Sunday, June 15, 2014

Family (Hike) Night

There are certain methods of survival when you have two boys. One of my tried and true rules is we must get out of the house in some form or another at least once a day. Another rule -- go anywhere the boys can run free and explore as often as possible. 
If you'll remember, last summer, we took the boys on a hike on evening after they had been at each other's throats all day. They loved it! We all left the hike feeling like we had found our family's sweet spot. Dirt, exploring, exercise and fresh air? Perfect for two little boys with energy to spare.
One Monday I suggested we go on a hike for Family Night. Jeff jumped at the idea, so we headed over to Birdsong Trail which was a hike I had just done with the Young Women and it seemed like something the boys could handle.
We all fell in love with Birdsong Trail immediately. It only took about two steps on the trail until it felt like we were in a whole different world of greenery and serenity.
The first overlook was only about a half mile up the hill. We stopped there, and were debating turning around, unsure how much the boys could handle, but they roared at the mention of heading home, so we kept wandering up the trail.
We made it all the way to the top, meaning the boys hiked 3 miles completely on their own! We were so impressed with their endurance and their genuine enjoyment of our new hobby.

Eli did have to stop for just about every other dandelion along the way. And if he wasn't dandelion hunting, he was lugging around giant rocks to save so he could throw them into any puddles of water we might happen to find. It was cute to watch him explore.
Since Birdsong Trail was such a hit, and since my friend told me her two-year old navigated his way up Waterfall Canyon, we decided to give that one a go for our next week. I had also done this hike with the Young Women and let's just say there were a few girls we were practically pushing up the mountain by the end. It's really steep and rocky and a fairly vigorous hike. We went in with the expectation that we probably wouldn't make it to the top, but we figured it was worth a shot.

Ten minutes into the hike and the boys were kind of whiney and already had beads of sweat racing down their faces. 
The first part of the hike was a dirt path without many trees around, totally in the sun, and it was pretty hot that day. But as soon as we got into the trees, there was a stream right next to the trail almost the whole way up. So between the stream for entertainment and the trees for shade, the boys snapped out of their crabbiness and got straight into hiking mode.

Picture courtesy of Eli. Ha.
Eli and Carson charged right up the hill. Complete with moments of mild rock climbing. Despite my doubts, we made it all the way to the top!

We did have to carry the boys most of the way down. Not because they were tired, but because it was so slippery on the rocks so we didn't want them to fall down. But other than that, we really enjoyed the hike!
Hike #3 was Wheeler Creek Trail and we were starting to feel like old pros. The boys knew if we yelled, "BIKE!" to hurry over to one of the sides to wait for the biker to pass. Eli knew how to set our hiking pace, and he even knew to pack himself a backpack for our excursion. Nevermind that his backpack was filled with about 20 toy cars worth of dead weight, he would not leave the car without it.
Blame it on my Georgian roots, but I'm a sucker for being surrounded by lush greenery.
Eli is strictly business when he's in hiking mode.
The boys did not have quite the endurance on this hike as they had on our others. For example, they could often be found lying on the trail for water breaks, or removing themselves from the trail for a little rest. But they still seemed to enjoy themselves.

We loved Eli's backpack on this hike. Jeff's Mom had given Eli that backpack, and he has now dubbed it his hiking backpack. He wouldn't let me or Jeff ever hold it for him, and he was constantly putting rocks in and out of it.
The trail was alright and then we turned off the main trail onto a mini trail and it was so serene...well...other than whatever drama Eli was bringing to the place at the time...
We found some water, so the boys were immediately in heaven.

Jeff showed off by skipping rocks, and Carson went crazy chucking rocks into the water, complete with a boisterous "HI-YA" each time a pebble went soaring over his head.

Between the extra oxygen and Jeff's surroundings, his inner Cub Scout emerged, resulting in off-trail wandering, boulder launching and log jumping. It was then that I got a glimpse of how 14-year old Eli will be at Scout Camp and I feared for his leaders.
Eli had this meticulous way of deciding which rocks were qualified to join him on his journey. He would be walking, and stop to inspect a rock, then decide it would be perfect to throw into water, completely ignorant to the fact that there would be millions of rocks right next to whatever water we might happen to find. He discovered his special rocks, and deemed them his throwing rocks, and patiently lugged them around until we got to our next splash point.
Instagrepeat -- "As it turns out, there are certain times in life when a handlebar mustache would come in handy."
Yay! We found water so Eli can finally dump his extra weight!
We've been loving this little summer tradition. I really hope we can keep it up. It's already brought me a lot of fun, sweet memories. I love that my boys are old enough that we can all go out and do a fun family activity together. Let me know your favorite hike! We're going to need some suggestions to last us through the summer!


Rebecca said...

Oh my. I wasn't expecting a hiking-with-young-kids post to be so long! I thought it would be more along the lines of "We tried to go on a hike. The kids didn't last long. We went home never to try again." Way to go on birthing kids with such hiking endurance! I've actually been impressed with my kids when we've gone hiking. They just come alive in the mountains.

I love the picture of Eli in the orange shirt with his leg up on a rock or something looking like he's daring the mountain to mess with him.

I also love Carson's rock-throwing form. Arm back, belly out, and go!

Kim said...

It's awesome your family loves hiking so much. These are some beautiful pictures of all of you out in nature. And I love that you are using Eli as a photographer these days?

David and Mary said...

Great fun and you are preparing your future scouts for their 50 miler! I am glad Eli likes his backpack!