Backpacking or canoeing with your child, teen or young adult can be a very rewarding experience. Most parents who trek the backcountry with their offspring on a Big Wild Adventure share with us, at trips’ end, that it was one of the best weeks ever spent with their young. We can’t take credit for the transformation families feel while roaming across the natural landscape or paddling downriver. We simply share the spectacular setting, equipment, food, safety and skills and then sit back and watch while wild nature works her magic.
Wilderness is where and how humans evolved. The skills used in the wilds are authentic and necessary. Many suburban and urban families have lost the opportunity for involvement with nature due to loss of access to native landscapes close to home. Diminished true wildness in our culture diminishes us as individuals. And it deprives our communities of healthy, creative citizens shaped by the complete habitats that help to continue our evolution.
Choosing a vacation that leaves behind the hectic pace created by endless technological distraction is a good start towards engaging appropriately with our biological destiny. In the wilderness there’s no competition with obligations to formal learning, work, friends or scheduled sports. This leaves time for discovering together the challenges and joys inherent to outdoor adventure.
Of course, unless wilderness remains truly wild as mandated by the Wilderness Act of 1964, your wild vacation will be compromised and of diminished quality. The Missoula, Montana-based organization Wilderness Watch, is the only organization that is entirely focused on keeping wilderness wild, and they deserve your support.
If this is your first wild adventure together, your individual development of competence and confidence will occur on more of an equal footing (always empowering to the youth) than happens in more “civilized” endeavors. It is the perfect time to demonstrate and appreciate each others’ resourcefulness, honoring the qualities that make people unique. Most parents on our trips are impressed by the resiliency and independence of their kids in the wild.
Depending on your child’s age and physical abilities, our trips are designed to foster affinity of place through appropriate interaction. Whether it is an established base camp with easy day hiking in Yellowstone for the younger set, or a physically challenging Utah backcountry trek across various kinds of terrain for the young adult, we have time to enjoy our surroundings. Time to stare with awe and wonder at native wildlife, watch the clouds roll by, sit by a gurgling stream, giggle in the tent, or sleep together under the stars (oh, did you see that one?!). Or share a brilliant sunset or serene moonrise, listen to an elk bugle or wolf howl, eat huckleberries along the trail, gulp clear ice cold water from the stream, relax around the campfire — these are priceless memories, never forgotten.
In the process you have engaged your body, mind and soul. By the end of the trip, you’ve reflected and reaffirmed what you intrinsically knew all along: the essential self-awareness that you and your kids were born to be wild.