I love hiking with my boys. The wonder on their faces; seeing things through their perspective, but every once in a while you need to push yourself. Don’t get me wrong it is mentally, emotionally and physically challenging to get the boys ready, make sure you have all the equipment, and get them up and down the trails (especially carrying my youngest); however, it is not the same type of challenge as a long steep hike.
So… how do you get a different type of challenge with a different set of rewards. You can go Solo or what I call “Han Solo” (I will explain).
First hiking Solo…
Unless you have done it it is difficult to describe the feeling of a solo hike. You need to rely entirely on yourself. It is an internal struggle that forces you to prove to yourself how strong you actually are… and trust me, you are stronger than you think. Solo hiking is one of the most rewarding things that I have done.
First off it is one of the most meditative experiences you can have without actually sitting down to meditate. It is you and your thoughts. It gives you time to sort through, expand, diminish and discard. Yet, it also gives you time to empty. To be completely in “the moment” with quite literally no walls to confine you. It is amazingly freeing.
Second you will meet some amazingly fantastic human beings. I have had some of the greatest conversations while taking a break, or experiencing a viewpoint, or even at the start of a trailhead trying to figure out which path to follow that day. These may not be people that become lifelong friends they may just be what one of my favourite authors would call “…a parenthesis in eternity,” but it is about the experience.
“We are travellers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”
– Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)
Third… they say “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” but what happens on the trail comes back with you. All of that strength, all of that discovered confidence, and self-reliance comes back with you. It permeates the rest of your life, and although others might notice it, you will notice it and that’s what matters.
Now all this being said there are a few things that we need to recognize; with increased rewards comes increased risk. There are a number of great articles written about Solo hiking and I recommend reading a few before heading out. There are a number of amazing tips and tricks to make solo hiking a little less stressful and a little safer. Here are a couple links to start, but my biggest tip… you don’t need to start out by solo hiking Kilimanjaro. Start with an easy, well marked trail.
Hiking “Han Solo”…
If you still aren’t sure that you are up for hiking alone why not try going “Han Solo” and by that I mean with a few friends. Why do I call this “Han Solo”? It’s actually quite simple. I am a huge Star Wars fan; however, I always found it pretty ironic that although his name is “Solo” Han is rarely alone. Most of the time he has his lovable 7’6″ Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca with him. Chewy helps him get out of trouble, fixes the Millennium Falcon, obviously carries snacks in that bandolier of his (Wookiee Cookies) and, as we see in Empire Strikes Back, can carry someone on his back for most of a movie. (a droid to be exact). Plus my friend Jason is pretty much 7’6″ so it qualifies! – Don’t worry he will love being compared to a Wookiee 😉
Hiking with a friend or two can be just as rewarding as hiking alone. I have found that the conversation often becomes more personal and intimate and if you’re lucky enough to have friends like Sean and Jamie you get just enough goofiness and potty humour that you forget how old you are for a while 😉
It allows you to share accomplishment, and often, in the case of something like a sunrise hike where you have to wake up at 4:30am, provides that little extra push since someone is relying on you to get up too.
So although getting “out there” is good for you and your kids to do together, it is also important that you do it without your kids. Trust me, it will still benefit them. They will end up with a stronger, more confident parent. They will see the new experience you have and their trust in you will increase, but more importantly, you will be able to take what you have learned and further challenge your kids on the trail with the knowledge that you can keep them safe.