When I was a kid, I wasn’t terribly athletic and my family wasn’t really that big into hiking or camping. Running more than a mile almost certainly resulted in tears and I might have been that kid who went home from sleep away camp in the middle of the night on more than one occasion.
To say that outdoor pursuits were not one of my strengths as a kid is a bit of an understatement. And thankfully my mom chose to document proof of this fact in my photo album.
And yes, those are permed bangs. I know, not cool, even back in 1989. Thanks mom.
It wasn’t really until I was an adult – and more specifically since I got into trail running – that I really began to explore the beautiful trails, parks and hiking routes we have all around us here in BC and the pacific northwest. We are so lucky to have so much nearby and as a mom, I want to make sure that my boys have these kinds of experiences when they’re young. I want them to grow up knowing and more importantly, loving their time spent hiking and exploring our great outdoors. And what better place to start with them than local favourite, Grouse Mountain.
Sometimes just getting to the grocery store with kids is a huge challenge but I figured that if I didn’t start taking my boys out into the woods now, then I would never get used to the whole ordeal (um, I mean, incredible experience) myself. Hiking Grouse Mountain with kids is definitely a big undertaking but there are so many reasons that all of the effort is so worthwhile.
1. They might surprise you with just how tough they are
We had done many flat hikes before we tried Grouse and I really wondered whether they were too young to try such a challenging hike. At just 5 and 6 however, they always seemed bored on the flat ones so I thought maybe something more exciting would keep them more interested.
And it totally worked. They loved having to climb over stuff, scale steep hills and were so interested in all the mushrooms and roots. These little guys were so much tougher than I expected. And it was awesome.
2. It’s a great chance to talk with your kids
Even at just 5 and 6 years old ‘nothing’ is already the most common answer I get when I ask how their day was at school. Being out on the trails for a couple of hours was the perfect place to get them chatting. I wanted to keep them talking to help distract them and let’s face it, to prevent them from having the chance to whine or complain! This strategy worked great too and we talked all about the trees, animals, other hikers, exercise and yes, even about how their day at school really was.
3. Kids love climbing over stuff
Its true! They enjoyed the hiking but their little faces seriously lit up whenever we came upon an outcropping of roots or a rock they had to climb. They were seriously giddy with laughter because they thought it was so cool.
This was also one of the reasons that I chose to take the boys up the BCMC trail instead of the more popular Grouse Grind – no manmade stairs just dirt path, rocks and roots.
4. They’ll love finding the smiley faces along the trail
I don’t know the actual history of these little smiley faces on the BCMC trail but I’m guessing they were put there by members of the British Columbia Mountaineering Club or other trail builders during the building or maintenance of the trail. Regardless, it was super fun to tell the boys to watch out for the smiley faces and hear their laughter whenever they came upon one. I think there are 2 or 3 smiley guys on the trail and even I grin when I pass by them.
5. We all need to slow down now and then
I’m not a speed demon on Grouse by any means but can usually do the Grind or BCMC in a little over an hour. When going up with the boys I obviously didn’t expect to go anywhere near that pace and really had no goal at all. It’s tricky with kids because you want to encourage them but not push them too hard. Letting them set the pace was such a nice break and I saw so much more of the trail than when I’m huffing up at a training pace. Going slow was good for all of us.
6. It feels good to share the things you love with your kids
Although I strongly believe that my running helps make me a better mom, I definitely feel that ‘mommy guilt’ about the amount of time it takes me away from the very family I’m trying to be better for. Spending time like this with my kids is like the best of both worlds – I’m getting to show them a love of the outdoors but also share some of the incredible places I’ve been because of my running.
7. The Skyride Gondola
Not much needs to be said about this one other that my boys could not contain their excitement about a ride down the mountain in a real, live gondola! When I get to the top of Grouse I always head to the lookout to check out the beautiful view of Vancouver. These guys? They ran straight for the lookout but only to see if the gondola was on it’s way or down. Typical boys.
Just so you know, I could easily write a sister-post to this one titled ‘7 Reasons NOT to hike Grouse Mountain with Kids’ because aside from all the good things there was also plenty of whining, complaining, arguing, ‘Are we there yet?’, ‘I’m tired!’ and even a bit of rock throwing. Such is life with little boys I suppose.
However, hiking IS a lot of work for little kids and I don’t expect them to love every single minute of it. But, the more we go, the stronger their little legs will get and the more used to the whole thing they will become. I’m pretty sure some of the other hikers who passed us thought I was crazy with a gaggle of little kids but every single one of them told us how great it was to see a mom starting her kids young.
And I couldn’t help but smile and feel pretty proud of that.