Hail the Hoofable

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Family Vacations, Summer 1996

Hail the Hoofable

These trails were made for hiking--even in a size two boot
By Thurson Clarke

Our Favorite Places | Essential Gear | Staying Safe
Inside Skinny | The Hysterical Parent

When we moved to Adirondack Park, we be-gan recording our hikes in a tattered hardcover notebook that still fascinates my three daughters (eight-year-old twins and a six-year-old). They leaf through it, counting the mountains they've climbed, compiling a wish list, and calculating when they'll join the "Forty-Sixers"-those who have scaled all 46 Adirondack peaks above 4,000 feet.

We choose walks that aren't too steep or long for their ages, that promise sights such as a pond or bridge, and that end on a peak with fine views. We've learned that inviting one of their sturdier friends stiffens their resolve, and that the best campsites offer rewarding day hikes (young children find it reassuring to return at night to their "home" in the woods).

We start out early, insisting that the children lead. We answer questions but avoid lectures: They learn firsthand to appreciate the outdoors, and that they can have fun without buying something. We keep the food flowing like plasma, and stop often, but briefly. If they stumble, we plaster them with unnecessary Band-Aids and walk on. We pamper them--but never turn back.

When we hear, "Are we almost there?" we say, "Sure," and burst into song, promise prizes for edible mushrooms, and urge them to race us to the next turn. We celebrate reaching the top like Hillary on Everest, praising them lavishly and handing out pins, patches, or postcards of the mountain.

Last summer the girls began reaching the summit ahead of us--suddenly they were the ones urging us to keep up. Soon they'll be extending hands to help us up a steep scramble, promising that the top is near, and soon after that, we hope, cajoling their own kids up these trails, handing out Fruit Roll-Ups, telling encouraging fibs, and helping them make these mountains their own.

Copyright 1996, Outside magazine

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