Column: Summertime brings great hikes for kids

'Hiking Arizona'

My grandnephew asked if he could get a few days of relief from the heat in Phoenix by spending a few days with me, experiencing some wilderness adventure.

He probably didn’t realize what he was getting himself into, since some of the people who hike with me never want to get back on the trail. What I call a “trail,” they call a trial.

Be that as it may, Levi and I spent three days, hiking, biking, and paddling at some of Yavapai County’s prime outdoor destinations. Levi is 14 and describes himself as a bottomless pit and active, as long as it’s not too hot.

We had not spent much time together up to this point, so I had to carefully plan each destination. Which ones might offer maximum appeal and minimum hardship? Therefore, I sought some advice.

I know an experienced outdoorsman who had worked a lot with kids, Dan. I asked him, “How do you hike with kids?” He said, “Don’t.”

Next, I asked my son Caleb. He’s 19 and I have dragged him along, I mean, hiked with him on more mountains than you could count. I asked him the same thing and he said the same thing, adding something about “babysitting” and having to be rescued once.

I thought back to a hike with Caleb when he was probably 7 years old and my nephew, who was about 14 years old, in the White Tanks west of Phoenix. The ranger discouraged us from taking the Ford Canyon Trail, because of the “kids.” They loved it, due to the danger we were warned about: rocky scrambles.

Why hike with kids? Kids are our future. They matter. The best way to pass along our values is through our kids. I took my daughter into three federal wilderness areas before she was even six months old.

As an adult she asked me to hike with her to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and to the top of Mt. Whitney, two items on her bucket list. When we share our priorities with our most precious and priceless gifts, our children, the world will certainly be a better place.

So, how do you hike with kids? First, the hike should be age appropriate and include elements that kids consider fun: things like water and rocks, places where you are likely to run into lots of cool things like bugs and other animals.

I took Caleb into the eastern Superstitions along Pinto Creek once where we just tried to catch tadpoles in the small pools along the trail. Consider what matters to them.

Levi and I hiked along West Clear Creek with its numerous stream crossings. Needless to say, we did not cover much ground but the distance is not the point, sharing the experience with your loved ones, that’s the point.

I was reminded by Nigel from the Highlands Center, that their annual Hiking Spree offers quite a few convenient hiking destinations and that’s another important consideration. Spend more time on the trail than in the car and you’re a lot less likely to experience a trial while introducing your kids to something you love.

The Prescott Valley Public Library has also created a new movie, surveying prime hiking destinations across the county. View it on the Library’s website for even more ideas.

Perhaps the better question is, “How can we get adults as responsible parents and caregivers to spend more time with kids interacting with each other in a natural setting?” It’s simply a matter of priorities.

Ted Johnson is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at sportsdesk@prescottaz.com.