My husband and I like to hike. We did a multi-day backpacking trip in Vermont’s Green Mountains, and also in Yellowstone pre-kids. This summer when we got a last minute long weekend away, we hiked several trails in Acadia National Park. This is something we’d like to continue to do with our kids. So we’ve been sticking our toes in with family hiking adventures. This weekend we drove up to the Poconos on Saturday, and hiked a 3-mile round trip section of the Appalachian Trail with the four kids in tow.
It was…OK. The autumn scenery was beautiful. The weather was sunny and crisp. Enjoying the hike itself, however, required some mental toughness. Here, in case anyone else is considering hiking stretches of the AT with four small children, I offer my tips.
The odds are against all four kids being happy at once. This is just math. Let’s say that each child’s happiness is an independent event, and the children are generally happy 75% of the time (that may be pushing it for some of our offspring, but it could be an average). As I quickly Google to remember how to calculate odds, I see that the probability that all four are happy simultaneously is 81/256, or about 32% of the time. In other words, 2 out of every 3 minutes, someone will be unhappy. And in fact, the unhappiness is not independent, as one child in particular did not want to hike, whined continuously, and took it out on everyone else, thus lowering their happiness ratio.
The fact that one child does not want to hike does not mean you should not hike. Big family. You can’t really give one kid a veto over everyone else’s fun. I will note that he was pretty happy once we turned around and headed back down the mountain. He was even willing to hold my hand for a while.
Small children do not seem to grasp the point that you can be unhappy, but keep it to yourself. I am not sure exactly when this skill kicks in. Possibly never for some people.
Still, one minute out of every three for silent contentment is OK. You can appreciate the sounds of the birds, and the wind in the trees, during the space between each “can we turn around yet?”
Some children derive their identities from whining less than their siblings. The 5-year-old: “Mommy, are you proud of me for not whining? Am I the kid who’s whining least?”
Toddlers should not be allowed to race down rocky trails. My 21-month-old is convinced he is as big and capable as his siblings. He wanted to get out of the backpack and run and soon enough, splat. Split lip, bloody nose, bruise on the forehead. In other words, pretty much his daily special.
It’s OK to drive an hour and 15 minutes and then only hike about 90 minutes. We’re getting the kids comfortable with the idea, and showing them how pretty the scenery can be out on the trails, and getting them some exercise. Overall it was decent, and I trust that in 2-3 years it will be better.