In our attempt to hike 100 miles as family this year, many lessons are presenting themselves. Contrary to popular belief, young children can cover more than 1 mile on a hike. Our 5 year old has made it up to 5 and a half miles at a relaxed pace (learn about some of our tricks). Two weeks after discovering this, we inadvertently put it to the test.
One Saturday we started a hike mid afternoon in an area we had never hiked before. A few short miles from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge seemed like a good idea for a short 2 mile hike.
I’d recently been on a kick of watching wilderness survival shows on Netflix (such as Man Woman Wild) so I joked about taking a firestarter, makeshift shelter, headlamps and other assorted survival gear. My husband pointed out that we would not be far from a major freeway and an international airport and suggested in no uncertain terms that all we should take was water and snacks. At the last minute, I threw in our brand new trekking poles to see how our son would manage with them. Also at the last minute, my husband decided to throw rocks, a cot, and other assorted bulky items into his pack. Why? Because he’s crazy . . . and he thought it’d be a great idea to test himself and “train” for future backpacking. No better time than a short 2 mile hike, right?
After picking up our trail map, neglecting to stop at a bathroom, and adjusting our poles we were off and away. We soon came to a fork in the trail. Our map only showed one trail, so after best guesses by assessing the terrain, we kept moving. This happened a handful of times. Due to trail maintenance, signage wasn’t great, but major markers were still in existence. We kept watching for the trail marker for our turn around point, however, we realized somewhere along the way that we ended up on a bike trail.
This bike trail seemed to be parallel to our original trail. Convinced we would still cross the marker that we had determined would be a turn around point, we pressed on. When we realized we could hear freeway traffic and there was no longer water along our left, we had blown past our goal by over a mile. It was now dinner time and it would be fairly dark in an hour and a half.
Our average speed for hiking with our 5 year old has historically been about a mile per 45-60 mintues. This includes stopping to take in the beauty that surrounds us and water and snack breaks. We calculated that we had 2.5 miles to go in 90 minutes.
Now my headlamp suggestion wasn’t looking so foolish. I offered to jog back to our vehicle and have them take the much shorter hike out to a road, as both of my traveling partners were starting to feel worn. My husband declined and we started at a fast clip back to the parking lot.
Surprisingly, we made it back with 30 minutes of daylight to spare. Although it wasn’t without a great deal of complaining (I’ll let you guess if it was just the young one or both ) All of our hiking trying to meet our goal has conditioned our son for the trail more than we had realized. Jayson was a little worse for the wear as he had his light hikers on and not his backpacking boots. Oh yes, and the rocks in his pack. Being properly outfitted for “training” exercises is all the more important when one has a disability. He was thankful for his amazingly insightful wife that remembered our trekking poles.
Lessons learned from this specific adventure:
1. Always stop for a bathroom break before getting on the trail, no matter how short you plan it to be. (This hike solidified my plans to purchase a Go Girl.)
2. Keep headlamps and more snacks than you think you need in everyone’s pack, especially if getting a start later in the day.
3. Monitor husband’s “training” exercises.
4. Trusting maps and signs to determine a turn around point on a hike is not reliable. Its good to have a turn around time determined before the hike is started.
5. Adult trekking poles do work for kids (and will grow with them!), but teaching them to use them properly is another post for another time.
Have any of you encountered some unexpected situations while hiking? Please share in the comments!
Until next time, hike on.