With the weather turning cold and rainy, I’ve been getting lots of questions about cancelled hikes. While each hike leader gets to make her own decision, my children and I go out in most weather. Here in the Bay Area, where weather conditions are rarely dangerous, I want my kids to learn that when we are adequately prepared, we need not be afraid of “bad” weather. Some combination of warm and waterproof will keep us all comfortable and enable us to appreciate nature in its variety, not just on sunny days. And my children seem invigorated and excited by stomping in puddles and squishing through mud. Several studies published lately about the metabolic benefits of experiencing cold temperatures have made me even more determined not to shy away from cloudy, cold, or wet adventures. Take a step outside your comfort zone and join us for winter hikes.
Yet another benefit of hiking: observing cool nature stuff and relating it to important life stuff. My kids and I recently encountered a bunch of bones in the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in Suisun City, which led to interesting discussion threads about how the bones got there, the food chain, the circle of life, birth control methods (my kids ask such probing questions!), and death. Instead of having to figure out how to have those difficult but crucial parent-child conversations, nature did the work for me, bringing up important topics organically. And because we talked as we hiked, there were no awkward moments of insecure eye contact, and the periods of silence just melted into the activity. High five for hiking as a parenting tool!
Obviously, as a long-time Stroller Hikes leader, I do a lot of hiking with children. I believe there are myriad important benefits to moving around outside with my kids. But I also embrace hiking without children. Last month my husband and I left our children with family members and went backpacking for four days in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. We covered 50 miles, ascending and descending thousands of feet in elevation every day. As we hiked, we analyzed song lyrics, reminisced about before we were married, discussed our parenting strategies, practiced our orienteering with a compass and map, exclaimed over the majestic views, but mostly moved through nature in silence. Stepping away from electronics and social calendars and work responsibilities and modern conveniences and into some of the most glorious landscapes on earth is renewing, enriching, sobering, and fun. So while I heartily endorse the message of Stroller Hikes’ logo to “get outside with baby” I also encourage parents to occasionally get outside without baby, too.