“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious”. – Stephen Hawking

I have always been an explorer and grew up doing most of my adventuring on my feet. Every fall, my parents packed up the diesel station wagon with the three of us kids, our Irish Setter Tasha, and enough stuff for a long weekend to spend up north. We drove five hours north of Minneapolis to stay in the beautiful town of Lutsen, located right on Lake Superior and not far from the famous Boundary Waters and Canoe Area. Every Saturday we would pack our backpacks, jump in the car again and drive to Eagle Mountain, the tallest peak in Minnesota and do a family four-to-five-hour hike. It was a tradition we did every single year of my childhood, just as the leaves turned their magnificent display of color.

Eagle Mountain, Minnesota

My Dad and Max on top of Eagle Mountain. June 2015.

It is funny how those special memories of childhood stay with you for the rest of your life. Hiking Eagle Mountain each year developed a lifelong love of the outdoors and trekking. It has led me most recently to the peak of Kilimanjaro to the beauty of Patagonia, Bolivia, France, Nepal and many times of hikes in Arizona.

My love of hiking and exploring what is beneath my feet is so strong that as a mother I have wanted to instill my passion on my children. We started out small with hikes around different state parks in Minnesota and even walks around my beloved Lake Harriet. Then on our last visit to Arizona where my parents live and there are endless opportunities to hike, we brought the kids to Sabino Canyon and my son Max did a longer, five hour hike with my husband and dad. Finally, just this past June my son Max (who is ten now) did his second climb of Eagle Mountain and did it all along with Papa. It was a special trip!

My next task was to get my daughter Sophia engaged and inspired to hike. She is only 8 but fairly athletic if she puts her mind to it. Our opportunity for our first real family hike was this past June during our trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. There rises Harney Peak, the tallest mountain in the state at an elevation of 7242 feet (2207 m).

With a little creative thinking, I came up for a plan. It did involve a little bit of bribery which I realize is not the best parenting strategy but I knew it would work. Before the hike, I went to the supermarket and bought four different kinds of candy ranging from Sour Patch to gummy worms and jelly beans. Normally my husband and I are relatively strict but sometimes you have to just let the rules slide.

I divided the candy up into two ziplock bags and told Sophia and Max that this was a special treat for the hike. Every fifteen minutes, they could have one piece of candy. You can imagine the change in eagerness from Sophia. She was overjoyed and for the first hour she impatiently followed the 15 minute rule. But then once she got hiking and having fun, the bag of candy was soon forgotten and left somewhere deep inside the confines of my backpack.

We played some fun, imaginative games while my husband Paul and son Max raced ahead. Three hours later we arrived on top of Harney Peak. There is an old fort on top that is fun to explore but the stunning 360 degree views are what are the most rewarding. It is spectacular on top and just the place for a well-deserved picnic lunch.

Harney Peak, South Dakota

On top of Harney Peak

We even finally got that long-awaited family shot.

Harney Peak, South Dakota

Being on top with the family was something I had dreamed of for many years. Giving them the gift of curiosity, appreciation, love and respect of our planet is one of the greatest gifts I could give.

Harney Peak, South Dakota

Heading back down.  The mountain and surrounding range is granite which was uplifted during the Laramide orogeny between 40 and 60 million years ago.

 The mountain and surrounding range is granite which was uplifted during the Laramide orogeny between 40 and 60 million years ago.

Wow factor

 The mountain and surrounding range is granite which was uplifted during the Laramide orogeny between 40 and 60 million years ago.At the end of the hike, lies this bench with fantastic words of wisdom to live by. “Life is a journey, take time to enjoy every step”. 

 The mountain and surrounding range is granite which was uplifted during the Laramide orogeny between 40 and 60 million years ago.

Harney Peak, South Dakota

I couldn’t agree any more.

This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Beneath Your Feet. 


    1. Thanks Amy! We are going to do that same hike to Eagle Mountain in Northern MN this fall with just our family. Hoping to make it our new tradition and pass it on.

  1. What a sweet time for your family. How wonderful that your children are being shown the joys of the wilderness and hiking at a young age. I have many lovely childhood memories but they were not of the outdoors. My mum hated camping, and was not the hiking/wilderness type at all. I discovered the joys of that in my early twenties. And thank goodness I did.

  2. Wonderful photos, Nicole. You are such a great mom. I’m sure that because of all your encouragement to go exploring and appreciate the natural wonders to be found, your kids are going to grow up with a great love for adventure, just like yourself. 🙂

  3. Awwww, so cute to hear the little ones forgot about the candy after a while. There is certainly more to life than savouring sweet treats no matter good they taste 😉 Spectacular views of your hike. So much lush greenery, and there’s path for you to follow so you didn’t get lost 🙂

  4. We loved the Harney Peak hike. I think it is fabulous that you have instilled that sense of adventure and love for the great outdoors in your two children. I wish I had had parents around long enough to enjoy some of those activities.

    1. Thanks LuAnn! I don’t know if I ever would have tried hiking if it hadn’t been for my parents always dragging me up the mountain when I was little. 🙂 For that I am now of course grateful.

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