Thursday, 02 April 2020 11:52

High-Fiving the Summit: Reaping the Benefits of Family Hiking

By Theresa St. John | News

“In family relationships, love is really spelled T.I.M.E.”  ~ Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Promoting quality time – especially with family – is more than just the ‘in thing’ to do these days. Unplugging, taking a break from social media to step outside, enjoy the fresh air and interact with each other has become more sought after than ever before. 

Just ask Dave and Jessica DeConno, young parents of three sons who love fitness as much – if not more – than they do. DeConno’s interest in physical activity includes things like spinning inside, cycling outside, marathons, skiing, swimming, and hiking – to name a few. 

“Kids are capable of so much more than we give them credit for,” Dave says,
smiling at me over our shared snack of cheese and crackers in the living room of their cozy home. “We’ve never hesitated to include the children on our hikes – the boys have grown up appreciating the beauty of nature because of that.” 

Avery, their youngest, interrupts.  “I’m four,” he says. “Two weeks ago, I was only three, but we still hiked seven miles up this big mountain. Ok, dad carried me for one mile – but I did the rest of the hike myself!” I’m not sure I believe him. Jess looks me in the eye, tells me it’s true. 

You’ve got to be kidding.

“Sometimes there’s a melt-down, I’m not going to lie,” she admits. “Hiking is a challenge. It’s taught us to be patient, for sure. Dave and I do what we can to help when it happens. We encourage them, play games together, look for landmarks, talk about their day at school. Any distraction – even for a few minutes – helps to refocus and get going again.” 

Kaden is a handsome 15-year-old who loves to hike with his parents. He takes photos along the way, editing them to share with friends and family later. “My first hike was when I was two. Dad carried me most of the way in his backpack.  I love the early morning car rides, spending time as a family, enjoying the outdoors, and each other. Everything about hiking makes me feel good.”   

Logan is seven. “I’m happy when we finally make it to the top of the mountain,” he grins. “The views are beautiful. We run around, rest a little, then eat a sandwich before we turn back. It’s cool.” 

Even their dog, Summit, loves to hike. He’s in most of the family’s pictures and videos. 

“I love climbing the fire towers best.” Avery pipes in.

“You’re not afraid of heights?” I ask him – a lot of people older than him are.

He giggles. “Not anymore.”

Dave and Jess do a good deal of research before they leave for a hike. They use apps like ‘AllTrails’ or ‘Adirondack Net’ to see how each one is rated – easy, moderate, or hard. They also check to see how long the hike is, the condition of the trails, and what the weather’s going to be like, so they can dress appropriately. 

At the end of the day, families that spend time together are a healthier, happier, stronger unit. “Start with a short hike,” Dave says. “ Then discuss what everyone liked or didn’t like about it.”

“Research is important,” Mama Bear tells me. “Start planning your next outing as soon as you can. Keep everyone excited. Before you know it, hiking will be something the entire family looks forward to. We wouldn’t trade it for the world.”   

Great snacks for hiking:

* Fun fruits
* Gummy bears
* Grapes
* Apples
* Cucumbers
* Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
* Wraps
* Granola bars
* Plenty of water – more than you think you’ll need
* Juice boxes
* Trail mix 
* For their pup; Summit
* Collapsible bowl
* Kibble
* Treats
* Snacks the boys drop 
* Plenty of water – more than you think he’ll need

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