I’ve started calling 52 Weeks of Nature “Parenting on the Trails;” and let me tell you that the joys of parenting on the trails are as limitless as the sky. Watching my kids overcome the challenges of being outdoors and hiking reminds me of how capable the human spirit is to experience pure joy and happiness. Happiness comes from finding small pleasure in the rocks and the trees. It means discovering tunnels and caves whether or not there really are tunnels and caves. Happiness is living as one with the nature that surrounds us.
I see my kids wondrously looking around as if everything they see is new and interesting. They are engaged in the moment and movement of our journey. Achieving happiness in this way seems so simple, right? It seems simple, and yet it is so hard at the same time – for adults that it is. With the weight and worry of responsibility it’s hard to get out of our own way to see the world with the wondrous eyes of a child. And so we hike. We hike and we hike and we get outside as much as we can to provide our children with opportunities to explore nature and to experience the incredible benefits of being wild. Hiking is natures remedy for stress, worry and anxiety. That is as long as you hike with open eyes and an open heart.
On this occasion we were hiking 12 deep. Half of the crew was 8 and under and the other half 30 and over. Much of what gets me outside of my own head while hiking is the constant prompting it takes to keep the kids moving along. The specifics of the prompting changes with the day, so it is unpredictable. Sometimes a song is required, or a game such as “I Spy” or “Fortunately, Unfortunately”. Other times prompting comes in the form of stopping at every shady spot along the trail for a quick sit and sip of water. Whatever the need is we accommodate it because hiking is supposed to be fun! One of its great beauties is that hiking is not a competition….unless of course competition is the motivator for the day!
Estes Park is a beautiful mountain town and the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. My in-laws all have very personal relationships with the town and the surrounding mountains. They are passing down their love for this place and all that it represents to their kids who are also developing their very own relationship with Colorado. During the summer we travel from the foothills up to Estes frequently to reunite with various family members to experience the Rockies through their eyes. We hike, we picnic, we go to Kind Coffee and sit by the river, and we watch the rain from Grammy and Bumpas house. After the rain passes we go outside in search of a double rainbow. This trip was no different. We hiked Gem Lake and picnicked at Beaver Meadows. We also spend a day a Fun City taking the kids down slides, on water boats and go-cart rides. Sometimes it’s fun to stay in town.
The hike to Gem Lake was stunning with spectacular mountain views and thick stone steps. Our kids were entertained most of the way up. AJ and his 2 year old cousin even discovered a tunnel made by three large rocks. They took a detour in the tunnel and posed for perhaps the cutest picture I’ve ever taken.
The way up was extended by several such detours, but when AJ and ER decided to hitch a ride we were able to quicken the pace the remainder of the trail. We arrived at the lake in time for lunch. The kids played in the leach infested lake until we discovered that there really were leaches. Eek! The 12 of us spent sometime taking in the views and the beachy sand. It was fun! On the way down the four kids who were 3 and under snoozed on the backs of their moms and dads. What a way to catch some zzzz.