Toddlers in Nature III: Hit the Road, Jack

by doodaddy on November 5, 2007

Grabbing Root

Grabbing Root

We hiked the trails up around our new house this weekend. Boobaby, coming off a string of linguistic feats that started with "Arf-Arf Poop" and most recently has her counting to 20, decided to call me on my terminology.

"Haik? Haik? Wok?" she asked.

"No, dear, we’re hiking now." I replied. "We walk to the park."

"Aiii wok," she insisted as she scrambled over tree roots and up the path.

I had no response. What’s the difference between a hike and a walk, anyway? I searched for an answer, and quickly discarded most possibilities.

  • Is it a hike when you’re immersed in nature? Nope, and especially not in San Francisco. We have some cool natural patches, but you’re going to run into structures or vehicles pretty much everywhere.
  • Is it a hike when there are trees everywhere? Nah, it’s a pretty green city — we’ve got some road that are as tree-lined as any hike, not to mention some treeless coastal hiking trails.

Finally, I pointed to the ground and said,

"See what we’re walking on? It’s rocks and dirt and leaves. That’s what makes it a hike."

"Aiii haik!" she repeated, finally convinced.

It struck me then that Boobaby and most of her friends hardly ever walk on anything that’s not flat, and mostly it’s prepared especially for them: carpet, lawns at home or in the park, that fancy recycled-rubber surfacing that most new playgrounds seem to have. On those rare occasions when the surface below Boo’s feet is more challenging — a sidewalk, say, or stairs — I carry her or watch like a hawk.

On the Edge

On the Edge

But hiking this weekend, she was on her own. We started on a soft trail with lots of leaf litter. A snap! By the top of the hill we were crossing ribbons of rocky chert, exposed on the bias so they weathered into angular ridges of just the right size to engulf a toddler’s foot and knock her off balance.

Gamely, bravely, Boo tiptoed over every treacherous rock, climbed every tree root with only minimal help from me or Working Mom. And it’s not like I taught her any hiking skills, either — I wouldn’t have thought to. Some innate part of her cued into the fact that the ground could no longer be trusted. She knew by instinct or learned quickly that when hiking, the substrate demands special care or it’ll jump up to knock you over. But far from being bothered by that, Boobaby seemed to assent to the deal, and even enjoyed the challenges offered by the various hilltop terrains.

Finally, after a couple of hours of clambering, we started back down.

"Did you like our hike today, Boo?" I asked.

Boo looked up at me with sleepy eyes. "No haik!" Oh, no, I thought. Not the hike-walk discussion again.

Alas, no. "Carry!" she said emphatically.

Being carried, of course, is the right way to end a hike or a walk. I scooped her up and we all headed back down to home, a warm drink, and a nap.

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tagged as in activities,nature ·

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Elaine Hooton November 5, 2007 at 7:25 pm

What a beautiful view. And a great shot with Boo looking at it. 🙂


Dawn November 5, 2007 at 7:59 pm

oh, that’s exactly how I need to end my hikes.


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