Hiking a Peak a Week for a Year With Three Kids Under Age 8 Sounds Surprisingly Great

The following was produced with our friends at L.L.Bean, who believe that, on the inside, we’re all outsiders.

Ultramarathon runners and smell-the-roses strollers hit the trail for the same reason: Being outdoors energizes them. In fact, being outdoors energizes everyone–including parents of growing kids. If anything, children stand to benefit more from the restorative power of fresh air than anyone else. By going outside, they not only get the benefits of time spent in nature, they are also trained to use the one coping mechanism that always works.

That’s part of the reason Facebook Director of People Growth Brynn Harrington and her husband, Sean, issued an audacious challenge to themselves and their three children, Finn, Zoe, and Maeve (now nine, six, and almost two, respectively): summit a peak a week together in 2016. Trail by trail, the Harringtons realized that just by being outside, they were building a foundation of skills and confidence that will help their kids navigate even more complex challenges in the years ahead.

Not every family will log 52 hikes in a year but, as always, the lessons are in the journey, not on the mountaintop (although you can’t beat the view). Fatherly recently asked Brynn for advice for parents who want to get their kids outside. What followed was a conversation about appreciating nature, forming habits, overcoming obstacles (and tantrums), and time travel.

Was it always your intention to include your children in your outdoor activities?

We’ve both always loved being outside, and when we first had kids, we were terrified we’d lose that part of ourselves. We religiously each trained alone and signed up for races alone until one day we realized although we were spending time doing things we loved, we weren’t with the people we loved most. It became an intention to figure out how being outdoors could work for us, as a family. We decided the only way was to integrate our kids into the activities we loved. We started by traveling. We trekked around French vineyards with our first son, Finn, at six weeks. We figured, if we don’t bring our kids we can’t do this stuff! And as we did it more and more, we realized we could make it work without being complicated.

How did the 52 hikes idea come about?

One day we were hiking with two of our kids and Finn, who was seven, started asking endless questions about time travel. Could he build a time machine? The speed of light. How might it all work? Not your everyday conversation. He was deeply excited and inspired. Later, Sean and I realized Finn got undivided attention that day in a way he usually doesn’t when life is crazy with work and everything else. Two distraction-free hours on a trail gave him space to simply talk about what was on his mind. We said, ‘Our kids clearly need this. How can we make it more of a practice?’ I believe in setting goals so I said, ‘How about doing a hike a week somewhere different in the year ahead?’ After a long debate about whether or not we could do it, we set the goal.

Credit: Brynn Harrington / Facebook

How did they take to it?

There were complaints, which was inevitable, but the impact on all of us was immediate. With no phones or tech to keep them…

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