Go Take a Hike!

Aug 05

Dr. Gwen Seaver

Go Take a Hike!

by Dr. Gwen Seaver

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Why?

  • Exercise! We all need more. Kids need at least 60 minutes per day of moderate physical activity.
  • Get outdoors! “Nature Deficit Disorder” is real. There is an abundance of evidence about the positive effects of nature on all of us: stress relief, improved mental and physical health, improved mood, and more energy.
  • Unplug! Getting away from electronics is good for the mind and the soul. 

Hiking with Kids:

Washington Trails Association has a wealth of information on how to choose a trail, how to set appropriate expectations when hiking with kids, and information on how to entertain kids on the trail. A key tip is to pack lots of patience and be flexible - finishing the full hike may not happen. It is about the journey, not the destination. Also, remember to bring extra clothes, water, and food when hiking with kids.

Choosing a hike:

Hike Finder on the Washington Trails Association’s website uses the state’s largest database of hikes, while allowing you to search for just the right hike. Do you want mountain views or to be near a river? How far do you want to go? How much elevation gain? It’s amazing! 

There are also several great hiking books to help guide you. One of my favorites is Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington and the Cascades.

Hiking Basics:

  • Leave No Trace. This means dispose of waste properly, respect wildlife always, leave what you find, and minimalize any impacts of your presence. Always stay on the trail, and don’t make or follow short cuts. Anything you pack in, be sure to pack it out (never litter).
  • Be Considerate of other trail users.
  • Common Trail Etiquette: Downhill hikers yield to the uphill hiker. Hikers yield to equestrians. Mountain bikers yield to hikers.
  • Be Prepared: Wear proper footwear and appropriate clothing (layers!), and bring the Ten Essentials.

What are the Ten Essentials?

A list of 10 items to have with you in case of an emergency.

  • Navigation (map, compass)
  • Headlamp
  • Sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses)
  • First Aid (including insect repellent and foot care)
  • Knife (plus repair kit)
  • Fire starter
  • Shelter
  • Extra food
  • Extra water
  • Extra clothes

Common Hiking Myths and Concerns

Common Myth: “Being outdoors in bad weather will lead to colds, flu, etc.”

Truth: The weather doesn’t cause illness. Illnesses are caused by viruses spread from others, especially when in close quarters (indoors!). 

Common Concern: “But the weather isn’t good.”

Truth: There is a saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. REI started in Seattle. They have clothing for all types of Seattle weather, as do many other Seattle outdoor outfitters! Clothing technology has come a long way since I was a child growing up in Seattle. There are now comfortable and lightweight rain proof jackets! Even pants! Hiking shoes are comfortable and some are waterproof. You can hike in rain or snow and still have warm, dry feet.

A Word on Ticks and Wildlife - it is exceedingly rare for Washington state ticks to carry Lyme disease. It is still a good idea to check for ticks and remove them after hiking. It is not common to see any wildlife that you don’t already have in your own yard. Never feed wildlife and leave the animals alone.

Hiking Safety:

  • Have a plan. Know your route before you leave and let someone know where you are going. Always hike with a buddy. Stick to your itinerary. 
  • Read trail reports on WTA.org prior to hitting the trail. Find out how the bugs are, or how trail conditions are doing. Is there snow on the trail? Are fallen trees blocking the trail?
  • Check the weather before heading out. In some areas, like Mt. Rainier, the weather can change rapidly.
  • Bring the right gear. Pack the Ten Essentials, bring a map, and the trail description.
  • Always stay on trails.
  • Don’t push it - set realistic goals for everyone’s fitness level and ability, stay together, and don’t risk anyone’s health to reach a destination.
  • Listen to your body and/or your children. Drink often, eat when needed, take rests, and find shade or shelter if needed.
  • Don’t back up over a ledge while taking a selfie!

Consider Being a Volunteer

As they say, when you volunteer you get more back than you give. There are many ways to help protect the trails and our local wilderness areas. Consider volunteering for the Washington Trails Association, Mountains to Sound Greenway, or the many other organizations helping to preserve our part of the Pacific Northwest outdoors.

Resources:

www.wta.org

www.alltrails.com

www.mtsgreenway.org

Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington and the Cascades, by Susan Elderkin