Hiking with Children
When we decided to take a backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail to Grayson Highlands in Virginia, we told our daughter, Griffin, that she would probably see a number of wild ponies. She was thrilled. All the way from Georgia to Virginia, she repeated over and over,"Mama see wild horse, Papa see wild horse, Griffin see wild horse." And we would respond, "Yes, honey, we're all going to see the wild ponies."
When we finally settled Griffin in her backpack, I began to experience some trepidation. What if we didn't see any wild ponies? Griffin was so excited that I felt like a horse myself, as she urged me on, heels pressing into my ribs.
I had nothing to fear. We had hiked less than one hundred yards when we spied our first pony. From that point on, we nearly swam through ponies. When we set up camp, we soon had ponies surrounding our tent, nosing our backpacks, testing the strength of tent poles with their teeth. One pony, much to Griffin's delight, stuck her head into our tent.
Later, Griffin and I frolicked along with two young foals, racing along the grassy meadows of the Highlands. That night, as a sliver of a moon rose in the west, Griffin drifted off to sleep to the sound of thundering hooves, whickers and neighs.
For parents, the question often arises: Should you take your children hiking and backpacking on the Appalachian Trail?
Why not? Most children love the outdoors. I have vivid memories of camping with my family in the mountains of California that have led me to continue my love affair with nature.
I discovered my daughter's love for the outdoors when she was just three months old. While attending a conference in San Diego, I found that Griffin fell asleep more quickly when I carried her around outside than she did when I walked her in our room. Maybe it was all those long walks I took trying to induce labor when she was two weeks overdue, but she blossoms when the wind caresses her face and the sun shines on her head. She even loves the sprinkle of rain and overcast skies! Since the conference and a subsequent tour of Muir Woods, she has graduated to a backpack and absolutely loves her new vantage point. We have dayhiked and backpacked along the A.T. many times since our trip to California.
From carrying a child in a pack, one can advance to having the child carry a pack, increasing the pack size and weight carried as the child grows.
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