COLD AND UNCERTAIN
On August 11th, 2021 we set out on a family hike down the Daniel Ridge Falls trail in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. It was a 5-mile loop. If you went right the big waterfall was half a mile up the road. We decided on the left.
We knew if we went to the falls first the kids wouldn’t want to continue through the rest of the trail. We went left so you had to earn the privilege and in reality appreciate the beauty of the waterfall.
Adventure Note 1: My father joined us on this trip and here is something he taught me explicitly and empirically on our many adventures growing up. The long way often reveals more of you and creates more opportunities for adventure. This adventure definitely fits the bill.
We weren’t half a mile up the trail and the kids were starting to whine and ask for snacks and water. We’ve done this enough times to know what’s really going on, they were losing focus and getting uncomfortable. So we told them we were stopping at the mile mark. I had my running GPS watch which gave me a good idea of what mile we were at. They whined a bit more but marched along. When we got to the mile mark I gave everyone their water and snacks. We stopped for 7-10 minutes then continued.
Adventure Note 2: When hiking with kids meet them where they are physically and emotionally on the trail. Hiking can be tough especially when you are climbing most of the hike and you’re a flatlander. Being that we’ve done this enough times with our kids (12, 10, and 7) We knew we could push them a bit more. Caution, pushing too hard could have a negative outcome.
We continued the hike up the mountain identifying trees along the way and looking at the gorgeous landscape around. My father and my eldest were really diving deep into understanding the type of trees based on the leaves, bark, shape, and nuts or seeds on the ground.
Adventure Note 3: Connecting and learning about nature is very rewarding. The more you understand what nature is doing the more you appreciate the miracle it truly is and the more you and your kids can appreciate it. There is a certain level of pride and confidence you gain from knowing your surroundings.
We had been hiking for about 2 and a quarter hours when the sky cracked with thunder and rain began to fall. At first, we didn’t get wet because the tree canopy seemed to keep out the rain but after about 15 minutes the canopy was saturated and it really started coming down. We were soaked. Our cold bodies shivered as we cautiously hiked down the rocky and root-filled trail that was now a highway for water flow. We did not have the proper clothes for the rain.
Adventure Note 4: I’m sure that you’ve heard the saying, “expect the unexpected”. It is a funny saying because if you knew the unexpected then how can it be unexpected. Here is what I’ve interpreted that saying to mean for me: know that on an adventure things won’t go as you planned most of the time so be flexible enough to pivot and be prepared enough to stay safe.
The kids and my father would go ahead running down the trail while I stayed walk with my wife. It seemed the downhill was taking a toll on her knees. The kids started to get a bit whiny because of the cold and scared because of the thunder. My father shifted their focus to singing. They started singing together and soon after they were all laughing and playing again.
Adventure Note 5: During tough times, mentally especially, find ways to shift your attention to something else. Where the focus goes the mind goes. When the kids were focused on the cold and the thunder they were miserable and afraid. When their focus was on singing silly songs they began laughing and enjoying themselves in the same situation.
Eventually, we made it to the waterfall but when we got there no one was that interested in it. After all that we had experienced on our hike to the waterfall, it was anticlimactic. Plus we were cold too. I am glad we did find the waterfall because it served to bring closure to our adventure. After a slight wrong turn, we found our way and made it back to the car in 3 hours. We were all looking forward to changing our clothes and getting in the warm car.
Adventure Note 6: As a rule of thumb I have waiting for me in my car post-adventure the following:
- 1-2 gallons of water to shower with.
- A towel to dry off and change clothes
- A clean set of clothes
- A clean set of shoes or sandals
- Water and snacks
After a long adventure, it feels nice to hit the reset button before jumping in your car and going home.
My father taught me to always have a clean set of clothes in the car post-adventure. It is the perfect transition out of your adventure.
This brought back lots of specific memories of moments out on the trail with my kiddos. You have great tips here whetting the next generation’s appetite for an adventurous life. Your post-adventure reset list adds an important layer. I’ll add some of these to my own prep/packing list. Thanks.