Taking Kids hiking

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Taking Kids hiking

Postby SuperiorTrailHiker » Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:10 pm

Another vote for take the kids.

I haven't taken my son on any "climbing" hikes or at any elevation, but I took him on his first overnight when he was eight, and he had a blast. We did a little bit of terrain on the Superior Trail, but the key recommendations I would have are:

1. Keep the pack really light (my son carried his rain gear, some water and snacks, and that's it)
2. Hike in some interesting terrain (not hard in Colorado)
3. Bring along things to do that are fun - we packed a frisbee and stuff to play with in camp
4. Fun, healthy snacks - I went with some fruit punch water flavoring / electrolyte mix, some Sport Beans, that kind of thing
5. I sent him "ahead to scout" for a while and told him to keep me posted on the walkie-talkie (I kept him in sight pretty much the whole time, but he didn't find that out). He liked having a "man job" and messing around with the radio
6. Pop Tarts for breakfast! (Never happens at home)

Kids will have fun pretty much anyway, but if you keep it light, short and fun to start with, they'll like it out there even more.
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Re: Taking Kids hiking

Postby Sterl » Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:45 pm

[quote="Scott P"]Perhaps many are already tired of seeing these, but just for the heck of it, here are some of our trip logs for these ages.

Thanks for adding the links; they have been fun to read. You have some tough kiddo's for sure! It's definitely motivation to get my 5 year old out. I think we'll start with Horsetooth MP to test his walking legs and go from there.

Great suggestions from all the posts. This group certainly knows how youngsters operate...
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Re: Taking Kids hiking

Postby Vids » Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:46 pm

Good info above, and I agree that you should get them out there!

I figure there is one simple rule, keep it about them having fun and don't worry about making the summit. If they enjoy it and get hooked, you have a hiking partner for life.

Our kids are too young, but when my nieces/nephews are visiting we always make sure to stop in Idaho Springs for pizza and ice cream on the way back. It's something fun for them to look forward to.
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Re: Taking Kids hiking

Postby cheeseburglar » Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:02 pm

My earliest memory of hiking is shivering so hard I couldn't talk while my dad urged me to climb over a giant root in the middle of a trail. It was raining and he said "Keep moving, you'll warm up and we'll get some dry clothes on you at the lake."
I still love the outdoors, so if things go a little wrong, don't fret.
Kids are pretty tough.
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Re: Taking Kids hiking

Postby SuperiorTrailHiker » Wed Jan 09, 2013 12:04 pm

cheeseburglar wrote:I still love the outdoors, so if things go a little wrong, don't fret.
Kids are pretty tough.

They are, and being out there can help bring it out.

As I mentioned above, I gave my kid a pack to carry so it would feel like a "real hike", but I did keep it light.

We camped on a ridge, and about 3PM a thunderstorm blew in out of nowhere - we already had our tents pitched, so all we had to do was duck into them.

The boy was eight at the time, so I gave him his own one-man tent (pitched it right next to mine, literally touching) and gave him a walkie-talkie to use during the storm. The thunder was extremely loud and sudden, and the rain hitting the tents was very loud. Normally at home, I think he would have been a little nervous, but being out there, he just had fun with it and cackled through the whole thing.

That night, about 2AM, I woke up and while laying there starting to doze off again, I heard some deep-chested grumblings from about 30 or so yards away and on the upwind side of the ridge. Just sort of vocalizing, not growling per se. A huff noise or two had me thinking they may be coyotes for second, but there was too much chest in that sound for coyotes and not enough for a bear - plus I could make out two, maybe three sources for the sounds. I have hiked the entire length of the Superior Trail, parts many times more than once, and Isle Royale, and have never heard or seen a wolf. Plenty of coyotes, but no gray wolves, even though there's enough of them to sustain a hunting season. But I was as sure as I could be without laying eyes on them that there were at least two, and maybe three, wolves within 30 yards of our campsite that night.

I was hoping the kid was not awake - I never heard a noise from him the whole time, and the walkie-talkie didn't start up, so the noises in the woods stopped after a minute or two and I drifted off to sleep.

In the morning, crawling out of our tents, I said "Hey buddy - how'd you sleep?" He said "Great." I said "Did you hear anything last night?" He nodded and said "Wolves". I asked him if he was was scared last night and he said "No, you had us hoist all our food and I know they wouldn't hurt me on purpose, so I feel lucky I got to hear them. I wasn't scared."

I personally would have crapped myself if I was eight years old sleeping alone in a forest at night and I heard wolves, so I was pretty proud.

