Confession. My daughter hates hiking. Each time she tells me this, she stabs me in the heart with a 10 inch blade. It hurts because I love hiking. She is 13 and at a perfect age to complain about EVERYTHING. Furthermore, she wants independence from anything that her mother says and does; therefore, that means nothing adventurous outdoors. She has done a lot of hiking during her 13 years of existence on earth from being carried in a baby bjorn to backpacking 40 miles on the Appalachian Trail. Even though she professes her distain for her mother’s passion, part of me doesn’t take it seriously because of her age (I am a middle school teacher; therefore, living this age 24/7) but the other half of me questions, “gosh, what if I did initiate this hatred for hiking by doing too much of it?” That really does break my heart because I truly believe that introducing children to nature via a trail enables them to develop comfort and a relationship with a place which translates to a relationship with nature and a sense of stewardship to care for and respect it. Because my daughter hates hiking, does this mean she hates nature?
Another confession. I was not fond of hiking and camping when I was a kid. Sure, I loved playing outdoors and in the woods with my neighborhood friends but I rarely camped with my dad and brother who did each summer. In my twenties, I grew to love the outdoors and all its adventurous recreation. Now, I just want to share it with everyone, especially kids.
Hiking allows me to be surrounded by the natural beauty of Earth. When I hike, I get to be a part of all the plants and animals that surround a trail. I observe how tree trunks stretch toward the heavens some straight and tall while others short with branches reaching through the canopy. I smell the decomposition of energy as it is transferred between living things. I hear the bugs, birds and amphibians as they call out in distress or to find a companion. I feel my heart beat rapidly when ascending boulders or a hill to discover what is next. Hiking allows me and all of us to experience all things small but the grandeur of the most magnificent landscapes on Earth. Hiking allows us to celebrate within ourselves and as a community the gift and glory of our natural world.
This gift is why I want to protect and share the natural world so that my kids and students and children in general can experience and share the same small wonders and grand landscapes as I have. It is also why I am a mom, a teacher, an activist and an author to help make this a reality. I want my kids, my daughter in particular, to love hiking. I will not stop hiking or participating in outdoor adventures with them because I hope (deep inside I know, despite doubt) they have the same love for nature and desire to share the outdoors with others as I do. This is my legacy I leave to them – a desire to love nature and leave less of our footprints on it.