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Take a Hike! Natural Parenting and Hiking With Young Children

Welcome to the June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their stories and tips for playing outside with kids. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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We love to go hiking. We hike in the rain, we hike in the sun, we have even inadvertently hiked in the snow on a sunny July afternoon (who knew that there would still be snow on the mountains in July? Not me. If I’d known I would have worn something other than sandals). We love to go hiking so much that Tom and I accidentally gave each other nearly identical pocket guides to local hikes as Christmas presents last year. We really do love to go hiking.

Old Growth Tree

Now that we have two young kids, our hikes have changed. We don’t hike as far, or for as long. We hike at a preschooler’s pace, and one of us is carrying a toddler in the Ergo. But we still make it out to the trails every couple of weeks or so, and we still love it just as much.

A Child in the Woods

Hiking puts me in touch with nature in a basic, fundamental way. Like, if I got lost here, would I know how to find something to eat? Are there any animals on this mountain or in this valley that might eat me if given the chance? Can we get back before the sun goes down? Do I have enough water or snacks for four people? We hike mostly in areas that are just outside the city, but in Vancouver it is still possible to encounter a black bear or cougar just outside the city, so these thoughts have some basis in reality. That’s a good thing, I think. It’s sort of like looking up at a sky full of stars in the open countryside at night. It puts my small human life into a broader perspective.

Magical Forest Trail

Hiking is also a great way to teach children about the natural world. There is so much to discover on even the easiest trail around a lake or through some trees. We spotted a Pileated Woodpecker once, hammering away on a dead tree, and we silently stood and watched him until he flew away. When my daughter finds a small hole at the base of a tree she exclaims, “Who lives here, I wonder?” We discover lots of things to learn about on hikes – sap running down the side of a tree, barnacles feeding in a tide pool, honeysuckle flowers to lick the nectar from.

Smelling Sap

There is something magical and calming about standing in the old-growth pacific rainforest, and these rare patches of ancient trees are my favourite places on earth. They make me feel centered and whole, refreshed and renewed. I hope that my children will be able to find solace in wild spaces during their adult lives too, and that they will have learned enough about the natural world to be able to know how to navigate a trail, watch for wildlife, plan to be back before sunset and wear the appropriate footwear. Which, by the way, is not sandals in the slippery, half-melted July snow.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

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{ 11 comments… add one }

  • Dionna @ Code Name: Mama June 8, 2010, 5:03 am

    Your area sounds absolutely breathtaking. We used to hike frequently when we lived in New Mexico, which is about opposite of what you are describing here. Still, I loved hiking in the dry heat, the sand, the scrub brush, and the scorpions. We are rather limited living in our large urban area, but there are certain spots that have been set aside in the city that we should take advantage of – I do love to hike!
    .-= Dionna @ Code Name: Mama´s last blog ..How To Create a Pirate Treasure Hunt & Other Easy Outdoor Pirate Activities (June Carnival of Natural Parenting) =-.

  • Holly June 8, 2010, 1:10 pm

    We love hiking too! We also carry our toddler in the Ergo, but I usually make that my husband’s job :)
    .-= Holly´s last blog ..Gates Foundation gives $1.5 billion for women’s health =-.

  • BluebirdMama June 8, 2010, 1:41 pm

    We moved from Vancouver 2 years ago and while we’re still on the BC coast, our trees are just not like those in your photos. You’ve made me a little homesick for the North Shore, especially the fact that you can live in a great cosmopolitan city and still escape to the woods in 20 minutes. Lovely. I hope those big trees will still be there for your kids to take their kids to in the future.
    .-= BluebirdMama´s last blog ..Outdoor Education =-.

  • Maman A Droit June 8, 2010, 3:04 pm

    Sounds like fun! We haven’t been hiking since we climbed on Mt. Rainier about a month before I got pregnant. Your post makes me want to try a hike with baby now!
    .-= Maman A Droit´s last blog ..Ways to Have Outdoor Fun with a Pre-Walker =-.

  • Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes June 8, 2010, 9:20 pm

    Your hikes sound fabulous! We actually haven’t gone hiking at all with our 2.5 yr old son. I think we need to start! He can still fit in the Ergo, at least for the next little while.

  • Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries June 9, 2010, 1:22 pm

    omg, this carnival is making me want to visit the pacific northwest! I’ve been to every state in the US except Oregon, Washington and Maine. I think I”m missing out on some beautiful hikes. My husband and I love to hike. One of my life goals is to do the Grand Canyon. Beautiful pics!
    .-= Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries´s last blog ..Moon Gazing with your Toddler: Science, Nature, and a touch of Folklore =-.

  • Zoey @ Good Goog June 9, 2010, 4:33 pm

    In my pre-child life I used to love going hiking – although I often didn’t get the chance once I was living in the city. But I love the idea of finding some local tracks and taking the munchkin.
    .-= Zoey @ Good Goog´s last blog ..06/365 Deer in the Headlights =-.

  • Lauren @ Hobo Mama June 9, 2010, 9:58 pm

    I love your point that being in nature, really wild nature, reminds us we’re not all that big in the grand scheme of things. I love how you illustrate that with the pictures of you guys against those huuuuge old trees. Lovely!
    .-= Lauren @ Hobo Mama´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: Happy third birthday =-.

  • Erin W. / Beatnik Momma June 10, 2010, 11:50 am

    I wish we had some better hiking trails around here. There are 2 in my area and both of them are really over-run because people rarely use them. Well, I lie- people use them, but it’s typically high schoolers looking for a place to party, which makes for the kind of scenery I’m not really too interested in showing my kids. “Look honey – it’s the semi-rare joint roach.” No…. not so much.

    I’ve been thinking of trying to find some hiking trails around where my mom lives in Tulsa though. We visit her a lot during the summer and it would be great to find some fun stuff to do other than hang out in her apartment. I loved hiking as a kid and would love to share it with my own.
    .-= Erin W. / Beatnik Momma´s last blog ..The Sweet Smells of Summer =-.

  • Joni Rae June 10, 2010, 8:27 pm

    Lovely pictures! One of the reasons I am working on being healthier and getting fit is—- I’d *love* to go hiking with my kids!!!

    <3
    .-= Joni Rae´s last blog ..Got Milk? Part One: What does a new momma need to know? =-.

  • Rob Bignell September 28, 2011, 8:56 pm

    I can so relate to “Now that we have two young kids, our hikes have changed. We don’t hike as far, or for as long. We hike at a preschooler’s pace …” When my son (now 4-1/2) was born, I had to totally change my perspective on hiking – mainly no more long, fast-paced destination-oriented hikes. I didn’t quit hiking, however, and I’m glad you didn’t either. My son really enjoys hiking, and it sounds as if your children do, too. Great!

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