hiking with children for the 365 mile challenge - one mother's reflections and reasons

"The 365 Mile Challenge is a group with a goal: to get outdoors and move 1 mile a day during 2018"

We're on it. With kids.

Hiking as a mother with three young kids in tow, we get all kinds of reactions: praise and encouragement, concern and warnings, and a lot of "wow, you've got your hands full!"

two kids in rainpants hiking next to mother's legs, mom wearing baby in carrier on her back. | child's hands with seed pods.

My own love story with hiking and outdoor adventure involves lots of winter camping, a potbelly stove, bear encounters, crawfish bites, campfire food, and my Mom.

When I remember my mother on the trail, I remember a crazy strong woman who could hike for miles, often carrying my brother, the youngest, and a pack full of magic - water, extra undies, a compass, those super cool fold out maps she called "topographical," GORP, and her trusty pocket knife.

Ask my mother what she remembers and she sighs, as if recalling the most trying of experiences. She remembers things I don't: the physical demands of carting kids along on something that was previously simple; the mental demands of encouraging little legs, keeping things in motion, preventing harm... 

But despite the sigh and the tired look on he face, her eyes glow and she says only one thing: "I loved that."

I know both sides now. The tired, draining parts. The bits of fear: what ifs, how tos, am I doing this right. The exhaustion. And the joy. The wild exhilaration of the hike - watching my own kids embrace that same journey, watching them look at me the same way I looked at her. 

Superwoman, with a pack and boots. 

And somehow even when we forget the bag, start out late, and use a cell phone map instead of that cool fold out one... they'll remember it as magic.

small child berry picking, mother wearing same child in baby carrier and berry picking.

They'll forget tired legs and protests and winey miles - but they'll be forever changed by the sounds, the smells, the journey. By the feeling of exhilaration as the trail end comes into sight. The pride of having accomplished something huge, and having done it hand in hand, together. 

I don't know how many miles Lily, Thea, Hazel and I will walk this year. Sometimes I forget to keep track. 

I'll be thankful for the the community of the 365 Mile Challenge, waterproof pants, and every night of sleep that comes from tired out kids.

At the end of the year, they'll enjoy a chatbooks full of memories.

I don't know if they'll remember all the details, but I know they'll remember the most important bits: 

we got out there, together.

Left, the author's mother and daughter on the trail. Right, the author with her two oldest

(Left, the author's mother and daughter on the trail. Right, the author with her two oldest)

- Jessica Schaefer hikes in NJ and beyond with her three daughters, Lily (8), Thea (5), and Hazel (2). She wears tired kids in a soft structured carrier and carries a magical bag just like her momma once did. She invites you to join the 365 Mile Challenge this year! You'll find Jess and the girl's at their shop where you can shop for their favorite European outerwear and organics for kids: www.biddleandbop.com