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  • Writer's pictureLaura Johnson

Stop hiking with your kids

Well, ok, not really. But let's change the script a little - what if we didn't view all of our family hikes as "exercise" but instead as opportunities for outdoor play?

As adults, and especially outdoorsy-type people here in Northern Idaho, we tend to think of hikes in terms of destination or exercise. Destinations - waterfalls, mountain summits, mountain lakes; and exercise - miles walked, time spent moving, steps, calories. And don't get me wrong - we do hike as a family.

But, more recently I've started calling our more regular, local time in the woods "exploring time" or "saunters". This helps me frame what I'm doing as a parent (allowing my kids to explore outdoors in a way that they can't in our small suburban-style yard) and also what I'm not doing (actually going anywhere).

What does this look like? Well, sometimes it looks like kids running (and I mean running) almost the entire loop at Mineral Ridge. Sometimes, we walk less than a half-mile across some icy slush and then dive into the woods or the marsh and just goof off. Sometimes we stop and build stick bridges, or sit and listen, or....well, you get the idea. It's just about being together and exploring.

What about safety? I set boundaries I'm comfortable with (you see me/I see you), make sure we are on public land, and my younger kids wear whistles. We make sure we don't go into hunting areas during hunting season. We don't usually go far but these times are quickly becoming some of my favorites (and I don't have to say "come on!" and rarely end up carrying anyone!).

And what about hikes? I take it back (a little). We definitely still do "hikes" with a destination in mind (hanging lakes and rock hounding spots are family favorites) and I thrive on my solo trail time each week, where I can stretch my legs and go as far as I'd like. But just writing this, I'm craving our next saunter together - and thankful the daylight hours are slowly going up!

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