New Series: Hiking with Children

by CMC member Jason Kolaczkowski

Introduction

After climbing Denali I now shift my attention to something smaller scale, but infinitely more important.

It’s small: just local hikes, probably often times not even getting outside of the Denver/Metro area. Although, we’re sure to progress to longer hikes that are further afield.

But it’s important: exposing our kids to the joy of the outdoors.

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Here is some background, for those of you who don’t know. I recently got back from leading an unguided expedition up Denali (20,320’… or is it 20,310’ now) in Alaska. Six of us took the non-standard Upper West Rib route. Preparation for this climb had been the focus of my outdoors and climbing experience through two knee injuries and 2.5 years of physical training and logistical planning.

More significantly my wife, Kristina, and I are new parents. We have 9 month old identical twin boys, Connor and Kade. They happened naturally, so were a surprise at our first ultrasound. And I, who had a harder time coming to grips with becoming a parent at all, took the news of there being two of them a bit more in stride than my wife did (who, not surprisingly was more adjusted to the overall pregnancy than was I). This probably had everything to do with my incredibly flexible nature and easy-going attitude and nothing to do with the fact that I didn’t have to physically carry and grow these two kids inside of my body.

Being twins, not surprisingly they came prematurely, but they came early even for twins: at 32 and ½ weeks. So we spent a month with them in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in downtown Denver. This was an incredibly hard and yet rewarding stop in our journey and probably a fair precursor of the ups and downs of the life-long journey to come.

So now, besides the obvious wishes of health, happiness, love, an education, etc. which we hope to help make a reality for our children, Kristina and I have another wish: that our children grow to appreciate nature, find value in “slowing down” one’s life, and discover the connectedness that comes from the grand vistas one can see in the high country, which seem to make you feel insignificant while somehow bringing you into concert with all of us other “insignificant” beings.

My wife and I happen to be alpine climbers. We’ve climbed most of Colorado’s 14ers together, many 13ers, glaciated Mount Rainier in Washington, and even have been together up to the summit of Cotopaxi in Ecuador, which stands over 19,000 feet. (I guess not too many people will be doing that again for awhile.)

I guess if we are honest with ourselves, we’d probably recognize that we hope the boys find similar joy in alpine climbing. It would allow us to experience each other’s company in a whole different way. That being said, that hope falls dramatically short of the more simple desire to have our children find their own pleasures in the outdoors, whatever those pleasures may be.
With the boys now at 9 months old, we’ve started that journey of helping them experience the outdoors.

We certainly don’t expect to be offering parenting advice. Similarly, we don’t expect to be relating some definitive expose on raising friends of nature. But what we do hope to do is share honestly and openly the struggles that come with trying to help shape lives in ways that aren’t always easily understood or clear when you simultaneously want these two bright souls to shape their own lives.

In the future, you’ll see material from both me and Kristina, as we have similar, but nonetheless differing perspectives on all of this. We hope you enjoy.

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