At Kaweah Gap, Sequoia National Park, California.

Why I Endanger My Kids in the Wilderness (Even Though It Scares the Sh!t Out of Me)

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, International Adventures, National Park Adventures, Paddling, Skiing   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   12 Comments

By Michael Lanza

A glacial wind pours through a snowy pass in the remote mountains of Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park. Virtually devoid of vegetation, the terrain offers no refuge from the relentless current of frigid air. Some of the troops are hungry, a little tired, and grumpy; mutiny doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility, so I don’t want to add “cold” to their growing list of grievances. I coax everyone to push on just a little farther, down out of the wind to a sun-splashed, snow-free area of dirt and rocks for lunch.

But I don’t like the looks of the steep slope we have to descend.

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12 Responses to Why I Endanger My Kids in the Wilderness (Even Though It Scares the Sh!t Out of Me)

  1. Karla Sanders   |  February 27, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    This is such a great post, and very much needed. I am not a parent, but I feel lucky I have parents who took me on frequent camping and hiking trips when I was a kid (sometimes forced, but with love). Those experiences led me to study Environmental Studies in college, and a desire to do more now as an adult. I read “Last Child in the Woods” for a few years ago and feel you have described a shorter version of what I wish all parents would read. It has never been more important, and I thank you for writing about this.

    • MichaelALanza   |  March 2, 2017 at 8:14 am

      Thanks, Karla. You were indeed a fortunate person to have had parents who introduced you to the outdoors.

  2. Lynn   |  February 22, 2017 at 6:39 am

    Loved this. I don’t think I’ve ever taken my kids hiking/camping/outdoors without a scrape or bruise to show for it. (My 4 yo is clumsy.) I do try to keep them safe, of course. But honestly, the most dangerous thing we do is get in a car everyday. Statistically, if something kills them young, it will be a car accident, not a hiking accident.

    • Michael Lanza   |  February 22, 2017 at 7:25 am

      Thanks, Lynn. I completely agree.

  3. Victoria   |  February 16, 2017 at 11:52 am

    One of my favorite posts from you! Thank you for the read! I hope I’m as successful as you are with this when I have my own kids.

    • MichaelALanza   |  February 16, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      Thanks, Victoria. If you care about this issue as much as it sounds like you do, I’m sure you will be successful.

  4. Dave Neumann   |  February 7, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    I always read your posts and I was most impressed with your recent post on taking young people into the wilderness. You have eloquently written about a growing problem which I have seen develop for many years. I retired after a 35-year career as an educator in Alaska and Idaho. I think you have “hit the nail on the head” and done an excellent job synthesizing the research in a well-written article.

    I have been a volunteer leader with the Sierra Club National Outings program since 1974. I led national Junior Knapsack trips (ages 12-15) during the 1970’s and 1980’s before taking a break to raise my own kids. We used to offer 15 trips per summer which were always full. The last time the Sierra Club ran such a trip was over 10 years ago. When I returned to leading for the Outings program several years ago, I made it my mission to re-establish these youth outings. I am working hard to offer national teen backpack trips beginning in the summer of 2018. As you can guess, the Sierra Club outings focus, not just on having fun and experiencing a wilderness trip, but also our conservation message, which, as you mentioned in your article, is going to help build supporters for wilderness and conservation in the future.

    I am putting the pieces in place to lead these outings again. I work with the National Outings Chair, my subcommittee chairs, the safety program manager and am also trying to work closely with our youth program already in place: Inspiring Connections Outdoors. This will happen and I have the support of the Outings Department of the Club, but I think I am going to have to sell these trips to parents and I think your article will help me in these efforts.

    On a side note. I taught in Hailey, Idaho for 16 years and raised three children who were able to benefit from backpacking, whitewater rafting, hiking and skiing as they grew up. They had similar experiences to your children and I wouldn’t have traded our experiences for anything. I watched my 8 year old son get washed out of a drift boat in the middle of a rapid on the Main Salmon. He did what I had taught him to do and was fine, but I understand the emotions you discussed in your article.

    • MichaelALanza   |  February 8, 2017 at 5:52 am

      Thanks for the nice words and for sharing your story with us, David. And good on you for leading and re-establishing the Sierra Club youth outings. Programs like that are desperately needed. I hope they’re a great success. Please do keep in touch.

  5. Wil   |  February 6, 2017 at 6:41 am

    Nicely said Michael. I couldn’t agree more.

  6. J   |  February 6, 2017 at 5:38 am

    You’re definitely not mentally unbalanced. Sadly, what used to be considered normal is now the increasingly lonely voice of reason.

    • MichaelALanza   |  February 6, 2017 at 6:56 am

      Yes, J, I’m afraid that’s true.

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