By: Anne Marie Holloway
Hiking is a passion for both my husband and me. We have been hiking with our kids since our youngest child was strong enough to hold up his own head while being snuggly carried in a baby “back pack” or a hiking pack. We have hiked in all kinds of weather conditions and across all seasons.
I spent my childhood going on mystery rides, which my father would call “short-cuts,” and we always ended up at a place where we could hike and enjoy the outdoors. Sometimes we hiked hilly terrain, or hopped from rock to rock across various brooks and streams, while other times we strolled along paved clean paths. The very best part of these trips was that most of them ended with a trip to an ice-cream shop or a penny candy store discovery!
When I met my husband in high school, we spent almost every weekend in the fall hiking. In a short time I realized that he, too, shared my insane passion for the great outdoors. Through the years we surrounded ourselves with people and friends who were just as crazy as we were about hiking and climbing. I think in many ways, it kept us on the right path and out of mischief during those tumultuous teen years.
As we grew into young adults, we took many trips to New Hampshire to tackle sites like Mount Monadnock or Mount Chocorua. Hiking was in our souls and became a big part of who we were. We could not imagine anything better to do on any given weekend.
We hope to pass this beloved pastime onto our children. Since our kids are on the younger side, we had to do a lot of research to find places to hike with small children. We joined the local Massachusetts Audubon Society and have mapped out many hikes online. The family membership fee is very reasonable and many of their locations include public access to restrooms.
On many occasions, we have driven out to Sutton to climb and boulder the rocks at Purgatory Chasm. It is one of our favorite places to go in the middle of the summer, since the rocks emit a natural cold air and make it pleasant to hike.
We have learned to pack light and leave snacks and lunches in the car, while only carrying one back pack containing water and first aid items. Although it seems like a lot of work to prepare for such adventures, it has ultimately provided us with some of our favorite time spent together as a family. Hiking provides a sacred space in time where there are no TV’s, iPods, or cell phones and we find that as the kids get older, this is a precious gift.
We also notice that our offspring tend to hang together more closely, oftentimes leaving us “parents” behind them in a trail of dust. But, that is ok. We want to give them opportunities in this busy and technologically infused world to regroup, clear their heads, have fun, and band together as siblings should. My husband and I know that in a very short time, the world will pull our children in separate directions – and that makes us sad.
So, for now, we will graciously eat the dust that our kids kick up as they speed past us on our hikes. It gives the kiddos some time to discuss how they will talk us into stopping at that ice cream shop we passed on the way to the park.
When the world has got us tied up in knots, hiking sets us free. And after all these years, we still love the feeling we get when mapping out a trail or choosing a hiking stick to steady our footing along the way…and man, do we love these kids of ours.
Our hope is that by sharing the gift given to us so many years ago, our children will look back and remember these days fondly. Secretly, I hope that they learn to find healing in nature and use that throughout their lives.
And, I hope they realize that a good mystery trip always ends in an ice cream cone!