My husband and I are pretty outdoorsy people. Back when we were young, unencumbered, and spontaneous (read: pre-children), we would drop everything to spin away an afternoon on bike trails, or tromp through the trees for hours. The last few years, of course, have been somewhat of a waiting period--holding out for the kids to get big and strong enough to join us on Woodland Treks.
My sons are now 9 and 6, so we approached this past weekend in Shenendoah National Park as a little Nature Test, if you will. The boys did a 1.6 mile loop on Saturday and came back thoroughly pleased with their achievement--buzzing on mountain air and healthy exercise. On Sunday, we informed them they were ready to take on the Appalacian Trail (after explaining what this is, and assuring them we would NOT be hiking to Maine...or Georgia...not today, anyway!)
Stony Man Trail consists of dirt, gravel, larger rocks, and plenty of hills, and lies at about 4000 feet in elevation (darn--I knew we should have done High Altitude Training before we left!). The children skipped off in their worn sneakers, dodging rocks like hyperactive mountain goats. At the summit, overlooking the Shenendoah Valley, they clung to the boulders and peered over, as strong winds coming down from the cliffs buffeted them. (They were exhilarated, I was terrified by the whole "plunging to one's death over the edge" thing.)
All in all, we estimate that we did about 2-1/2 miles, maybe a little more. Sweaty, panting, dragging their tired feet, they nevertheless beamed with pride and accomplishment when we arrived back at the car. We dubbed them Official Junior Rangers. Now we can do real hikes every weekend! But with the kids involved, we'll want to bring boots, and hats, and energy bars, and water, and maps, and a compass, and sunscreen, and bug spray...I'd better start packing now...