I’m need to find my next thing, (read sport or activity) to pick up in the outdoors.
Here’s the story:
I love hiking, and I have a family with two young kids who love to be together in the outdoors and explore. For us hiking is the perfect gateway drug into the great outdoors. Once you’re out of the car, got some good shoes and a backpack, you’re golden. You’re ready to explore and have your first adventure. It’s addicting. You want more.
But I’ve been doing the hiking thing now for a few years and I am hungry for what’s next.
I’ve climbed mountain peaks, in Summer and Winter. I’ve taken my kids on trails around the National Park Lodges of the Pacific Northwest. We’ve been to State Parks along beaches, in the woods and around lakes.
Last year we hiked through the Ape Caves at Mt. St. Helens, which was an incredible adventure, and deserves a post in itself.
When I don’t get to hike, I run. On the road. Early in the mornings and on trails whenever I can. I love trail running.
I am confidently not bored with hiking, or in extension running. But I got all the gear, know the trails around where I live and when I overdo it my body gets fatigued and hurts.
Well, partly I am telling myself all this, writing it down to digest and process, but I also think that there might be people in similar places in their lives. You might not come to the same conclusion or agree with everything I write down here, but sometimes hearing other people think helps you sort your brain and moves you forward. So, this is what this article is meant to do.
To put this all a bit more into perspective for you, here are a few parameters I am working with:
I have a tight budget, but I got all my basic gear and there’s no need to replace anything.
I have a family, thus limited time to explore further away, alone, on longer trips.
Car trips need to be worthwhile, my kids don’t really love to be pulled out of the car at every viewpoint, every 10 miles. Destinations need to be planned well.
I received my REI dividend in the mail and it’s burning a hole in my pocket.
With all this said up front, I’m going to let you in to my nerdy thought process and my fretting over difficult decisions and my playful theoretical mind games.
In my dreams I always start at the top:
In a world without limits, I’d do it all. Snowboarding, kayaking, ice-climbing, ultra-trail running, adventure travel, everything.
There’s really no activity in the outdoors that I don’t love doing. Well, aside from fishing and hunting, and I could probably live without base-jumping. But would totally try paragliding.
Since it’s not really realistic to accomplish all this in one lifetime, I start at some baseline questions:
What do I already do? What am I good at? What gear do I already have? What’s realistic for someone living in the Pacific Northwest? (Probably won’t need to invest in snorkeling gear, or water skis.)
How do you take Hiking to the next level?
When you have a family and limited time to go backcountry exploring?
After weighing all the options and many month of back and forth, I took all my possible activities, which I had narrowed down and put them in groups. (Nerd Alert!)
They don’t extend my base-activity ‘hiking’. They add something completely different by extending the season, or offering a complete new physical or mental dimension.
Snow sports like snow-showing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and skiing sound lovely and adding those would totally extend the season to a full year of activities, but snow sports are expensive, no matter how you slice it.
You can go snowboarding in the winter time when you can’t go hiking.
Biking, although a simple activity also fits in the replacement category, because you either hike or bike, you don’t do both together.
Kayaking is somewhat in a similar feel and spirit of hiking, but the cost of kayaks, storage, car rack and time investment makes it one of the most expensive activities I considered.
Are activities that extend the hiking activity, either by offering a great alternate workout, with a reasonable investment effort like swimming, or you extend your hike by bringing a tent and food and stay over night, you camp.
Another option is climbing. You hike until it gets too steep and you start climbing. Or you climb in a gym as a great alternate workout.
Travel would fit in nicely into extension category either, but travel is too varied to be considered for this thought exercise. Who doesn’t love to travel? But with a family of four, travel is another challenge in itself.
Are running and trail running.
Essentially the same activity, and I love doing it, but your body and mind needs variety otherwise you get hurt too easy.
Are things like photography or birding. Fine activities on the trail, but when you have kids they can be super distracting and expensive in time and money investment.
Writing can fit into the same category in the extent that writing can take a lot of time away from the family when you’re back home.
Yoga is not mentioned because I don’t consider stretching a sport or activity in itself, thank you very much. You may direct all hate mail to my Twitter account: @einmaleins.
Next, I weighted all those activities by how much I feel it costs to ‘buy in’ and start this activity for me and my family. This cost considers not just cash, but includes the cost of time, especially if it means time away from the kids.
On another axis I considered how much variety and ‘newness’ the activity will bring to my and my family. Variety and newness both in physical and mental variety. Do we learn something new, gain new skills, experience new adventures?
As I mentioned in the beginning, I am not disregarding or hating on any of the mentioned activities. Well, except yoga perhaps.
It has been many many moons ago, but in my younger years I’ve climbed and kayaked, I snowboarded, mountain-biked, and camped on multi-day hiking trips. I’ve experienced many of the activities in some form or another. Now I need to rediscover them with my family on a different continent in what feels like a completely new life.
This is not all 100% set in stone and I will revisit and reconsider, especially if we experience an actual Winter in coming years. I really want to take my kids snowboarding sometime soon.
But for now, and for this year’s REI dividends I am choosing climbing as the activity I want to explore for me and my kids.
The kids are excited, had a bit of experience at a friend’s birthday party.
The harnesses and climbing shoes are purchased, thank you REI dividend. We’ll begin in a climbing gym to get the basics down and extend the hang board we setup at our home. Then we’ll wait for the drier weather and the Summer sun.
I’ll need to read up on route finding, practice lead climbing, and learn a new rating scale.