Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Trail Etiquette: Hiking with Children

Some of my happiest memories all through my life have been on a trail of one sort or another and I'm so thrilled to begin to share that with my children.  For many trails, there are outright laws that direct behavior while exploring, while there are some courtesies that can be applied to all.  Most of them are common sense or perhaps even regional, but I'd like to share my thoughts on trail etiquette, especially with children
Happy!  I will be so goofy for that grin!  Hiking at Chatanika, AK

1. Be friendly!  Greet those you pass!  This is how we used to pick out newbies or "city folk" growing up!  Haha!  (Sorry city folk, I know some of you can be outdoorsy, too! =)  Hiking can be hard.  Be nice.  And don't forget to warn of any dangers (wildlife, path degradation, etc.) ahead.  Or go the extra mile and say something encouraging!  On one of our last bigger hikes, my son was struck by how encouraged he was on our way up by one man who simply told us how much farther we had to go.  So he told every single person we passed on our way down about how far thy had left!  This might be excessive for an adult to do, but it's a nice thought!
I believe this was Fynn's first serious hike (3 mo.  6 miles to Kennecott Mines, AK)  Doesn't he look happy!? =)

2. Yielding the path.  I know the general rule is just for those going down hill to yield to those going uphill, but with very young hikers, we pretty much step aside for everyone.  It's okay to get passed.  We all get to where we're going at our own pace.
Nov 2015, McKenzie River, OR

3.  A group only goes as fast as their slowest hiker.  Basically, stay together.  Of course differing opinions on this, too, but isn't the point of going on a hike together to be together?  There's always a little straggling or speeding, but our general rule is to stay where we can all see each other.  And I find for us it works well to just let the kids pick the pace.  Yes, there's lots of stopping, but that's when I see the most learning happening.  It's not all about the destination. 

Studying a snail.  Sweet Creek Falls, 2015

4. Staying on the trail: most public parks employ this rule, but I would say the best excuse to break that would be to relieve oneself.  Lets face it, with little ones, potty breaks aren't always predictable and usually quite urgent.  Just remember to have them go at least several yards off the trail, 200 feet from water, and to bury anything solid (especially toilet paper!)
Kauai 2013

5. General public trail respect.  Pack your garbage out.  Don't vandalize.  Don't feed the wildlife nor try to get too close to them.  Don't pick the flora, the exception being an emergency.  Though I have also picked edible plants that were growing in abundance along the trail itself for grumpy hungry children.  But in these cases I follow the forager rules of only picking what you need and leaving more than enough for the continuing of the growth.  Interesting article on public land foraging regulations along the Pacific states (and BC) at Wild Harvests.
Valdez, AK 2011

And here's my rule that I've pretty much tossed out the window: be quiet.  Maybe it isn't perfectly courteous, but I have children.  They're outside and excited and wild adventurers.  They're not going to be quiet.  I know people go hiking to get away from the noise, and to them I do apologize.  I know it's going to scare off the wild life.  But right now, they are the wild life!  I can't tell them to use their inside voices.  Right now, being quiet outside is only for hunting. 

Darlingtonia Wayside with my parents, 2015

As you've probably already gathered, I can be a bit of a rule breaker at times, and I feel like so many of the "rules" are situational and dependent on the time and the trail.  Just some things to think about, though.  There are lots of great trail etiquette posts out there like this from Melissa Farage  and another from North Cascade Hiker.  Happy hiking!

Silver Falls, 2015

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