It’s been a few years since we’ve climbed Jockey Cap in Fryeburg. It was a favorite when the girls were little that had all the fixings for kid-friendly fun — from a small cave to explore to an interesting model map of the surrounding mountains at the top. And although this hike seemed like scaling a big mountain when the kids were 6 and 7 years old, now that they are 15 and 16, they get the reality of it. Jockey Cap is basically a 600-foot boulder that takes an adult of average fitness about 10 minutes to climb. But the view can’t be beat for the effort.
With Jockey Cap’s circular stone monument with a 360-degree sculpture of the surrounding mountains and corresponding identifying labels, I thought this trip would be a great way to start planning our spring and summer hiking adventures. We brought along our AMC White Mountains Guide so we could figure out elevation gain for each of the mountains around us and see what appealed to each of us.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from hiking with kids — from preschoolers to teens — it has been to offer an opportunity for everyone in the family to have a say in choosing trails. It doesn’t matter if the kids like the name of the mountain (I remember the appeal of The Eyebrow in Grafton Notch a while back), or simply the look of a mountain. It is the ownership that comes from helping to make a decision that makes the trek more enjoyable for all. When everyone wants to be on the trail, it is a whole lot more fun (especially for mom and dad).
The girls and I have a plan this year to summit Mt. Washington in September. As we train for this big adventure — which will likely involve climbing one or two big mountains each month — we will all be making decisions on where to hike and what we will bring with us.
It should also be noted that the second most important decision to involve your kids in before a hike is … choosing a snack. This can make or break the day. Trust me, it is worth the planning and extra stop at the market to ensure all snack preferences are indulged when hiking a mountain of any elevation gain to keep up the motivation when the trail gets tough. This has worked for all the kids I’ve taken hiking. (And I admit a bit of candy has helped me find that little extra oomph to scale a mountain or two myself!)
But there is a reality that mountain hiking can be a humbling experience. Sometimes plans have to be adjusted. I learned this last summer just before our hike on Mt. Lafayette in Franconia Notch. It wasn’t the kids that put a stressor on our plans. It was my own visit to the emergency room with an injury two days before that scheduled trip. I chatted up the doctor, who happened to be an avid hiker, and decided I could manage the hike with some additional planning and a much slower pace. So although I am cautiously optimistic, life could get in the way of our plans this year.
But for the moment, our goal of hiking up the 6,288 feet of Mt. Washington is something my teens are excited about. And we’re training together, which ensures we’ll be spending more time with each other this spring and summer. This quick hike up Jockey Cap — to revisit a fun hiking destination and do some research — was just the tip of the iceberg for us. It really was a great way to spend a winter afternoon soaking in the mountain views and planning our next adventure.
Your own family’s hiking goals might not be so ambitious. But there is a lot to be said for finding a common goal and making time to accomplish it, together.
Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 791-6334 or at: