Friday, July 15, 2016

Five Ways To Build Family Relationships Through Hiking

We don't often have the opportunity to take our family and get away to travel.  Over the years we have developed some great ways to get away (inexpensively) for a few hours, or a day at a time, that help us feel like we have actually enjoyed a nice vacation as a family. Hiking is one of our family favorites. We live in an area with beautiful scenery and there are plenty of wonderful hikes to choose from that are within driving distance. There are easy, short, hikes, longer hikes with flat terrain, short, challenging hikes, and there are hikes in between and of course the choices include trails for the very advanced, hikers.  We like to take our Golden Girls (AKA Golden Retrievers) along whenever possible, so finding a hike that meets the safety requirements of taking them and our kiddos along, is key to how we choose which ones to tackle.  It's also imperative for the photographer in me, to have plenty of great shooting targets, since the main motivation (besides being with my family and hopefully getting fit), is coming away with some beautiful pictures to add to our family collection of memories. Over the years we have discovered some ways that hiking adds to the family relationships and bonds us closer together.
1. Relational Bonding
Hiking produces plenty of opportunity to build relationships with our kids and each other. Some of us are slower hikers than others, which can be frustrating to both the one who wants to blaze trails at lightening speed, and the caboose who struggles to keep up. These moments bring an opportunity to show grace and compassion, and put aside our own desires in order to care for someone else. To be perfectly honest, we don't always handle those moments perfectly, but we do learn a lot about each other through the physical stress that hiking can produce. Hiking as a family provides plenty of opportunity to show grace and compassion, and to develop/talk about character as a family.
2. Hiking is Inexpensive Entertainment
Some of the most entertaining experiences have happened during a hike as we've watched our kids interact with each other, race each other, enjoy splashing in a creek with our Golden Girls, and each other, and drink in the beauty around us.....for can't beat that! Okay,'s not always free if you count the gas we use to drive to our destination, parking passes we purchase annually for the state parks, and the snacks we bring with us, but it's very affordable.

3. Memory Making
Getting out in the great outdoors and pushing ourselves a little bit, physically, is a fantastic way to create memories as a family. Good memories of beautiful, sunny, days with perfect weather and "that perfect hike" may be included in those, but they are rare, and they are also the memories that don't seem to stick with us as well as the ones where there was a struggle that stretched each member of the family. Many times the hardest struggles result in the best memories for many years to come, and often the more times we "remember when" the more hilarious those memories become, creating a bond that nobody else has with our family.




*Side note*
Taking in breathtaking views of God's creation is one of the best benefits of hiking.
"He builds his lofty palace in the heavens
and sets its foundation on the earth;
he calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out over the face of the land—
the Lord is his name." Amos 9:6

On our last hike, we watched a hang glider take off from the top of the trail. It was amazing entertainment for our kids.


"Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you."  Jeremiah 32:17 


4. Exercise
Choosing to get outside, explore, and exercise together, sets a good example and (many times) produces a life, long, habit of physical fitness for kids. The old adage "actions speak louder than words," really is true. If your kids are included in regular exercise with the family, and/or see that their parents value taking care of themselves in that way, they will most likely have positive memories of and a high value for, physical fitness.


5. Great Conversation Time
I took these pictures while we were out hiking last week-end.  This was one of those hikes that stretched me, personally. On this particular outing, we took our boys and one of their friends with us.  I was the only female in our group that included five rugged, males and a highly energetic pooch.  We chose to leave two of our Goldens at home that day and just take Dallas. She was loaded with energy! Dallas and my husband headed up the group and they took off at a pace that left me gasping for air and very frustrated.  I have some hip problems that have plagued me since my child bearing days, so my hips were on fire, and my legs were literally shaking as I struggled to keep up. There was a lot of uphill, some switchbacks, and uneven footing that only exasperated the problem. I felt frustrated at the idea of holding everyone else up, yet irritated at the pace. The beauty that came out of that struggle happened when my fourteen year old son planted himself between the rest of the group and me. He noticed my struggle, and became protective and extra helpful.  He offered his hand when the going got rough, continually checked on me to see if I was okay, and made it his personal job to take care of me throughout the entire hike.  He had a friend along, but he still made his mom a priority. If the hike had been a little easier, and slower, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to see this character development in him, but the struggle provided an opportunity for me to allow my son to take care of me, and for him to see a need on his own, without anyone pointing it out to him.

The beauty of their smiles and the joy they find in picking huckleberries along the path, are gifts....rewards of the hiking in my mind that will embed themselves as life long, precious memories.





"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?" Psalm 8:3-4

 If you haven't been hiking lately, it's not hard to plan a hike.  There are plenty of resources that make choosing a hike simple. You can do an online search of your area, or ask some locals what their favorite hikes are. Choose one that fits your families abilities and timeframe, enjoy the experience of planning together, then gather your family, some snacks and water, and go make some memories!

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