“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.
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.
We even finally got that long-awaited family shot.
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.