I didn’t grow up in a family that hiked. For exercise, my father played tennis and golf and my mother took the occasional jazzercize class. When I was introduced to hiking in my early 20s, it felt like I hit the jackpot. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing. Hiking provided invigorating exercise, breathtaking vistas, relationship-building camaraderie, exciting exploration, and contact with nature. All of this, and it was free. It became my favorite thing to do.
Introducing my kids to hiking has been so much fun. As spring is taking hold, we are making a point of getting out more, and the benefits are plentiful.
Here are a few reasons hiking is awesome:
1. It’s like meditation, but easier. Thoughts of to-do lists and other stressors are banished from your mind as you focus on where your foot should fall, the breeze through the trees, the dappling light through the forest canopy and the sounds of nature.
2. Everyone is exercising without realizing it.
3. We are all unplugged and away from the tedium of social media.
4. We are exploring nature, seeing exciting things like hawks, lizards, waterfalls and mountain tops. Almost as pleasing are more subtle treasures like lush ferns, huge maple leaves, rushing streams, quiet lakes, fallen trees, intriguing holes and lichen and mushrooms growing on bark.
5. We talk. Being in nature inspires discussions about protecting and preserving the environment, as well as about the beauty and wonder of our world. It promotes the very healthy emotion of gratitude. Conversation flows and more is shared when it’s not an awkward parent-child, face-to-face inquiry.
6. My youngest lets her imagination run wild. She runs ahead, creating virtual games in the forest. Around every turn is another world. There are good guys and bad guys, avatars and kingdoms.
7. It’s free fun with the family.
Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way:
1. Everyone must be properly equipped starting with sturdy, rubber-soled shoes with hearty treads. Long sleeves and long pants are good protection, along with a hat. One backpack for the group is helpful, for water, snacks, tissues and a phone.
2. We all get sprayed down with a tick-repellant spray just before we go in to the forest. That includes the dog. After the hike and before getting in the ca, everyone gets a quick tick-check. I have a brush and some treats for the dog so she will stay still while I brush her, almost always finding a tick or two.
3. For a longer hike, especially one with a scenic vista or destination like a waterfall, have a picnic at the halfway point before turning around. It is a celebration of your success at reaching your goal and a great time to chat. Simple things like apples, oranges, bananas or granola bars do the trick, along with some water. Don’t forget to pack a bowl so your dog can have a drink, too.
4. Try not to have time constraints. Hiking is best without a schedule. The teens often want to stop to take artsy photos, and the little ones will want to explore and investigate things that catch their attention.
5. After a long hike, especially one that ends near sunset, the grown-ups in the crew should plan for a little après-hike. An adult beverage outside is a great way to end your adventure.
Time is of the essence in busy schedules, so I avoid driving long distances to hike. Here are a few favorite local spots:
1. Lackawanna State Park — We have two favorite trails. Heading to the park on Abington Road from Clarks Summit, take a left into the very first entrance to the park, South Shore Road. The road ends with a parking lot. There is a boat house and many colorful canoes and kayaks line the shore. Looking at the lake, head to your left to enter the trail. This trail ends up at the dam/waterfall. Our other spot is further along on Abington Road. Just when you are about to cross the overpass that dissects the lake, pull off to the right and park along the road. The trailhead is obvious. This section has beautiful viewing points for the lake.
2. Seven Tubs Nature Area — Take 81 South to 115 South in Wilkes-Barre. Go 1.5 miles to the entrance on the right. This is a gorgeous hike along a rushing river. Go on a weekday or in the off-season, as it can be crowded.
3. Little Rocky Glen — Take 6W/11N to Factoryville. Stay on Route 6 when they split. About 2 miles later, take a left onto State Route 2012. The trail will come up quickly on your right. This is a gorgeous spot with raging water and quiet pools. In the warm months, you may want to get wet. Beyond the water features, there is a short hike around a hillside meadow.
4. Lake Scranton — Take 81 South to Moosic Street/307 exit. Go left. Follow for 2 to 3 miles. There will be a parking lot on the right at the trail head. This is a beautiful lake and the trail goes all the way around it. This hike is a bit long for the little ones, taking up to two hours, depending on speed.
5. Dick & Nancy Eales Preserve/Moosic Mountain — Take 81 South to the Casey Highway/6. Take exit 1 and go left to follow Marshwood Road away from the industrial parks. In about 3 or 4 miles, you will see the sign and a parking lot on the left. This is an expansive hiking area with many trails and beautiful views.
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