As the Barracuda encroaches on 6 he is beginning to have greater endurance. This means we can actively do more "stuff" allowing Jules and I to get a little more of our pre-child lives back. We do not wish to throw our 5 and a half year old into the deep end just yet, so day hiking is all we are taking on. This summer will be our first backpacking endeavor with The Barracuda when we stay 7-10 days in the Cahutta Wilderness. Currently, while The Barracuda is training for being able to walk 10 mile days with a backpack on, Jules and I are trying to get the kinks worked out of how our own personal hiking patterns will meld into one cohesive family hiking style.
The Barracuda is not sporting his actual Osprey Jib backpack. It would be way overkill. For day hikes he is packing his rad, little, garage sale, 1970's, fab-tacular rainbow backpack. Not only is it hard to load too full, but it also has much smaller straps and torso making it specifically for a child. With the very important job of snack carrier, The Barracuda carries a whopping 2.5 lbs enabling him to go bounding ahead of Jules and I on most any trail.
All water, cell phones, sweatshirts, and other necessities are placed in the family pack that Jules or I wear.
Happily, the beauty of nature isn't lost on our son. He keeps a pretty steady pace, but always loves to stop and look at beetles, plants, flowers, rocks, mushrooms, sticks, leaves, animals, on and on and on. He is also quite fond of the sounds nature makes and is ever alert for water, birds, chattering squirrels, the wind, on and on and on. This admiration for nature used to drive both Jules and I crazy due to causing even short jaunts to take at least an hour. By now, The Barracuda has figured out how to both look and be enamored while still moving. If a view is truly spectacular he will stop and stare from ahead of Jules and I, calling back "Hey guys! You gotta see this!" Thankfully by enduring the exceptionally-long, short hikes when he was 2 and a half we can now actively hike. It is rather wonderful for both Jules and I to realize that his appreciation spans further than a love of sticks and rocks.
Sticks and rocks are still of high importance. They are actively his favorite part of all hiking, especially when water is concerned. Most all hikes we have taken focus around water. It means that there is a definite destination which is normally quite fun and often showy. Towering water and large pools to splash around in make for quite a reason to keep walking until we get there. Skipping rocks has also become important now that The Barracuda is getting older. Much time has been spent with Jules attempting to get just the right technique. Pooh sticks (stick races named famously from the children's classic Winnie the Pooh) are a favorite game to play as well. Sticks are chosen for various characteristics (short sticks go fastest, wide sticks are more stable, long tin sticks can stretch past the finish line first) and we race them down the river to see who wins.
As much as hiking is a spiritual and physical exercise for our as a family, it is also important science curriculum at work. The Barracuda, being homeschooled, has a different sense of school than most kids. There are no breaks and there are no classrooms. We learn just about everywhere we go and especially on hikes. Jules knows much more about climbing and topographical maps. I am more well versed in flora, fauna, and rock formations. Important emphasis is placed on the idea of how small we are, how interconnected our world is, and the value of discussing these concepts with each other.
The time of year for us to actively be outside is a welcomed event in our house. The rainy season is so wet here that hiking becomes so dangerous it is rather stupid. As much as we want The Barracuda to enjoy being outside, we want him to realize some ventures are not safe. Extremely slick rocks, inches of mud, and large, steep cliff faces are not a good combination. But man, all that rain sure makes for one heck of a view when the weather dries out.
The season is definitely worth the wait!