At first glance, it seems that kids are natural adventurers, but so many of our modern adventures entail adult-oriented elements like goals and schedules that seem, at first glance, to be incompatible with childhood. To get a bit of insight into how kids these days like adventure vacations, I tracked down Lyle Grisedale, a CMH summer guide who began taking people into the mountains in 1961 and has been doing it ever since. I figured if anybody knows about families having adventures together in the mountains, it is Lyle.
TD: First of all, how do kids do on adventure vacations?
LG: Kids do very well on mountain adventures. Kids from city environments are usually completely blown away by the experience. Kids from rural environments may have a better idea of what the mountain environment is like, but they too are really excited about mountain adventures. Of course the helicopter is the icing on the cake, I have yet to meet a kid who is not excited by a helicopter ride.
TD: What kinds of things can parents do before a mountain adventue to make sure everyone has fun?
LG: The best pre-trip thing a parent can do is to get the kids away from computer and TV and out walking, thus their feet and minds are toughened up a bit. Most kids use backpacks for school these days so carrying their lunch and an extra sweater is easy for them. However, if they don't use a backpack for school it might be a good idea to get one and have the kids wear it while walking around town just to get used to the way it feels.
TD: What kinds of tricks do you use to get kids into the mountain experience?
LG: Usually tricks are not required but sometimes they are useful, especially with younger kids who tend to have shorter attention spans. I have many games up my sleeve for these moments. Most kids are enthusiastic about learning about nature so I always incorporate teaching opportunities into the adventure. Stopping to investigate animal tracks, bear digs, identifying flowers and maybe sampling edible plants is just enough of a diversion to keep the kids enthusiastic about exploring the next ridge. One of my favourite tricks involves dental floss. When the horse flies are bugging us we'll catch a few and slip a little leash around their heads. Then each kid can have their own personal pet horse fly on a leash.
TD: If a family has never done any kind of outdoor adventure together before, is a CMH Family Adventure a good first step?
LG: A CMH Family Adventure is a great way to start them on a healthy and educational experience that can lead to a lifetime of fitness and learning. Mother Nature has the best classroom in the world and exploring this classroom is both mentally and physically rewarding. I'd say everyone should have a mountain experience, and heli-hiking and the rest of our summer adventures are the most comfortable way to get out there.
TD: What is your favourite part of guiding CMH Summer Adventures?
LG: One of the biggest thrills for me is seeing how blown away both parents and kids are on their first experience in the mountains. It’s not uncommon for our guests to have tears in their eyes when it comes time to go back to the real world.
I am an avid educator and it is very gratifying to expose people to the intricacies of the mountain environment. Of course meeting new people and having fun with them in the mountains is wonderful, I have good friends all over the world as a result of taking people into the mountains and working for CMH. Being a guide is the best job in the world!
These days Lyle guides summer wilderness adventures in both the CMH Bobbie Burns and CMH Bugaboos, but his experiences include most of the mountain ranges in western Canada including Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Glacier, Mt. Revelstoke and Waterton National Parks. He's not the only one who believes kids need time outdoors - check out this writeup on Nature Deficit Disorder.