Madelyn Given enjoys hiking with her granddaughters.

Hiking with Children

As a parent, former Cub Scout Leader, Girl Scout, and retired elementary teacher, I enjoy being with children.  They bring joy, increase your fun, and keep life lively. Until you know the level of their physical well-being, begin with short easy hikes and work up to more difficult ones as their interest grows.

I began hiking with our children when they were just 3 or four years old. Taking a day trip to a state park and bringing a picnic lunch, we would hike a small hill and learn something about nature. As our children grew and enjoyed these trips we went on longer hikes to small nearby mountains. Day hikes often led to a summit of a mountain or to a pond for a quick swim. We tried to organize a get-together with other families and friends to add to the fun and adventure. Camping was often included with these hikes on summer weekends or even a week’s vacation. We spent more time preparing for overnight hiking trips to higher, more remote mountains like Mt. Katahdin. Nature is always exciting and to spot a deer, a moose or a bear is part of the adventure.

An annual trip, special to our children, was to camp and hike Mt Katahdin each year. The first time the children made it to Chimney Pond and we camped there. It was a three or four day camping experience in the park. This became a meeting place and reunion for my college roommate. We each had a carload of children and all the camping gear. Sometimes it was spur of the moment: let’s go for a hike. After a hike children are more relaxed, healthier, and happier. They build good appetites and sleep more soundly. The children come home with tales to tell of an animal they saw, a cave they discovered, or a new friend they met along the way.

Hikes bring back great memories. We don’t often remember day to day routine things but you remember a good hike.  More than 60 years ago my father took me on a hike to go fishing for book trout. I remember the anticipation that he was going to do something special with me. I don’t think we fished very long because of the mosquitoes and black flies. We didn’t bring back any trout but the hike through the woods, not even on a trail, was memorable. Today it would not be considered a hike but it was a rare childhood adventure.

When I hiked the Appalachian Trail I met up with Boy Scout Troops out for a weekend of camping. There was an occasional Girl Scout Troop hiking, and on one occasion I came into a state park near New York City and several private schools had taken students out for a hiking adventure.

My granddaughters are great little hikers. They hike with me or with friends and on class trips. They take the lead in an effortless way, chit-chatting yet very observant. Weather doesn’t concern children like adults. A little mud or a few raindrops doesn’t deter the walk. Hiking with children is a good thing.

-June 10, 2014