Monday, January 23, 2012

The Monday Muse: More Answers (to FAQ)

Continuing the theme of last week's Muse...

More Answers (to FAQ):

Do the girls have a favorite mountain?

Both adore little Bald Mountain in Franconia Notch (NH).  Easy hike, great views, wonderful picnic spot, blueberries, bears, ledges...great stuff.  We've been there a zillion times, it's a great place to clear your head and it takes all of ten minutes to scamper up.

As for the "real" mountains -- the girls like anything with a view.  Of the NH48, they have no single favorite, though they do like some peaks better than others.  Same goes for highpoints.

Sage says she particularly enjoys Carrigain, and she had a blast on Jefferson.  She also loved Owls Head -- not for the (viewless and wooded) summit, but for the great time we had while hiking it.  We did those 18 miles in one day, and she's proud of that.  She remembers our tromping through the water crossings in the dark, not caring if we got soaked because it was a warm evening, and she remembers we hiked out in headlamps.  That was all very exciting for her.  So, though she's not enthusiastic about doing those 18 miles over again anytime soon, that particular hike stands out in her mind as one of her favorites because it was anything but mundane.

Alex enjoys hikes with lots of above-treeline exposure, though she doesn't mind wooded peaks as long as they're interesting (for example, she likes Mt. Hale's huge summit cairn).  She doesn't have any one favorite 4K. 

Sage has two least favorite 4Ks: Isolation and Cannon.  Alex doesn't like Isolation either.  Also, neither girl sees the point of East Osceola.  Sage doesn't see the point of hiking anything if it doesn't have a view, actually, and that attitude extends to the weather...she doesn't want to hike if the summit's going to be socked in.  Alex and I are different -- we enjoy the thrill of cairn-to-cairn, compass hiking (though we don't hike in white-out conditions...mist is okay, but blowing snow is not).  Sage doesn't want to go unless she's going to see something for her efforts.

Both girls prefer rock scrambles to plain walking, both enjoy fall weather to summer heat, and neither is fond of blackflies or bushwhacks. 

Of our highpoints thus far, both loved Mt. Rogers in VA (wild ponies!!), both enjoyed North Dakota's White Butte for the sheer madness of that particular morning (thunder and lightning and rattlesnakes, oh my!) and both had great fun on Texas' Guadalupe Peak.

Do you do much backpacking? If so, what is their favorite site (do they prefer huts, shelters, lean-tos and which one/where)?

We don't do all that much backpacking -- maybe a total of 10-14 nights each year.  We've stayed in a handful of shelters and we've slept in all the AMC huts except for Mizpah.  The girls LOVE staying in the huts.  They like the antics of the croo, they love the food, they like talking to and playing card games with other hikers, and they enjoy sleeping in the bunk beds.  In short, they love the whole hut experience.  We plan to do a hut-to-hut traverse this summer or fall, and the girls are already talking about it.

What about winter camping?

We haven't done it yet.  Though I carry everything we need to winter camp on each and every winter hike, we have never stayed out overnight intentionally or unintentionally during the winter.  The girls love coming home and curling up in front of the fireplace after a cold dayhike -- that's the main reason.  Also, we like waking up in a warm house.  One of these days, though, we'll get around to winter camping.

Do you do a lot of camping during the summer?

Yes.  We camp most nights during highpointing trips.  Frankly, I couldn't afford these trips if we didn't camp most nights.  We've had a great time pitching our tent in a multitude of landscapes; I'm grateful to live in such a beautiful country.

What advice do you have for introducing hiking to children?

Have a destination in mind and keep the mileage short in the beginning.  Does your child like ponds?  Rivers?  Big boulders?  If you live in the city, is there a playground that's a bit farther away than you'd usually walk?  Pick something you think your child will find interesting, and try to get there on your own two feet.  Do it on his or her terms, though...if you end up stopping and spending half an hour examining a fallen leaf, so be it.  If the child wants to stomp in puddles along the way -- let her (just pack a change of clothes/shoes).  Enjoy the journey!  Increase the difficulty of the goals as the weeks go by. 

