Pay off worth it for hiking families

By David Redwood, for Hike Nova Scotia

Barely thirty seconds into a hike that would last an hour, Robbie Hudson stops, crouches into a ball and peers carefully over his knees at the ground.

“Slugs!” shouts the four-year-old.

His family pays no mind. They are already bounding down the trail that leads into the coastal barrens around Prospect, near Halifax. Two minutes later Robbie catches up to his two sisters who have climbed some granite rocks to try and push a towering boulder off of its perch.

“Push! Push!” they squeal.

Despite the after-dinner hour there is no lack of energy. Hiking for the Hudson family is a common part of their evening routine.

“Every time they come, and they’ve been here maybe 100 times, they come and find new things, or find a new hole, or a new way of climbing up something,” said the children’s father, Mike Hudson. This evening Mike and his wife Cordele were out with Robbie and daughters Mary-Anne, 2, and Charlotte, 6.

Seeing families together on hiking trails is not uncommon. But ensuring the kids want to do it again and again means parents must find ways to keep the excitement high and tears, tantrums and exhaustion to a minimum.

For children, the thrill of discovery is key, said Steven Rolls, a Cape Bretoner who has a section on hiking with kids on his blog Moosebait.com.

“Everyone says, ‘Oh, my kid gets tired, I have to carry them.’ They don’t get tired, they get bored. And when they get bored, that’s the first thing they’ll say: ‘I’m tired, my legs are sore.’ But if there’s any little spark of interest or excitement, they are on the go again.”

Rolls remembers his son not wanting to come on a three-kilometre hike the family had planned.

“He had just gotten a Wii — he kind of wanted to stay home. The first thing we told him was that the trail we were going on was the route the English soldiers took when they attacked the fortress of Louisbourg. And he was in the car in five minutes.”

The history fuelled the hike.

“The whole trail he was pretending he was dragging a cannon,” Rolls said.

He said parents don’t need to be historians or naturalists to make a hike successful. Look up three plants or flowers on the Internet before you head out, he suggests.

“You will be a hero, because you will know the name. You will spot something and ‘Oh, that’s Indian Pipe. And they’ll go, ‘Wow!’”

He also said short loops or a network of interconnected trails are often better suited for families than lengthy point-to-point routes. Parents should also lower expectations on how much distance will be covered.

No walk is perfect. Crying, scrapes and arguments can occur. But the payoff is worth it, said Cordele, when asked what parents get out of hiking with young ones.

“Making the memories and spending the time,” she said. “And knowing that the kids are being healthy and they are building muscles and coordination that will just help them their whole life.”

For more information on hiking, walking and snowshoeing contact Hike Nova Scotia through  www.hikenovascotia.ca.

Photo:The Hudson family walks High Head Trail near Prospect, N.S. In the foreground, from left: Robbie, Mike (holding their pet dog, Colonel) and Charlotte. Behind them, Cordele is helping two-year-old Mary-Anne search for crabs in the water. Photo credit: David Redwood

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