It's fun to get out there with the kids - they will surprise you.
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Re: Taking Kids hiking

Postby Hornet22 » Wed Jan 09, 2013 12:49 pm

STH, that is such a great story! Our kids are only 6mo old but reading this thread really has me excited to get them out this summer in our carriers and even start with some car camping for them. Get them hooked before they know any different is our plan.
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Re: Taking Kids hiking

Postby mtn_hikin » Wed Jan 09, 2013 1:06 pm

Bierstadt was great for my 4 year old and 6 year old. We started at 3 AM which added to the adventure for them. They brought their own headlamps and a lot of snacks. We also took a lot of breaks to look at the scenery. I would reccomend one you have already done or wouldn't mind having to try again in case they give out. You don't want to push them too much and make them hate it.
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Re: Taking Kids hiking

Postby Erik2 » Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:47 pm

Great question, and perfect place to come for advice. I know I benefitted immensely from reading discussions on here before taking ours up his first last summer at age 6.

The previous suggestions are great (especially the suggestion to plan in advance to just see how far you can get while having fun, rather than making the summit the main goal). I just have a trivial thing to add, which is to possibly consider adding Democrat from Kite Lake to the list of potential options. I have to admit I hadn't necessarily given it much more thought than "that route's not too long" before we went, but it turned out to have a bunch of really nice features to keep him motivated:

1) You gain altitude impressively quickly above the lake. He seemed really encouraged when we turned around to see how high we'd already climbed every few minutes (in contrast to Bierstadt where we were lower than the car after about 45 minutes...)

2) It's easy to break the climb down into smaller chunks that feel more manageable (whereas the view up the final ridge of Elbert can seem pretty discouraging). The mining remnants and animals wandering around were a good distraction, and it turned out that the saddle was a perfect intermediate goal - only about a mile in, a whole new view emerges to the north, and the summit looks closer than it really is...

3) Finally, while I'm usually not a fan of the crowds on routes like this, we unexpectedly found that the encouragement from others hiking the route was probably the most important factor in making the day a success. After an initial burst of energy above the saddle he started to get really tired about halfway up the steep section of ridge that follows. We had moved about 10 feet off the trail for another break to consider our options, and I was completely convinced (and content) that we would decide to turn around there. As we were talking a group of about 15 teenagers came down from the summit, already discussing plans for their next several climbs. When he saw Ben the leader of the group stopped talking, came over to give him a fist bump, and said something like "wow, amazing, I can't believe you made it up here - you're almost there!" Everyone behind him then did the same thing, and the last one said "make sure your dad tells everyone about it when you get home".

If any of the guys in that group happen to read this, I can't thank you enough. Your encouragement did more than I ever could to help him finish off that section, leading to:
Ben_democrat.jpg (51.42 KiB) Viewed 418 times

We then made his way back down with minimal complaining (and mostly from me...). To save him from the final quarter mile walk down the road to the car, I left him at one of the picnic tables by the lake and jogged down to bring the car up. When I got back, I discovered that I hadn't realized quite how tired he was when I saw that he had literally fallen asleep with a bite of his snack halfway into his mouth.
very_tired.jpg (45.23 KiB) Viewed 418 times

4. So based on that experience, my final plug for Democrat is that even a 4-mile climb can be a bit of an epic for 6-year-old legs.

Good luck!
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Re: Taking Kids hiking

Postby Delorean_Man » Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:47 am

Hey great story Erik2!! Looks like your boy had a lot of fun. How many hours did it take to reach the summit?
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Re: Taking Kids hiking

Postby Alby426 » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:01 am

I am not against taking young children up the mountains and, encourage teens to do so.
Things to consider as a parent :
- is it their will to go or, our pride and desire driving the outing?
-Is the child ready for the planned route and, the gear appropriate?
-although they are strong, young children are more fragile (joints are not completely formed yet), is the route too abusive?
-Are you ready to carry the child down ?

Several people talk about progression in the difficulty of the hike, that seems to be the smart, logical way to go, plus, it gives you time to know your kid's potential.

Do enjoy the mountains and, share it with your families.
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Re: Taking Kids hiking

Postby HULKHIKEGOOD » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:10 am

Thanks for all the insight everybody! I had a question to add, In regards to elevation acclimatization, how long should we do some low hikes before attempting a summit? My son is also 6 and has been bugging me also to get him out, but we will be coming from Oklahoma and I dont want to get him hurt. Thanks in advance!
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Re: Taking Kids hiking

Postby Scott P » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:51 am

I had a question to add, In regards to elevation acclimatization, how long should we do some low hikes before attempting a summit?

As much time as you can and the more the better. Make sure to turn back if the kid is feeling sick. I don't know if there is a set amount of time for acclimatization for a kid, but more is better. It would be better to try a lower, but equally challenging mountain/hike first.
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