Disclaimer: In case you begin to compare your precious progeny’s intellectual ability with my own, this post is not in fact published by my dear son, and I have taken some liberties writing facetiously in his name.
A couple months ago, my mother wrote a post for this website about my brothers and I, particularly about our lack of desire to ride a bicycle or to enjoy the wild outdoors. While it may have seemed lighthearted and even humorous to readers, she has stood by her resolve and we are on a schedule of outdoor play time. It is not that I don’t enjoy playing outside with my myriad of vehicles, soccer balls, basketballs, footballs, wading pools, water guns, and half of the cheap plastic toys we receive from Happy Meals…I’d just rather be able to decide when I want to play outside.
Generally right before nap time, soon after a bath, and while we are being hurried out the door to church are my favorite times to embrace the great outdoors. At any other time, it’s usually too hot, too humid, too sunny or too boring. You would think she would understand, but instead she turns an odd shade of purple and starts muttering about dirty sheets, being late or the need for coffee.
The next step my mom has taken to turn us into wild men is to declare an absurd idea of visiting every National Park before I leave for college.
Crazy, right? Not to mention that we don’t own a tent big enough for her blow up mattress, let alone the rest of us. I am not sure how she will manage to police our dirty fingernails if we are off exploring Yosemite or how she plans on keeping us from falling into the alligator infested Everglades, but we have just had to sigh and hope for the best. She is pretty good at forgetting doctor’s appointments, so I can’t imagine she can remember if we have been to all 58 parks or not over a 12-year span.
To prepare us for this grand adventure to come, she has been forcing us on several hikes around the area to build up our endurance for hiking and adventuring. I have accumulated some knowledge that may be useful for other kids my age whose parents have temporarily decided to unplug the TV and get us closer to nature, so below is my Complete Kid’s Guide: Hiking with Parents in Chattanooga. (These really can be applied anywhere, but I hear the CMB would rather we make it a bit more relate-able to readers.)
Complete Kid’s Guide: Hiking with Parents in Chattanooga
1. Where to Go: Our area is notable for its fantastic hiking opportunities, yet it can be a little tricky to actually find where trails begin and where to park. I have witnessed a few arguments about which direction is east or west and what looks like a trail and what doesn’t; at this point, it is crucial to start doubting whether we should be embarking on this adventure in the first place and show that by crying and many “I don’t want to gos!” This really helps to find the accurate trail and actually start hiking.
It took my mom a while to find a decent website with maps and parking locations, but Outdoor Chattanooga is good for finding local trails as well as popular destinations that may be a little further away. There are links to trail maps, as well as grades of difficulty and plenty of description about each hiking area. One thing to keep in mind is that hiking is usually a little bit of an adventure and not every trail will be clearly marked.
Our first hike was at Foster Falls, which was probably my favorite place we have been. We went straight down the gorge to the falls, and it was fun to climb down the rocks and walk across the swinging bridge. I think my parents were concerned that one of us would break a leg going down the mountain, but I thought it was fantastic! We got to sit on the sandy shore below the falls and throw as many rocks as we wanted, without my mom yelling that we were going to hurt someone.
Our second hike was with our church youth group in Cloudland Canyon, and there we got to hike to two different waterfalls, but it wasn’t as fun because we mostly walked down wooden stairs and didn’t get to jump around on the rocks. I made it all the way up from the very bottom without any help though, so that was pretty cool. I think my mom might have been tired, because she had my little brother on her back and she had to keep stopping. She will definitely have to train more if we are going to Zion National Park.
Our last hike was at Stringer’s Ridge, which is really close to our house. It was okay; I liked the trail named “Choo-Choo” because I thought there would be a train, but there wasn’t. It was bumpy, so I guess it was still fun to run on. The best part was getting to look out and seeing the aquarium and the river, but other than that, there wasn’t anything else to do but walk on the road.
2. What to Wear: My mom makes a big deal about wearing comfortable clothes and hiking shoes, but I just throw on my very-favorite-shirt and my very-favorite-shoes (this week it happens to be my Star Wars ones) and I am good to go. My little brother got some new Light Up Spider Man shoes for his birthday and he had to wear them last week because they were his very-favorite-shoes too. Mom thinks they weren’t good hiking shoes because he kept tripping when his Velcro came undone. Maybe some tie up shoes would work better, but they would probably have to be Spider Man.
We usually wear our favorite NASCAR Kyle Busch hats (because Kyle Busch and M&Ms are awesome) so that the sun stays out of our eyes and so everyone knows we are racing fans. ‘Cause those are the kind of people you meet when you hike in Chattanooga. My mom carries our youngest brother in that backpack thing (if she were writing this, she would say the brand is Kelty), and I think she really likes it, especially when he pulls her hair and tries to dive into the nearest tree.
3. What to Bring: This is an area where I definitely have experience and knowledge. I don’t know why my mom thinks we are Marines or Spartans and can go without food and water when we hike. I know we can consume only two half eaten Cheetos we find under the couch and not need dinner, but hiking is tough work! When we went to Foster Falls, she only brought an apple for herself. What?! One apple for three boys who are being trained as conquerors of all 58 National Parks? I’ll show you what happens if you go hiking without bringing food for your children…
…They find food out in the wild. Kids, tell your parents, tell your friends, grab the cookie crumbs from the car seat folds–just do not go hiking without nourishment! Even if you have just eaten breakfast or lunch or a snack 10 minutes before you started hiking, you will get hungry.
Another essential I would add to your packing list is an old digital camera that still works. Or an old phone with a camera. Your parents will not let you take their pricey iPhone out on a hike to photograph nature, but you will want to make sure you have something to take pictures with. After all, our parents are constantly taking pictures of everything, so we should too.
The last essential for hiking is a spare diaper for the baby. I wasn’t sure that this was essential, but my little brother does love to dirty up a diaper in that carrier and if you get downwind…hiking loses its joy pretty fast.
4. What to Do While Hiking: Whatever you want! You can scream as loud as you have always wanted to and your parents won’t care. You can climb rocks and trees and get filthy, and they will praise your new relationship with nature. You can ask one question about fossils, bees, tree life spans or just rolly pollies, and they will cry with joy that you are interested in learning something new. Really, this is where you can rack up the points guys. My mom still claims that our hike to Foster Falls was one of the best days of her parenting life, and my dad bought me M&Ms when we got home for being such a good hiker. The way I am calculating it, I’ll be owning Kyle Busch’s car by the time we get through hiking all of the National Parks.