Stephanie Harper and her husband James decided to move their blended family of six cross-country from the city life of California to the mountains of North Carolina. Their goal was to broaden their children's landscape for outdoor adventuring and instill their love of nature in them. The 2016 winners of the Children & Nature Network Vitamin N Challenge, they consistently inspire and amplify ideas for bringing more nature, or “Vitamin N," into their childrens' lives.
The Vitamin N Challenge is an initiative to encourage children and families to spend more time in Nature. It's a response to our diminishing regular interaction with the outdoors and issues associated with that decline which founder, Richard Louv has coined Nature Deficit Disorder.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Stephaine to hear a recent story of hiking with their kids:
With each changing season, I’m reminded of how fast my kids grow. Something about the transition from one season to the next makes me more aware of the physical changes that my kids are experiencing. When we hike together, their growth becomes especially apparent and our flexibility as parents shines through.
Our last hike was yet another test on just how flexible we can be. This time we only had our youngest, Poppy, with us. We planned on checking another waterfall off our bucket list. When we got to the start of our destination, we realized we were somewhere completely different than planned.
After looking around, we found a trailhead that wasn't in our plans and decided to do it anyways. About a mile into our hike, we realized there weren’t any kids on the trail. It was a beautiful trail that started to climb elevation. The leaves covered the ground and each step was an opportunity for Poppy to crunch the biggest leaf she could find. She would pick up any acorns hidden beneath the orange floor cover and pretend to leave “breadcrumbs” so we could find our way back. We would take special moments to stop and talk about acorn shapes, the smell of leaves, or take a break for a snack and water. Hiking with a toddler meant doing all the things.
The sound of water was roaring not far from where we were, maybe a ¼ mile away, and we stopped to ask a couple about the trail. Looking at their faces widen with uncertainty told me it was too ambitious for our little one and my stomach dropped with hopelessness. But then they lit up and said the waterfall and trail leading to it was more manageable than the whole loop. We headed in the general direction of the water’s noise.
The trail leading to the waterfall was overgrown and hard to even see. Absolutely covered with leaves, we took a chance on paying attention to the slope and followed it down. We reached a large tree with its roots exposed, the air becoming cooler, and before we could expel any joy, we were faced with a dark cave. Water dripped between the caves edges and splattered on the wet surface. Poppy shrieked with excitement but was hesitant to go in. We guided her and made an adventure out of it as she looked around curiously. Just down the way was our waterfall and we had it all to ourselves, no one in sight! We jumped rock to rock, explored the nooks, and even splashed a little.
We had experienced things not going as planned many times before with our older ones. Times that faced us with making decisions that steered us away from our comfort zone. The moments we cherish are the ones we don’t plan and that allow us to enjoy our environment as is. Whatever the season it is, we try to take the time we have and savor it because before too long the leaves will turn and children will grow along with them.
Wild Parenting is a blog series put together by contributing parents who understand the value that the outdoors can bring to their children’s lives. Whose mission is to explore the world with a spirit of adventure, together.
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