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Teach Your Children Well...When it Comes to Hiking in National Parks And Elsewhere Outdoors


Visit and learn how your children can become "Certified Good Hikers."

How many of us take it for granted that kids know how to stay safe when hiking and how to tread lightly on the landscape? When Catherine Dold's two nieces came to visit for a stay in the Rockies, she wanted to ensure their safety, and so she created a Certified Good Hiker Kit.

"They'd never been hiking before, and I wanted them to be safe. Unfortunately, people get lost all the time in the Rockies. And as a Forest Service volunteer patrolling Colorado wilderness areas, I’d seen scores of adults venture into the woods completely unprepared," explains Ms. Dold. "I wanted to teach my nieces hiking basics, but I didn’t want to scare the heck out of them! So I turned it into a game. They loved it, and best of all, they knew what to do on our first hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Download the 8-page pdf ($4.95) and you'll been able to teach youngsters trail safety and etiquette with a fill-in-the-blanks “class” on hiking basics and trail manners: what to bring, why it’s important to stay with your group (and what to do if you get separated), and why you shouldn’t feed those cute animals, said Ms. Dold.

Questions that need to be completed involve how to be prepared for venturing outdoors, how to stay safe outdoors, and how to treat the environment. To support these questions, Ms. Dold not only supplies the correct answers but explains why they're the correct answers.

Kids fill in the missing words on their two-page worksheets, making pledges such as “I will always bring extra water,” “I won’t shout on the trail because it could scare the animals,” and “I will never, ever litter.” Each child is then declared a Certified Good Hiker, and awarded a certificate, which is included in the download. Also included is a guide for adults.

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We need an adult version and it should be required reading.

Great idea! Last summer, our 2 oldest grand-daughters along with our daughter and son-in-law, went on a vacation to Yellowstone with us. It was a first for the girlies as well as our son-in-law. For their birthdays that year, my husband and I had gotten them hydration packs and a whistle to clip onto it. They were so excited and asked if they needed their packs every time we got out of our cars. Even if it was a short walk to view something they brought them.

I showed them the things that I keep in my Camelbak and we had a talk about ettiquette while hiking and the importance of staying on trail. I also had to explain why we don't throw rocks even though every kid on the planet loves to throw rocks. They did great on an easy 5 mile hike and I do believe they are hikers in the making! I know they had a great time even though there was a lesson in reverence and respect in there!

I agree with Carl, it should be required for adults as well! The one consolation I have found that when we get into the back country most of those hikers are serious ones and conduct themselves accordingly. It's the "boardwalk walkers" that tend to be more disrespectful.

This kit is complete. Really good deal. Makes going outdoors fun because it's more than an adventure; it's a skill.

Carl and Connie, you've figured out the secret: the adult's guide included in the Certified Good Hiker Kit is intended to educate the adults as well as the kids. Glad to hear you like the GoodHiker idea! Cathy

A few years back, I interviewed rangers and Search & Rescue professionals all over the country for a hiking safety program I gave on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I asked for just 3 things bring/do, but the best I could narrow the suggestions down to was "12 Steps" and "12 Things to Bring." I condensed these to fit on a credit card-sized paper, and told my audience to keep in wallet, their kids' backpack and a pre-ready family pack, or hook to key chain.

I'll copy the card info here and would be happy to provide the presentation information that went with it, plus the word document so you can make your own walled/backpack cards, free for the asking. (Perhaps Kurt could run it as an article and the card as a pdf that people could print, laminate, keep. )

Also, the Association of National Park Rangers sells a dvd "Lost but Found, Safe and Sound" which all parents, grandparents, teachers should get and use with their kids. Folks should also consider buying this and donating it to every school and library in your area.

I also stressed that since you never know when you are going to get hurt (or worse), and people need to know when and where to look for you, that they should get in habit of always telling someone where they are going and when they'll be back, whether it be a trip to a park or to the grocery. I myself leave a note in my car or tent when I hike, because I know rangers will be looking if either is left too long unattended.

I also explained that sociologists have found that if you promise someone you'll do something, most people keep that promise, so I'd make my audience members promise each other right then and there to always tell someone where going/when back. If parents practice this and other hiking safety skills with their kids every time they go somewhere, by the time they are able to go places alone, then it will be engrained, and everyone will rest easier.

12 Steps to a Better Hike

1. Know what to expect—of terrain, weather, and of each person in group
2. Dress BRIGHTLY & for conditions (summer—loose cotton; wet-synthetics; cold—layers; ALWAYS bring hat; wear good socks & shoes)
3. Bring the 12 Essentials
4. ALWAYS Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back—
Tell family, rangers, leave note in car or at campsite
5. Have a Positive Attitude (this is 80% of survival in an emergency situation)
7. Don’t push yourself/others
8. Avoid bears (make noise while walking; back away; NEVER run)
& other dangers (don’t touch any trash, don’t go near crop fields, “leaves of 3, let it be”)
9. Take cover in storms—avoid open areas, single trees, water, depressions, shallow overhangs, look for uniform tree cover; make a fire/lean-to before it gets too cold/dark or you get too tired
10. Avoid/treat hiking illnesses:
heat exhaustion--caused by overheating and dehydration; signs are headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, but especially, cold clammy skin & excessive sweating; treat with rest, drking water, wetting clothes/head
heat stroke—same as heat exhaustion only hot, dry skin & LIFE THREATENING—call 911
hypothermia—caused by wet and cold; treat by eating anything, drinking warm drinks, DRY layers of clothes, skin-to-skin contact if really serious
11. If Lost: DON’T PANIC!!! THINK: 1. Safety 2. Shelter 3. Signal
Universal signal for distress: things in 3’s (triangle, 3 rocks, etc.)
Adults—try to re-orient with map; don’t wander trying to get cell phone signal
12. Have Fun!!

12 Things to Bring (in a bright colored backpack—if possible, keep one always packed & ready)
1. Map
2. Water (enough for all)
3. High energy snacks
4. First Aid kit, booklet, medicines (bring at least 24 hr supply)
5. Rain ponchos/garbage bags
6. Hat and/or bright bandana
7. Matches (water proof)
8. Flashlight (fresh batteries/bulb)
9. Communication device— whistle is a MUST; radio; cell phone (don’t rely on);
mirror if in very open areas like out west
10. Pocket Knife
11. Other People (3 total; if don’t have three, make sure you discuss a plan of what to do if one gets hurt or sick)
12. Common Sense/Positive Attitude--MOST important
Other items (sometimes essential, or essential for some people): watch; sun protection; extra shirt; gloves; socks; water purifier; lighter; compass; gps; mirror; duct tape; space blanket; extra batteries, toilet paper

Carol Love
Raleigh NC

I agree with you. Kids will be a good hiker or camper as long as they are taught the basics and how to be safe at campground. I believe that teaching them the proper way of survival will protect them during outdoor activities such as camping.

It is always a lot of fun watching kids grow-up with an appreciation for the outdoors. Hiking with the kids is a great activity to nurture that! So, whenever we have free time, hiking or camping is always the best family bonding.

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