Hiking on the Long Trail with kids

On the Long Trail with a toddler

This is my blog, and I can brag if I want to: My baby climbed a mountain today. He walked one mile up the side of a mountain and then another mile back down.

Last year Teddy was still a toddler in diapers who sat in a high chair to eat his meals. The diapers and high chair are both a thing of the past, but when Matt and I were packing to come to Vermont, we went back and forth over whether to bring the backpack carrier. Up until this spring Teddy had always ridden in it when we went on hikes with any kind of steep ascent. Since I pull Teddy around on the bike and know how heavy he is, I voted against it, fearing it would hurt Matt’s back to carry him. Matt wasn’t sure whether Teddy could handle a hike on his own, so I left it up to him (since he is the one who magically makes everything fit in the trunk of our car). He took the risk and left it at home.

Well, when the sun showed its face on Tuesday we decided to hike up to Sunset Ledge. This is actually a great hike to do with kids. Part of the Long Trail, which runs from Massachusetts to the Canadian border, it starts at the top of the Lincoln Gap, a very steep road that the kids think is really fun to drive up, especially since they know it is closed in the winter. After a bit of a climb from the road, the trail levels off through a pine forest, emerging after a while on the western face of the mountain, which is an exposed cliff. It’s not too long, is varied enough to be interesting, and with all of the rain we’ve had currently has enough mud and mushrooms to delight the grubbiest among us.

Sitting on Sunset Rock near Lincoln Gap

Tommy has always been a big walker and hugely independent, but Teddy (who admittedly has shorter legs) is a little less thrilled by exercise in general and has always preferred being carried. Sure enough, a few minutes after we started, he asked to be picked up. But we refused telling him that we knew he was big and could do the hike, just like his big brother. Looking dubiously after Tommy, who scampered up the trail like a mountain goat, he sighed and started trudging along. I was already planning how we would console Tommy for only getting to do part of the hike. But after a few minutes Teddy said, “Mommy, you know what? The little chicks are scampering up the mountain all around us. They aren’t slipping at all!” “Well, neither are you!” I replied. This narrative continued all the way up as he chattered about his chicks (all 100 of them are girls, except for the very littlest one) and we exclaimed over how well he was walking. When we stopped to admire the view and have a snack at the top, he was tired, but clearly proud of the fact that he had made it all the way up on his own two legs. Nicer still, the teen-aged boy we met at the top who had just started a two-week hike with his dad gave Teddy a high five and told him, “Way to go!”

I thought we would have to carry him down, but “I can do it myself!” was the refrain the entire way, and except for during a few of the very steepest and slipperiest points, he did. The expression of pride on his face when we toasted his accomplishment at lunch was a sight to see.

Tommy kayaking in the pond

Not to be outdone, Tommy was spent a good half hour this afternoon paddling around the pond behind the inn in my parents’ kayak. Poppy put him in the water and handed him a paddle and he was off! He did get stuck a few times, but managed to extricate himself and turn himself around. By the time he was done, he had circled the pond four or five times and had figured out how to turn quite handily.

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  1. Andy Mathers says


    What a wonderful post! I could feel the pride beaming through the words. Thanks for sharing.

    – Andy

  2. ashree says

    Way to go! I like your story. I wonder how Tommy had his story for his first hiking, how does it start? You know, I wonder how the first child start to hike when they have no sibling at all to look for.


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