Hiking Up to a Waterfall {and how my cautionary tale turned sour}

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This year’s big family vacation just wrapped up.  During our Colorado portion of the vacation, we hiked up the side of a mountain near my Dad’s rustic cabin.  We hiked this same mountain 9 years ago when we only had 4 children.  This year, our numbers were doubled!

Hiking up to a Waterfall (with 8 kids!) & how my cautionary tale turned sour | RaisingAdventure.com

Many years, I take the older children hiking while my wife stays behind at the cabin with the younger crew, but we’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to do things with everyone and not leave anyone out if at all possible.  So, this year, we decided to try that waterfall hike again with all of us.

What an adventure!

The trail was narrow and steep in many places.  We carried the baby, and assigned each child a buddy.  We helped each other along the trail, pointing out places to avoid, trees to hang on to, wild berries to avoid and even some we could stop and eat!  (We’ll be going back next year to pick those plump, red raspberries for syrup!)

A few tips for a hike like this:

  1. Stick close together, but not so close you will all go down if one person slips a bit.
  2. At particularly rough spots,  have the children sit down, and help them one or two at a time.
  3. Use a pack like this one (affiliate link) or even a simple fabric baby carrier (my wife makes her own!) to carry the smallest children in; however, if you feel unsteady, take the child out of the pack and pass the baby off until you get to a stable position and can then reach back down (or up) for baby.
  4. Celebrate at the top!  Bring a granola bar or trail mix snack to share, take a photo like the one we took (shown above), or tell a story.

But be careful what story you tell…

Hiking up to a Waterfall (and how my cautionary tale went sour) | RaisingAdventure.com

See the look on my daughter’s face?

I did that.  I told the children to avoid drinking the water because of something called Beaver Fever (Giardia).  The children listened intently as I told them how we filter and sanitize water sources when we are in the wild in case the water contains a bad bacteria.  But, then I took it one step further and gave them a real life example…

Years ago, there was a man traveling down a stream in a boat.  He was careful to treat all his drinking water, but as the boat bounced along, some of the water sprayed up on to him.  He would wipe his face, and inadvertently, get some on his lips and into his mouth.  Later on, he came down with Beaver Fever, and became very ill.

My children’s eyes got big and round.  They began asking question after question about who this man was, did he die, and were we going to die?!  When my 4 year old asked the question, “How did he get his big boat down this little stream?” I realized they thought this story happened right where we were standing – at the top of a small waterfall leading to an even smaller stream!

They could think of nothing else until I finally carefully went over the story again, making certain I told them that Giardia is rare in the U.S., and that the man was nowhere near the spot we were standing, and that this story took place years ago!  Phew!

They finally calmed down, but I learned a valuable lesson…

Cautionary tales and kids don’t always mix.  I was trying to drive home a point, but I think they would have gotten the message without the fear-inducing story.

I also learned that cautionary tales need to be clear.  I needed to be clear about when, where, and who this story was about, reassuring them that the story was a worst-case-scenario, and not their inevitable reality.

Moment of utter fear aside, the trek was a fun one!  My wife was thrilled to get to hike with us.  My older kids were full of stories from the previous hike 9 years ago, and my younger children were pleased to see a waterfall up close and personal!  It was a super fun day for everyone!

3 thoughts on “Hiking Up to a Waterfall {and how my cautionary tale turned sour}

  1. Lisa

    Thanks for sharing, what a great adventure you shared! I especially liked your tips for hiking with a baby, using the pack, and passing baby off when feet aren’t sure!

    Quick question for you–I’ve been trying to subscribe to get your posts by email, but there doesn’t appear to be a submit button next to the box where I enter my email address.

    I’ve tried on my iPhone, on Mozilla, and just now on IE, thinking maybe it was my browser, but none of them seemed to work.

    If you could help me out, I’d really appreciate it.

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