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Turn hiking into a family outing with strategy

By: Susan Davies Special to The Gazette
June 27, 2013 Updated: June 27, 2013 at 9:45 am
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photo - Trail Talk Susan Davies
Trail Talk Susan Davies 

When I was young, my parents took my two siblings and me for a hike most Sunday afternoons during the summer months. As kids, we tolerated the hikes because our parents almost always stopped for ice cream on the way home.

Shameless bribery? Absolutely. But eventually all three of us developed a lasting affection for hiking (and ice cream).

I'm not suggesting you always use treats to influence your children. But expecting them to jump to their feet with glee when you say the word "hike" assumes they're part golden retriever. Truth is, the competition for their adoration is fierce.

Can rocks, creeks and trees compete with iPods and video games? Of course they can, but as parents we must be strategic.

Invite your children often. Don't always take no for an answer, but don't force them to go every time. Request a family hike for Mother's Day, Father's Day or birthdays. Plan carefully where you hike.

Recently, I took my Girl Scout troop hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. The meandering trail up the mountainside among patches of wildflowers was delightful - and completely bored the girls. But the hike that required scrambling over rocks and wading in pools of water was a huge hit. The girls hiked the Alluvial Fan for close to two hours and might still be there if the leaders hadn't called it quits.

Even without water and rocks, destinations can work. When my daughter was 4, she hiked to the top of Mount Herman, just west of Monument. It's a great trail but a bit advanced for a 4-year-old. However, she was determined to make it to the top.

Another one of her favorite trails ends at the nest of a prairie falcon. A few weeks ago, we watched a parent preening just above her squawking brood.

If you need trail ideas, check with El Paso County nature centers, the Starsmore Discovery Center or the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. Their naturalists and volunteers will have great suggestions.

Bottom line: Our daughter is now 12 and tolerates hikes. And the best part is her electronic toys rarely work where we like to hike so she talks to us. Only five minutes here and there, but we'll take it.

And after our hikes, she reluctantly allows us to stop for ice cream. Old habits are hard to break.

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Davies is the executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition. Read her columns on the fourth Thursday of each month in Out There.

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