Follow the advice of expert hikers at the Adirondack Mountain Club and your kids –even the littlest — will be running up the trails in no time.
The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation. One of ADK’s many conservation missions is to draw attention to the need for New York to devote more state resources to backcountry trails. They believe that hiking trails allow people to connect to the natural world, to find solitude and inspiration and to improve their physical and mental health. Hiking is also a wonderful sport that even the youngest of children can enjoy, as long as trails are clear and accessible.
It takes many hours of hard work to build and maintain a single mile of trail. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation maintains 5,500 miles of recreational trails on 4.5 million acres statewide, but in 2007, DEC’s entire budget for trail maintenance was a mere $500,000. DEC officials estimate that they need about $2.75 million a year to maintain the trail system adequately.
That’s one of the reasons that volunteers from the Adirondacks club have been active in National Trails Day since its inception, in 1993. In the last six years, more than 600 volunteers, many of them families with children, participated in those projects. Together, they have maintained more than 80 miles of trails, installing 40 sets of rock steps and digging more than 700 feet of ditches to drain trails. Through this experience, and their “Kids on the Trail” educational programs, the club has devised some great strategies for introducing our youngest kids to walking the wilderness.
Tip: Prepare for Your Hike
- Plan a hike with your children’s abilities in mind
- Let children know what to expect from the hike
- Plan the hike as part of a trip or in conjunction with another activity
Tip: During your Hike, Make it Fun!
- Give food & drink before children experience energy lows or real thirst
- Take frequent rests
- Give lots of encouragement and praise efforts
- Make up games along the way; sing songs; tell stories
- Offer rewards and incentives
- Remember children may derive pleasure in ways different from adults
Tip: Preserve the Memories Afterwards
- Take pictures & reminisce about favorite outings; remember good points
- Review the hike with a map before you; mark the trail; display the map
- Write down hikes with dates, comments about special experiences
Tips: Safety Reminders Any Time, Any Age
- Hike within your capabilities
- Turn back short of your goal when necessary
- Allow enough time to hike
- Take plenty of water to drink
- Tell someone where you’re going
- Sign in at the trail register
- Dress in layers; anticipate changing conditions
- Wear synthetic or wool fabrics
- Keep to the trail
- Use common sense
These tips have been excerpted from Kids on the Trail! Hiking with Children in the Adirondacks, by Rose Rivezzie and David Trithart, available from the Adirondack Mountain Club (800/395-8080). Contact the ADK to find our more about their excellent “Kids on the Trail” program and challenge, in which kids are challenged to hike one trail from every region designated by the book in order to receive a special commemorative patch.
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