Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Breaking the border: 7 mile hike

Does a paper map have any relevance in today's tech fed world? On a long hike, a paper map is everything.

"A map says to you
Read me carefully, 
follow me closely,
doubt me not...
I am the earth in the palm of your hand."

- Beryl Markham - West With The Night

Looking for an interesting hike that will challenge you? For my boys who are currently into the Hardy Boys Mysteries, this hike had it all... mystery and intrigue, moments of danger, tests of their endurance and a stunning view at the summit. What more could a kid ask for? We headed to Calloway Peak on the Grandfather Mountain range in North Carolina - use this link for a great overview.

However, in my opinion, this is not a hike for children under the age of twelve as there are some vertical ladders to scale with no railings. I can assure you after the fact that I'm glad my boys weren't younger as their legs could only just about negotiate the rungs of the wooden ladders pictured below. My heart was in my stomach as I watched them carefully climb back down these ladders and there was no way to offer any help. The hike itself is most certainly strenuous for young children, but this is an excellent one to work towards as your children grow.

We had heard stories about the wreckage of a plane that crashed here a short distance from the summit in 1978, killing the pilot. The wreckage is hard to spot from the trail and you must leave the trail to hike in and see it this close - a very sobering sight to see. You could certainly bypass this site if you feel that your children would be more upset by this story than curious about it.

The second ladder (not pictured here because I was too busy praying) is even more vertical and precarious. The hike as a whole is a family favorite for all it's various elements; the view from the top is worth the sweat!

Pluff Mud pup Winston waits with me for his fellas to return

The ladders are at the very summit of this hike, so if you're hiking with your dog take turns waiting at the base of the ladders with your pup.

I'm just a mom - not an expert on hiking by any means, but this is what I know for sure about hiking with kids...
Always pack the following:

  • Divide up your essentials. From a very young age, get your kids used to the sensation of carrying a lightweight pack and water bottle. We opt to pack one that our two boys can trade on and off as they hike.
  • Involve your children in choosing light snacks to pack for the hike including special treats that may give a boost of energy at just the right moment!
  • Review your trail map with your children before you set off on your hike. When you park and begin the hike, review your plan again. Re check your course periodically throughout the hike and ask them to sometimes lead the way. Always allow a bit more time than you think you'll actually need and NEVER set off too late in the day (allow extra time in case something goes wrong, someone is injured, or you get a little lost). Seem like overkill? Not when you consider that one day they will be hiking without you! Teach them the right way from the very beginning.
  • Pack protein for energy and snack frequently to keep kids well fueled. Carry more water than you think you'll need. 
  • Pack a first aid kit... always.
  • Pack waterproof jackets. Weather can turn quickly at high altitudes and no one likes to be wet and uncomfortable... most especially kids.
  • Wear waterproof boots or hiking shoes - they are worth the investment each year. Wear wool moisture wicking socks and pack an extra pair for everyone.
  • Always fill out your hiking permit and leave a phone number/emergency contact info. Involve your children in the activity.
  • Take turns being the leader/caboose/and middle man. Each of these roles teaches something different and valuable.
  • Tell jokes and sing songs in moments when energy is flagging! Keep the hike upbeat at all cost (even if it means incorporating your husband's off-color, inappropriate, British humor).
  • The feeling of accomplishment at the end of an arduous hike always trumps the hard work that went into the task.
Calloway Peak, NC
More information here and a great map.
Use this park map detailing the entire trail - you can actually hike all the way across to Grandfather Mountain from here...more info here.

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