I remember hiking The Chief about 10 years ago — long before the notion of having a family had crossed my mind — and running into two parents hiking the 1.5 kilometre “First Peak” trail with their young daughter. Not only was the little girl hiking this steep and technical trail on her own two feet, she was doing so with great enthusiasm, excitedly discussing her favourite parts still yet to come. I remember being struck by her skill and stamina at such a young age (she was four!), and how much her parents trusted her to behave safely on this difficult and potentially dangerous mountain terrain.
Fast forward a few years later: I was labouring my way up the infamous Grouse Grind, when I was (rather humiliatingly) passed by a young boy with a backpack, who appeared to be alone. My curiosity got the better of me and I asked him his age. He was 10, it turned out, and he’d been hiking The Grind since he was little, but this was his first time being allowed to do it on his own.
These two children (and their parents) left such an impression on me, that all these years later, they are my inspiration for introducing my own child to hiking at an early age.
With Oliver weighing in at 30 pounds and counting — and our Deuter kid carrier adding anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds, depending on what I’ve packed for our adventures — it seems about the right time for Oliver to start moving some of his own body weight on the trails.
In the city, Oliver walks at least a kilometre — sometimes as much as 2.5 kilometres — each day, and his stamina is increasing all the time. I am more and more often making a point of leaving the stroller at home, and of encouraging Oliver to continue walking a little longer when he tires and asks to be carried.
So, can you teach a toddler to hike? To walk moderate distances on varied terrain? To follow instructions and behave safely on a mountain trail?
I don’t know, but I’m going to try!
For the next four months I’m going to take Oliver for a hike every week, with the aim of gradually increasing his endurance and cooperation. At this point I’m not going to set any specific goals (e.g. completion of a certain distance or a particular trail), as I want to keep this endeavour fun and free of pressure, but that may change depending on how he progresses over the coming weeks.
We started last Friday with a hike at Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. Oliver hiked just shy of a kilometre on his own, and I carried him in the pack whenever he was too tired to continue, or if we needed to make quicker progress.
Here are some photos from our little adventure:
Have you ever tried to teach a toddler or preschooler to hike?