You know a hike is going well when a nine-year-old boy turns to you in camp in the evening and announces, “I just realised, I haven’t complained once today.” Last weekend I took my two children for an overnight hike to South Cape Rivulet on Tasmania’s south coast. Near to the southernmost tip of Tasmania – and thus Australia – it’s part of the famed South Coast Track, though we were only walking the equivalent of the first or last day of that track. The longer version – a challenging 86-kilometre mud and beach slog – is something I’ve told them they might be ready for when they’re about 15 years of age. For now, we were just getting a taster. It was to be our first overnight hike together – the three of us – which is my way of saying, the first time I was prepared to carry two tents, and food for three, on my back. We drove to the southernmost road end in the country – Cockle Creek – and continued south on foot. Continue reading
My favourite young adventurer – aka my daughter – has made her first mark on the publishing world.
Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service has just produced a walking guide for children on the Overland Track, titled ‘My Overland Track Journey! For Young Adventurers’. It’s filled with track facts (poo and paw type stuff), field-guide material, challenges, diary pages and quizzes. It’s designed for kids to carry on the track, filling it out as the days roll out through the Tasmanian mountains.
Part of the research for the booklet was done by my then-nine-year-old daughter when we hiked the Overland Track together last year. At the end of each walking day, she’d pull her notebook from her backpack – like father, like daughter – and jot down ideas and thoughts for the booklet. She’d sit quietly in the huts or in our tent – stopping only to count the number of leeches crawling over the tent fly – and scribble suggestions she thought might appeal to other young walkers.
She proudly now has her own copy of the booklet, her ideas solidified in print, and is part-horrified, part-chuffed that it’s filled with photos of her along the track. In her own way, she’s left her indelible mark on the outdoors experience along Tasmania’s most famous walking trail.
And in a neat twist, one of the first kids who’ll get to sample her work is her younger brother, when he and I hike the Overland Track together this coming summer. This booklet, and her work, may just have made my life easier for a week.
For all the dozens of hiking trails and thousands of kilometres I’ve hiked, one experience stands high above all others. It was the week I spent walking Tasmania’s Overland Track in the company of my then nine-year-old daughter. It was probably the heaviest pack I’ve ever carried, and the slowest I’ve ever walked, but there was something entirely refreshing and revealing about seeing the world through young eyes again. Over the course of 65 kilometres and one week, I watched a child absorb the wilderness and come to feel at one with it. Continue reading
Children complicate adventure. Not so much because they might be inherently weaker or whinier, but because of their blind trust. Even at times of potential danger, they look at you with the surety that they’re safe inside some parental bubble, that nothing can harm them while dad or mum is in hand-holding reach. Take risks and you do so for two or three people but with the knowledge of only one. Such trust frightens me, especially since I know how fragile and misplaced it can be. Random chance doesn’t respect a child’s naivety.
Six years ago I took my family to Europe with the plan to cycle across the continent, beginning in Biarritz and meandering for five months towards Venice, towing our two young children in trailers behind the bikes. Two weeks into the trip – six years ago tomorrow – my then three-year-old son fractured his skull. Playing on a rotunda, following his older sister as she crept around its edge, he fell six feet onto a concrete path, landing on his head.
Those who’ve been following this blog until now will know the importance I place on introducing children to the outdoors, hopefully generating a love for the natural world and confidence in their own self-sufficiency.
Last week I spent four days hiking with my 10-year-old daughter, climbing to the summit of Frenchmans Cap, one of the most prominent mountains in Tasmania. I then took my eight-year-old son for a three-day hike around Freycinet Peninsula, circuiting its beaches and crossing the summit of Mt Graham. Continue reading
So much of my adventure focus in recent years has been about children. As my own two kids grow and form, I’ve tried to spark and encourage their inherent adventurous spirits. It’s a primary reason that I live where I live, in easy touch of mountains and water. Continue reading