-week-old baby wasn’t a success by many standards — he cried in the car the whole drive there and back, we didn’t even make it a mile up the trail, and I was exhausted. And you know that runny newborn poo? It exploded out of his diaper, and ended up all over us both, as well as the trail. But when I saw how calm and attentive my son was as we walked under the Bigleaf maples and Douglas firs on that warm August day, I knew that hiking was an activity worth pursuing for our family. The next spring I started a hiking club for moms with little kids. I asked around in my moms' group, among my friends, and on an online hiking forum. I was fortunate in those early years to find several women to hike with, and we had a great time exploring the trails and learning the ins and outs of hiking with babies and toddlers. As our children grew and second children were added to our families, logistics became more difficult. Children entering school and starting sports created further challenges. But somehow we’ve managed to continue to find ways to get out into nature on a regular basis.
My children are now ten and six years old, and are seasoned hikers. We’ve spent thousands of dollars over the years on gear and gas and haven’t done some activities such as team sports or expensive summer camps. But we’ve reaped so many benefits from hiking. My kids have a first-hand knowledge of the geography and ecology of different parts of our state. They know most common native plants, animals and birds. We’ve made some wonderful new friends. My children have also tapped into the spiritual aspects of spending time in wilderness; when we don’t go out for a couple of weeks, they start to crave that time in nature, and recognize that it’s important to their well-being. My hope is that this knowledge will be a tool to serve them throughout adulthood as they deal with all the ups and downs of life. Every year we have new goals for our family. Sometimes life gets in the way, and some years are more productive than others. This coming year our biggest goal is to take our hiking to the next level and try some over-nighters. The kids also have some new trails they would like to explore, and some old ones they want to revisit. We’ve come a long way from that first messy hike with an infant, and I’m proud of the hiking family we’ve become.
Fall hiking tips for families Seven indoor/outdoor hikes for the rainy reason About the author: Jennifer Johnson looks for any excuse to escape into nature with her children. She blogs about hiking with children at thehikermama.com and is a frequent contributor to ParentMap.