When his son Kieran was an infant, author Rob Bignell started taking him on hikes. Rob already had a passion for hiking and a strong sense of wanderlust. “There’s a burning need in me to get out and see everything in the world,” shares Rob. “Reaching a difficult goal, like a summit that’s nearly two miles in the sky or traversing a difficult canyon, is incredibly self-rewarding. It’s also great exercise, and I always feel invigorated afterward. Most importantly now that I hike with my son is that it’s a time for us to bond.”
Bignell and his son hit the trail every week, year-round. Clearly, they know how to have fun. No hiking disasters, here.
Hikes With Tykes
Rob Bignell was inspired to write Hikes With Tykes at a trailhead. He was readying a baby carrier for a hike when he attracted the attention of another dad. “What is that thing?” the other dad asked. As Rob explained that it was a backpack for carrying a child, he realized that not every enthusiastic hiker knows how to hike with kids. Drawing on his own experience, and the advice of hiking friends from around the country, Bignell wrote a book, Hikes With Tykes.
Hikes With Tykes focuses on day-hiking and assumes that the reader is a novice. I’ve hiked a lot in my life, as have my kids, yet rather than feeling Bignell was talking down to me, I was impressed with the breadth of his common sense advice.
Section One is titled “Attitude Adjustment” and that might be the biggest secret to successful family hiking. Parents need to hike like kids. They need to slow down, explore and enjoy the journey with their children. Or as Bignell stresses, hiking with kids is less about the workout and more about the bonding. It’s a child-oriented “adventure,” not an adult-oriented “hike.”
No More Death Marches
While we’ve been fairly patient and focused on making skiing enjoyable for our kids, ratcheting down our egos and pumping up the fun, we haven’t done so well as hiking parents. Memorably (and these are not good memories), our boys endured two too-long and too-difficult death marches when they were young. Today, they are still not sure about hiking. Can they trust us when we say it will be “easy” or “short” or “fun”? The jury is still out.
Good Sound Advice
And that is really where a book like Bignell’s comes in handy. It’s a parenting book disguised as an outdoor guide. As parents, we knew we were making mistakes, but we couldn’t help it. Even though we thought we knew a lot about hiking, we didn’t know anything about hiking with kids.
In addition to providing sound parenting advice and extolling the benefits of family time in the outdoors, Hikes With Tykes is full of excellent and comprehensive advice concerning hike preparation and planning, appropriate and necessary gear, trail food and more. There is even a section on what to do when things go wrong, such as handling accidents (of all types) and avoiding nuisances like poisonous plants. Best of all, Bignell offers advice on how to build memories with each hike. Looking at photos together, saving maps to look at later and creating traditions that are repeated hike after hike are some of his tips. His personal favorite: The dehydrated ice cream he and Kieran always share when they reach their destination. It’s a ritual they’ve done on every hike since Kieran was two.
Hikes With Tykes: Games and Activities
Bignell’s son is now 5 ½ and on the cusp of Kindergarten. As Kieran became mobile and increasingly engaged in outdoor adventures, his dad realized that they needed games to play to keep things interesting. For his second book, Hikes With Tykes: Games and Activities, Bignell compiled more than 100 fun activities adults can use to engage kids in before, during and after day hikes. This book, which was published in July, also includes craft ideas for homemade gear, post-hike activities and kid-friendly recipes for trail snacks.
I haven’t had a chance to read Rob’s new book, but he did give me this recipe to share.
Ingredients: 1/3 cup raisins, 1/3 cup apple chips, 1/3 cup dried apricots, 1/3 cup dried dates, 1/3 cup coconut, 1/3 cup walnuts, ½ cup sesame seeds, 2 cups peanuts, 1 cup chocolate chips, 1/3 cup honey, ½ cup peanut butter
Preparation: In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except for chocolate chips, honey and peanut butter. In another bowl, melt the chocolate chips, honey and peanut butter for one minute in the microwave. Mix the ingredients from both bowls together. Shape into balls and refrigerate until they are firm. Enjoy!
In addition to sharing this recipe, Rob has generously donated a book for a giveaway. To enter, please leave a comment below. One winner will be randomly chosen from all comments received by Tuesday, August 21 at 8:00 a.m. MDT. The winner will win their choice of Hikes With Tykes or Hikes With Tykes: Games and Activities.
For more great family hiking tips, you can follow Rob on Twitter or read his blog.
To facilitate this post, I read a PDF of Hikes With Tykes. As always, all opinions are my own and are exactly what I would tell my family and friends.
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