Date: August 18, 2013
Location: Princeton, MA
Distance: 3.1 miles
Time: 3:00 (58:06 /mile)
I love the outdoors. Always have, always will. I spend time in the woods in a variety of ways, all fun in their own right. But my daughters, 8 and 10, participate more reluctantly. Skiing’s an easy draw, and I’ve had marginal luck with letterboxing. But they’ve generally sought to avoid the woods. I think kids can learn a lot about themselves and their world through outdoor activities, so on a late-summer day, they were about to bag their first peak.
We chose Mount Wachusett because it isn’t far from our house, is only a couple thousand feet of elevation (with only one thousand feet of climbing), and we ski there in the winter. On the drive, I probed the girls to better understand their mindset, and how I could find ways for the outdoors to appeal to them.
Sarah, my younger daughter, attended a summer camp the year before. On a hike, several kids were stung by bees, so that was about the extent of the less-than-stellar association she had with hiking. Sydney, my older daughter, had more to say, enjoying rock climbing, but not wanting to sweat, smell bad, or get tired. She did acknowledge that being physically worn out from an activity might mean she’s having fun, though. They also both disliked bugs and mud, although Sydney would enjoy mud if getting a spa treatment, something she’s never had before. I smiled at that one and tried a different line of questioning.
When I asked them about accomplishments achieved through physical effort, they acknowledged that trying really hard and attaining a goal can make them feel proud. Skiing their first black diamond trail last winter was one example both cited, and Sarah also pointed to her climb up the 24-foot-high rock wall when we vacationed at New Hampshire’s Attitash ski resort the prior summer.
If it’s just about pure enjoyment outdoors, Sydney preferred skiing and Sarah tennis, but both for the same reasons: there’s an engaging pace to it, with some variety that also helps maintain their attention and interest.
Both appreciated nature, and what it provides for people. It’s a source of oxygen, food, and beauty. And, very importantly, without it we’d have no raw materials to make paper for mailing letters. So it should be protected. Besides, without it, we’d not only have an ugly world, but one with a lot of dirt and mud, requiring a lot of showers to stay clean, which isn’t fun. They’d begun learning about nature in school, but not to any significant degree. And they saw Sara and I enjoying it solely as a source of fun, which isn’t correct. It allows us to push ourselves, to grow, to connect with ourselves, each other, and the world around us. It re-grounds us even as we achieve new accomplishments and memories.
|Mapping the route|
|Admiring the aptly named Balance Rock|
|So that's erosion in action, huh?|
|The girls bag their first peak!|
It initially included a lot of rock steps. As the girls complained about rubbery legs, we pointed out the kids half their age heading uphill, with smiles. Worse, one kid was so little he was still learning to walk! When it flattened out, we found ourselves at the visitor’s center. It allowed the girls to go to the bathroom in an actual bathroom, which I think was a relief to them. Afterwards, the route flattened out a lot, and Sydney began talking about seeing flowers and wondering how to use them creatively in an art project, or how to save ones over multiple hikes as souvenirs.
|Wildflowers and a possible art project?|
|Their first peak hike is officially in the bag!|
|Well-earned apres-hike refreshments!|
See you on the trail,
Jay Bell, AKA Rock Hopper