I write this thinking of Sage.  Alex did 4Ks right off the bat, she took to it immediately like a fish takes to water.  I did nothing to prepare her, she just went for it at the age of five and never looked back.  With Sage, however, things were different.  She was three when Alex hiked her first few dozen 4Ks, and she wanted to get out there but she wasn't yet ready for the big peaks.  I took her on smaller hikes with lower summits, things like Black Cap in North Conway and Willard in Crawford Notch.  We hiked slowly and we sometimes took all day to go a mile and a half, but I never rushed her and I always tried to make sure we had fun.  There was only one rule -- and I think this is important -- I would never carry her.  However, if she asked to turn around, we would, without question.  If she wanted to sit and rest, we would.  If she wanted a snack or a drink, no problem.  All she had to do was ask for what she wanted in a normal voice (no whining) and we'd turn around, sit, eat, drink, whatever, without any fuss.  Since I kept those beginning hikes short and we went for things she wanted to see (views, boulders, sometimes waterfalls), she almost never asked to turn around.  The few times she did ask to turn around, we did so.  I think that since I immediately complied with whatever she asked (as long as she didn't whine, but used a normal tone of voice), she learned that she could trust me, and that it was up to her to set her own physical limits.  She knew I wouldn't carry her, so she could figure out for herself how long and how far she wanted to go.

This brings me to the issue of trust.  It's essential.  Be honest with your kid.  If they ask how far away the summit/waterfall/whatever is, tell them the truth.  If you tell a kid, "we're almost there" when you know full well you're not, then you'll end up with a kid who doesn't trust you.  You don't want that to happen.  Trust is absolutely essential, the kid needs to feel that you're going to look out for him or her without fail.

Hiking can get difficult no matter the age, size, shape, physical condition, what helps make hiking fresh & fun for you?

Variety.  Different trails, different peaks, different destinations.  Changing landscapes, traveling, meeting other hikers.  We're also careful to take breaks when we want them and I try to make certain the girls never feel pressured to do anything in terms of hiking.  If it's not fun for them, then I don't see the point.  Also, hiking's not the only activity the girls like to do.  They take karate, they have classes with other homeschoolers, they have playdates, etc. -- all these things are important.  Balance is essential.  I think the girls would burn-out if all they did was hike.

Will you and the girls ever hike for charity?

Yes.  We're participating in Seek the Peak this year.  Also, we're planning a specific hike/series of hikes for the late summer or fall -- we'd like to raise money for Global Fund for Women.  We haven't ironed out the details yet...I have to make sure the girls are set on every aspect before announcing anything.

What do you eat on hikes?

Mixed nuts, energy bars, cheese, pepperoni, tons of water, eggnog and hot chocolate (during winter), Goldfish crackers, trail mix....and chocolate.  There have been hikes when the girls and I ate nothing but chocolate and Goldfish crackers the entire day (the 18 mile Owl's Head was one of them).  Since we eat fresh, organic food on non-hiking days, I figure the candy, etc. is fine for hikes.  The girls are in great shape; the occasional chocolate-and-cracker day won't kill them.  Sometimes that's all they want out there.  I respect their choices.

Can you tell me more about your dog?

A brief summary of Max, our border terrier: he likes to hike but he hates the cold (no winter peaks for him), he has to stay on a leash because border terriers are notorious for their lack of recall, he likes to eat pine needles, he gets angry with me when I don't allow him to jump on every person he meets, he wants nothing more than to lick our faces all day long, and he wishes our cats would play with him.  And he clearly loves Sage more than he loves me and Alex (we don't mind).  Oh -- and last winter, when he was still a puppy, he ate one of my very expensive hiking gloves. 

That's it for this week's Muse.  I'll post our trip report for Mount Carrigain tomorrow evening.


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