“Don’t Let Grownups Tell You to Take the Safe Path”

The light was like autumn but the temperature was like summer as we headed through the meadow towards the trailhead.

This was our second time hiking from Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary to Wachusett Mountain. Two years ago, my son spent most of his time in a mei tai carrier on his dad’s front. Today we tackled the hike again, and even though he’s five now, I was unsure enough that my son would be able to hike the whole way that I stuffed the Ergo carrier in our backpack just to be safe.

But I shouldn’t have worried. My kids are, apparently, hiking superstars. Both the nine-year-old and the five-year-old hiked the entire 7.6 miles (plus a bit since we wandered around the summit trying to find some new signage on which one of my photos was supposed to appear).

My daughter was in high spirits the whole time, pointing out the lycopodia that were likely old enough to vote (as she put it), finding pine tree saplings that were the heights of each family member, and making impassioned speeches on behalf of nature and animals. My son joined in on most of the fun, pointing out when the moss on the rocks was especially soft and finding a new-to-us form of lycopodium. He didn’t whine until about the last mile and a half when the exhaustion really started getting to him. We never used the Ergo.

Just as we did last time, we followed a single trail with multiple names (Chapman, Dickens, and Harrington), which is typical of New England paths and roadways. Cut out the “continue on the same road with a different name” instructions and most step-by-step online directions here are only one or two steps long.

The Harrington portion of our particular trail was harrowing, essentially a half-mile-plus rocky scramble to the summit, complicated by my son’s insistence on taking the most difficult way, climbing over steep rocks even where there was an obvious and easy alternate path. On the way back, tired of our constant reminders to be careful, he even made up a song about his preference for the more challenging path. It went like this:

I love the dangerous path!

I love it!

I love it!

Don’t let grownups tell you to take the safe path if you love the dangerous path!

I love the dangerous path!

I love it!

I love it!

Something tells me I’d better keep a close eye on this one.

He fell seven times and got saved from an eighth fall because he was holding my hand at the time. It was a minor miracle that he didn’t shed any blood or sustain any major internal injuries.

Given our long-range goal to through-hike the Appalachian Trail, my spouse and I are heartened that our five-year-old can hike such a long distance, but if he sustains his one-fall-per-mile rate, we’re not sure he’s going to be able to make it 2,185 miles. Hopefully he will become more goat-like in the next few years because we all love hiking and are excited to start backpacking and getting more serious about preparing for a long, long hike.

2 Replies to ““Don’t Let Grownups Tell You to Take the Safe Path””

  1. Sounds like a great adventure that everyone enjoyed. I’m always very impressed when I read about your family’s hiking trips. Such a great way to spend time as a family and such a great thing to teach the kids to enjoy.


    1. To be honest, I’m not sure if we’re teaching them to enjoy hiking. We push them pretty hard, and I always worry we’re taking the fun out of it, but even after today’s hike, both said things like, “I like all of our hikes, but I LOVED our hike today.” It’s possible they’re more natural hikers (and campers) than their parents are, which works for me.


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