Frugal hiking fun for the whole family

Go Take a Hike!

by Sheryl Simons

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Most families are really trying to get back to being healthier as well as spend more time together. Walking is a family activity that can benefit any family. Even when the kids are young, they love the great outdoors. I have hiked with kids in front packs and backpacks. It doesn't take much extra effort to take the baby along. In a couple years, the kids will be running ahead of you on the trails! Our area is a great place to start a hiking hobby. Start small. Even our small town has a great path along the river that only takes a few minutes to walk and starting small is a great way to start, rather than hiking for a whole day, exhausting yourselves, and never wanting to go again! After a week or so of small hikes, plan a day trip that includes maybe just an hour or two of hiking. There are all kinds of state land, camps, and parks right in our own backyard where you can go to hike for free! You might want to call ahead, just to be sure, but even most private camps would welcome a family to come for a hike.

After getting where you can comfortably hike for an hour, try two hours or a half-day. The sky is the limit. I can't think of a place where you can't find a wonderful place to take a hike. And, it's the best way to get to know an area, up close and personal. Even if you've drove past it many times, if you get out and walk, you are sure to notice more detail! You will be close enough to notice birds and nests, butterflies, wildflowers and plants you never would have seen. But, don't pick them! Leave things as they are so everyone can enjoy them. So, now it's not just a hike, it's a nature walk - if you stop to smell the roses once in a while. Remember that it's not a race! Don't just have your destination in mind, or you will miss the best part. Go slow enough for the slowest member of the family and don't have a time limit. Just enjoy! Also, take time to talk about God's great creation and thank Him for our wonderful outdoors!

The great thing about hiking is that it is so good for you and costs so little. A good pair of shoes and socks, or comfortable sandals in summer, will be your biggest cost. Packing a lunch will save money over fast food, and is much healthier. Crackers, cheese, ham, grapes and oatmeal cookies are a family favorite with us. The kids will fight over carrying the food if it's in a backpack! Soon you will be combining good family fun, seeing great views, landscapes, and wildlife, and not spending much at all!

The best benefit is the family fun. If you want to have fun doing things with your teens, you have to start when they are small. Working on the relationship when children are small, by spending time and having fun together, is a great way to get the teen years off to a smooth start. Soon your kids will want to invite friends along. One day, it might be a girlfriend, or boyfriend. Encourage friends to come along. Believe it or not, kids are not embarrassed to spend time with their parents when it has become a habit of fun.

Keep the kids involved by letting them voice ideas about destinations. A new, yet undiscovered place for your family to visit, such as an island, or state park might be the highlight of your summer memories. We are blessed to live near miles and miles of beaches to walk and play on.

Wherever you go, keep safety in mind by staying on the trail and watching out for things like poison ivy, briars, cliffs, bee nests or other safety hazards. High bluffs along Lake Michigan are no place for a toddler to run free. Trails in places like Isle Royale are good places to watch out for mother moose protecting her young. Don't be afraid to visit places like this, just be aware! If children are young, you might want to teach them to stay between their parents or adults, who lead and bring up the rear. A big group might want to use the buddy system, which will lessen the chance of danger, or becoming lost.

Sheryl Simons lives in Northern Michigan and loves gardening. She has three kittens and a '51 Chevy sedan. She and her husband Richard love to attend car shows, auctions and flea markets.

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