I am a planner. I research. I read. I plan ahead. Those who know me well, know this to be a solid fact. Most of the time.
But this past July 4th, we decided to take a last-minute trip to Lake George, a destination that would be a new frontier for us all. So there we were, driving and planning at the same time. Hike, fish, swim, shop.
Upon our arrival, we had some time available before checking into the motel. We settled on hiking Buck Mountain. (Ok…truth be told, I settled on it.) We accessed the trailhead from Pilot Knob, not realizing the trail is a bit gentler from the Hogtown entrance. Oh well, live and learn!
So, can we talk about hiking with kids for a minute?? My oldest was the only one who’s hiked with me and that was a quick climb up Bald Mountain, where the elevation gain was about 500 feet. Buck Mountain via Pilot Knob is a 2000 foot elevation gain. That being said, it was a steady climb most of the way with a little scramble near the summit. This hike was my little ones first climb…oops! Go big or go home? Haha…I’m laughing now. But hiking with my cherubs was like the stop and go traffic on the LIE! A few inches forward…and stop. Inch…crawl…stop.
I kid. All in all, they were troopers! Mud and all..and we all know how much my oldest LOVES mud. 😉
Our strong family of four hit the trails at 1:30 p.m. and began our 3.5 mile climb to the summit. Hey, I realized it was a long distance for first timers…but we had just driven almost 4 hours so stretching the legs was necessary. Plus, every description we found online claimed this was an “easy” hike.
A good douse of bug spray and the short road walking was underway! The littlest one used one of my hiking poles.
It appeared as if brand new trail signs were just installed above all the trail discs. There were 2 brook crossings that were tricky for little legs, but the kids did great!
Sisters taking the lead…while mother and son snailed along.
I was the only one who was fascinated by the baby waterfalls. My son continued to repeat, “This is your happy place, Mom. Not ours!” Haha…yea it was just like that until he reached the summit. Then he transformed into Superman. 🙂
Loved this long rock wall…
After about 45 minutes and 1.2 miles of walking, we reached a junction. From here on out, it was a steady, moderate climb. The 2.1 miles to go wasn’t received well from the crew, but I reminded them that it will all be worth it once we’re on the summit!
My son and oldest led the way now, as he got his second wind. That, and the encouragement from a group of teenagers on their descent. “Keep going, buddy! You’re doing great!” (As they witnessed my son dragging his feet and griping. Ha!)
My youngest and I explored some water features along the trail.
Even though there was hemming and hawing from the kids, I knew our hike was good for them. It was about making memories, yes. But more importantly, it was about the experience, teaching my kids that trying new things outside of their comfort zone will only foster growth…mind, body and soul. Even if it was the only mountain they ever climb, the challenge alone will uncover strengths within each of my kids…an experience filled with a sense of “persistence, don’t quit, stick with it, wow I did it!”
My youngest…I was so proud of her! She is small for her age and everyone she meets feels the need to tell her just how small she is. It defeats her self-esteem at times. But she has a fire in her soul, that feels very familiar to me. My job as her mama is to provide her experiences where she sees that her size can be her strength. #raiseherstrong
“I’m your best hiker, right Mama?” she said to me. One tough girl, sweet and empowered. I smiled at her and replied, “That’s right, sweet pea. Just don’t tell the others.” She always laughs when I say that. Shhh, don’t tell the others. 😉
Meanwhile…the older kids continued to lead the way up, up, up the mountain. And for the next hour or so, we focused on hiking with strong minds, even when they wanted to give up. We rested often when the kids needed a break. When I hike, I am used to carrying enough water just for myself. However, I was carrying water for 4 people and I was nervous we wouldn’t have enough for the trip. I don’t know about your kids, if you have kids…but my kids drink ALOT! Like all.the.time.
This hike was no different. Plus, it was about 80 degrees in Lake George on the 4th of July. (Come to think of it, it was the only “summer” weather we’ve had so far! Summer seems to be missing here in Western New York.) I mention this because we ran out of water by the time we reached the summit. I did have a cooler full of waters back in the truck at the trailhead, but still…
Anyway, like I said, live and learn!
At one point, my son was moaning about quitting. “Let’s just stop and turn around!”
My youngest pleaded, “I just want it to be tomorrow. But I don’t think I’m going to make it to tomorrow.”
My oldest just repeated from time to time, “Ew, ew, ewww. Mud. Grooooss!”
Haha, yup! #hikingwithkids
However…at 4:20 p.m., after almost 3 hours of hiking, various piggyback rides and 3.5 miles, this crew summited Buck Mountain! Victory!
There were a few hikers who passed us on the trail. They applauded my kids when we arrived at the summit. It was awesome and priceless!
We did it! Our first family climb. A 42-year-old, 15-year-old, 8-year-old and 7-year-old! Buck Mountain stands at 2334 feet tall and provides a gorgeous view of Lake George.
“You’re welcome, Mom,” my son smiled and said. “We came with you to your happy place.” That kid! All kidding aside, he was right. I was happy. SO full of joy that, even if it was only this one time, my kids were with me, to witness why I hike. The beauty of it all!
Happy Independence Day 2017!
Muddy and barefoot on the summit! Our sneakers were soaked from all the mud and water crossings. So we took them off to dry out for a bit. I wish I had hiking shoes for my kids, but I wasn’t sure if they would like hiking. Definitely a future purchase for our hiking family.
My best hiker. 🙂
Bunny…her signature pose no matter where we go!
And of course, one must dab on a mountain summit!
A photo taken by my oldest…this is her “hiker mom” as she titled. Yup, one happy mama. #breatheitallin #loveitallout
Following some snacks and polishing off the remaining water, we began our fast descent. Spirits were high as the kids quickly realized how much easier it was to climb down a mountain!
The 3.5 miles only took us an hour and 40 minutes…and at 6:00 p.m. my son did the honor of signing us o.u.t. of the hike! I should also mention that he carried the backpack on the descent too, to give his mama a break. Little by little, he is finding his way.
Phew! 7 miles of hiking with kids! They still talk about this hike…I know deep down, they are proud of themselves! On the ride back to the motel, my oldest said, “Mom, Bald Mountain was pretty easy, wasn’t it? Because this hike was SO much harder! What you do is hard, Mom. Climbing all those mountains.”
My whole heart. This crew. Yes, it’s true I almost killed them with this hike, lol. At one point, I actually contemplated how I would carry them down the mountain. Ha!
But…persistence and taking risks are important life qualities…sometimes, even life-saving ones. I am incredibly proud of my kids for sticking it out and learning that they have what it takes to break barriers too!
I, of course, rewarded their efforts with little shopping treasures and ice cream. And… promised that they could swim all day the next day! A fair trade-off 🙂
The fireworks that evening over the lake were spectacular! The show was almost 40 minutes long! The perfect end to our first day.
Sometimes the best laid plans are not actually planned! Sometimes, spontaneity is the lesson. Happy kids, happy mom. It’s that simple. Let go and just go! Like I said to my kids, the whole world is out there. It doesn’t have to be fancy, elaborate plans and trips. Some of the best moments are found in the simplicity. Holding hands, laughing and learning that we all have a fire within us. Being together as a family, no matter where we are or what we are doing, is what counts the most.
My kids may never enjoy the outdoors in the same way I do, and that’s ok. It’s more than ok! They will each discover their own paths to follow with their whole hearts. That is all a mother can ask…that my kids learn to listen to their inner whisperings and be guided by their own love of life. Happy kids, happy mom. So get outside and go exploring with your kids! It is fun, I promise!
Survived hiking with kids,