Immersing children in the outdoors: Part 2
Geographic circumstance can play a factor in what you and your family experience.
Getting your children into the outdoors takes thought and planning, even on a local level. The one common denominator – the “outdoors” is everywhere. Yes, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the grandeur of several National Parks, however, take full advantage of your own geographic circumstance. It’s as exciting as you make it. Your children will love every moment and the result will be a solid foundation for future adventures as the below will explain.
My father lives in the mountains of SW Virginia on 42 acres. For reference, it was a 30-mile bus ride every morning and afternoon to and from school. The epitome of being in the sticks. Growing up in this environment was like having the ultimate playground. Huge rocks, creeks, trails, wildlife…all right outside the door. There were no video games, home computers or cell phones. There were barely three channels on the TV. How many people get to see a black bear outside the living room window?
Fast forward twenty-five years when my son was born. There was the immediate family connection, and we started making the six-hour trek from Columbus on a fairly regular basis. I mean who wouldn’t want to hang out on “Grandpop’s Mountain” as it became. After discovering the local Metro Parks and how much fun the grit, the dirt, the mud and the critters were, well…we had to foster those feelings. It was the logical next step. The wonder of catching salamanders, tadpoles and dragonfly nymphs…this was the stuff. Knee deep in the muddy streams building rock dams…this was the excitement! “When are we going back to Grandpop’s Mountain!?!” he started to ask on a weekly basis.
As he got older, hiking worked into the fray. This is where the real evolution began. Not only were we hiking on game trails around the property line, we would hike through the forest during all four seasons. We’d stop and look at nature taking over a rotten log, check out a funky lichen on an old tree stump, examine an area where wild turkeys had been scratching at the ground, break off icicles dangling on boulders…anything that was deemed interesting.
This spilled into longer hikes and observations. Having land bordering on a State Park has advantages…remember geographic circumstance. Every trip we would make time to visit Grayson Highlands State Park, one of the best kept secrets in the Eastern United States. The park is adjacent to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area within the Jefferson National Forest, and it offers excellent hiking and bouldering opportunities for all abilities. We would take advantage of the wild huckleberries while hiking alongside wild ponies. We reminded ourselves to slow down, relax, observe and enjoy the surroundings.
After enjoying our time at Grayson Highlands, we made time to visit Whitetop Mountain, the second tallest peak in Virginia. Again, starting at a young age, we began hiking around the top, above the tree line, examining the rock formations and observing the amazing views. Then, when he was old enough, we started taking a more strenuous hike to my favorite place on this planet…always a special moment. (I think we may expand on this location at a later date.) We continue to make this hiking trek at least once a year and every time, it’s a new adventure.
In the end, the catalyst for our exploration continues to be Grandpop’s mountain. It provides a base camp, a place to jump off from the familiar. The key is to find your starting point. Where do you have a connection out of your normal every day? Friends, family…search and utilize it! It doesn’t matter where; ignore your current geographic circumstance and find your own Grandpop’s mountain to explore with your children.
Do you have kids and have you worked on getting them in the outdoors more? Feel free to share your stories in the comments with us! Make sure you follow along @Exploringthe59 on IG to see more of Jason M’s adventures!
Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Jason M and the Hashtag 59 Team