Monday, June 8, 2020

Making positive family hiking narratives

Beyond the constraints of obligations, electronic devices and large social networks that pull families apart in different directions, hiking and spending time on the trails provide families with the opportunity to spend uninterrupted time together and to create positive and lifelong memories.  

Hiking with children allows parents the opportunity to pass on experiences that capture central values for family life and well-being, which can be realized by their children as they grow older and can pass to future generations.

Positive shared memories and important family narratives of belonging and are instilled during the hiking trip. The shared experiences of sunrises, views from the top of mountains, taking shelter in rainstorms, traveling to new hiking trails, learning about animals and following tracks, and spending time together in real-time will have lasting effects long after you have reached your destination for that specific journey. 

Families can lose their bearings, especially when children spend too much time in structures activities, in their rooms, on their phones, tuned out of the family and when parents become too busy in the daily activities that they end up ignoring the importance of spending time with their children in unstructured and spontaneous fun. 

Hiking and spending time outdoors provides families with the unstructured opportunity to connect without the distractions of daily life.  

While on the trail, families can experience a sense of presence, even though each family may have different patterns of hiking (children sometimes run in front eager to get there, sometimes slowly follow their parents, or each parent walks with one child, or they all walk as a unit holding hands).  Hiking is so much more than just walking.  Its also stopping for breaks, taking family pictures, talking on the trail, having lunch together, enjoying the view, playing games, singing, bird watching, etc.

Remembring and talking about the events provides another opportunity to strengthen the family narrative and to benefit from these experiences.  Watching a slideshow of the pictures of a trip or talking about the points to remember can help to concretize these experiences deep in the memory bank and provide children with deep feelings of connections and positive sense of self and family, which will help to create strong, resilient and passionate young adults.  

When parents and the children communicate about their travels and time spent together by asking each other questions about the experiences on hiking trips (e.g. do you remember when we saw the moose?), we create shared narratives, shared stories, and an overall sense of belonging and connection. 

To recount stories that occurred on the trail is about creating a shared family narrative and a sense of family identity.

As families tell their stories to each other,  the use of the "we" can connect the family as active participants in the storyline.  As family members talk about the family as a unite, the family begins to talk with a shared understanding, a common experience, and a joint sense of connection and meaning that gives a sense of closeness. 

By sharing experiences of their existence, the parents believe that they are giving their children a lifelong gift. Through this gift the parents implant their experiences into their children’s memory, thus creating continuity based on their belief that the children will evoke these memories later in life.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020 First Snowshoeing Adventure

Happy New Year!  We have been quiet during the last couple of months because we have been busy with our kids' hockey.  Although we took some time off from blogging, we have been planning our next big adventures for 2020 and we look forward to sharing these with you in the coming months.  We also have a number of tips for hiking with children that we have been working on.  And now with our new found love of snowshoeing, we expect that we will be updating the blog throughout the year.

Rather than wait until the spring to begin hiking as a family again, we decided to try snowshoeing.  We picked January 1, 2020, as the date of our first snowshoeing adventure so we could accomplish the first hike of the year and to set the stage for a very active year in the outdoors.

The temperature in Toronto has been extremely mild and there has been no snow on the ground so we needed to travel up north to Algonquin Park where we were welcomed by cooler temperatures and opportunities to experience the enjoyment of winter in the outdoors.

The temperature was fantastic (- 4 C) with mostly cloudy, but the sun did peek out several times during our five-hour adventure.

We have completed the Track and Tower trail in Algonquin Park almost yearly since the children were babies, but we have never experienced the trail in the snow.  The blue trail markers were easy to locate and the trail was clearly marked throughout.  We did see a couple other parties snowshoeing the trails and this also helped with a clearly marked passage.

The trail took us a lot longer to complete than in the summer, but mostly because we stopped frequently to take pictures of the snow-covered scenery and to soak in the amazing views.

The fresh snowfall made the trail clean and crisp.  A winter perspective on the trail made it feel like a new adventure on a familiar trek.

Familiar trees and landscapes look different when covered in snow and it provided a lot of opportunities for comparing and contrasting the trail across the different seasons.

With the extra exertion of snowshoeing, we make sure we make frequent breaks and that the children refueled with energy snacks along the way.  We also brought our camelbacks with water to ensure everyone hydrated.  Because the temperature is colder, the desire to hydrate was not as strong even though our bodies still required to be hydrated.

Ascending to the top of the lookout seemed easier than in the summer because our crampons gave us extra traction in the snow and seemed to give us the extra grip to make the trip.

There are many places along the trail to take a break.  This section of the trail (#10) is just before the long stretch back so it is a perfect place to take a break and marvel in the old railway bed and bridge.

The trail offers a number of spots with beautiful ice sculptors that are shaped around the rock cuts.  This trail is particularly spectacular because a portion of the trail follows a previous 1900's railway cut out from the Canadian Shield, so the frozen rock drips are both plentiful and spectacular and offered a completely different look in the winter. 

Family Peak Seekers' first hike of 2020!!!!!