Hiking isn’t just a hobby, done as a way to escape the cities on a sunny day. Hiking is a way to get connected with nature. While this is something many of us may understand, we have a responsibility to pass down the love of nature to future generations. Hiking isn’t just about getting out into the woods, it is about learning how to deal with different situations and adapting to them.
Hiking lets us grow as individuals, and the best classroom in the world can be a trail through a forest, next to a lake and up to the top of a peak that overlooks a volcano. While this may sound like a dream land, this is hiking on the Olympic Peninsula. This is where you can take your children every weekend and this where you can teach them some very valuable life lessons.
Life Lessons Your Child Will Learn From Hiking
1) Hard work will usually pay off.
Struggling along a trail for hours at a time can be exhausting and frustrating, but many hikers get a rush of adrenaline from reaching their destination. Yes, legs might be sore or tired and sweat might be dripping off your face, but completing a goal is a great thing to accomplish. By hiking and reaching ever-expanding goals, your kid will develop a better understanding of what hard work really is and how to push through barriers when times get hard.
2) You have to leave your comfort level to get better at something
Similar to the first point, being uncomfortable isn’t always a bad thing. By pushing your body a little harder to reach a new lake or peak, you are developing healthy, strong muscles. By developing these muscles at a young age, you are more likely to be able to hike later in life without as much difficulty as someone who didn’t hike as a child. My muscle memory for hiking is better than most hikers my age, thanks to my upbringing on the trails.
3) Fresh air tastes better
The best way to get your kids off their phones and away from the X-Box is to get them hooked on the sweet, sweet O2. Oxygen is amazing, but getting it from the source, released from giant trees deep in the rainforest is life changing. Even on the top of a peak, it just tastes better. Getting used to this will make you crave it more, so being in clean places will be sought after.
4) There are other ways to get high
As lame as a slogan as this is, it is spot on. While hikers do drink and some do drugs of one sort or another, the vast majority of people who love nature less likely to let bad habits and addictions slow them down. Being healthy goes hand-in-hand with exploring nature. You can’t hike up awesome mountains with bad lungs or hung-over. Well, you can, but it isn’t as fun.
5) Animals are beautiful
Experiencing nature as a kid will give let them see some pretty awesome animals. On just the Olympic Peninsula you can see bear, whales, salmon, eagles, mountain goats, bobcats, mountain lions, seals and more. Seeing them makes them real, and things that we view as real we are more likely to want to protect.
6) Water is important
Never have I been more aware of water than while hiking. When you can only drink what you can carry (we can talk water purification later) one really develops an understanding of the importance of water. Water is always a way to fight dehydration, so knowing how much you need to drink to feel good makes you appreciate what you have. By appreciating water, we are more likely to protect the cleanliness of our rivers, lakes and streams.
7) We need to protect the environment
Spending enough time in nature will make you want to protect it. Breathing clean air makes you want to fix dirty air in polluted cities. The time spent in nature may just encourage the next breakthrough in pollution reduction. Seeing rivers and lakes clean and undeveloped means they might grow up and want to keep saving the areas we take for granted. National Parks are not necessary forever, so we need to get future generations fighting for their protection.
8) Walking a few miles isn’t the end of the world, in fact it is just the beginning
Getting a child interested in hiking can be tough, as the distance of walking can be past their comfort level. However, once they are used to it, children as young as 7 or 8 can easily hike over 10 miles a day. I know some of you don’t believe this, but as someone who grew up this way I can assure you it is true. Learning that walking is not a pain in ass is a good lesson for everyone to learn. Rain or shine I now always have a parking spot; I just may have to walk a bit. I also walk to the store, saving money on gas. Being ok with walking has opened a whole new world to me.
9) Life is big and small, but equally important
If you ask any hiker, they all have a great appreciation for life. From the smallest ferns growing out of a carpet of moss to the trunks of trees that look to be the legs of giants, life is everywhere in nature. Hiking shows us life is everywhere. Stumbling upon a nurse log in the Olympic National Park shows just that. With elk droppings growing plants, to the fallen tree springing life from its remains, life is large and small and everywhere. Hiking and experiencing nature lets children of all ages see the true circle of life. Nature teaches us that everything works together as one, and removing one element could ruin everything. Kids introduced to hiking will be aware of how the ecosystem works, and will more than likely grow up wanting to save it.
10) There are better things in the world than video games and TV.
I love watching TV and playing video games as much as the next person, but only in moderation. Being stationary too long is horrible for your mental and physical health and allowing children to do this reassures them that this is an ok way to live. We are a nation of couch sitters. You might go to the gym, but the majority of people watch TV or read while working out. Experiencing nature gives you better smells, better sounds and better sights than any gym can. Turning off the TV and getting outside will make you healthier in the long run, and chances are, happier. Getting your children into nature will give them great values, a good work ethic and an appreciation for nature that the world so drastically needs.
The Best Kid Destinations on the Olympic Peninsula:
USF&W’s Page on Where to Take Your Family
Send This to Your Child’s Teacher: