My parents forced me to hike as a kid. I had no choice. I had to walk up the mountain, or they'd leave me behind.
Their strategy might sound cruel but it worked. I've grown into an adult who loves spending weekends walking a trail, and now that I have my own kids I find myself bringing my own children--and using my parent's same no-nonsense approach. (It's frightening how we all turn into our parents.)
Our family spent last weekend hiking in California's Sierra Nevada mountains, and my husband and I brought our 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter on two four mile hikes. Our first hike started with a steep climb up a mountainside. It was a hot day, even at 9 a.m., and about 15 minutes into the hike my daughter started complaining.
"I'm hot!" "When will be there?" "I need a break!" Can we turn around?"
My husband and I both ignored her.
She eventually threw herself onto the ground and started crying. I actually felt badly for her and wanted to stop and console her but I just kept walking and turned the corner.
As soon as we were out of sight, she popped back up and ran after us. "Hey! Wait up!"
She never complained again, and we made it to a pretty, little lake where the kids dipped their feet in the water and cooled off.
The next day, we all happily hiked through fields of purple lupine to a vista point that offered sweeping views of Lake Tahoe. We even made it to a patch of snow where the kids had a snowball fight. They seemed to realize that making it to the top of the hill has its rewards.
Below is a slide show with pictures from our hikes.