Easy Hiking as a Father and Son Thing

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Fathers, feel you lost contact with your teenage sons and you would like to reconnect – and show them that there is more to Dad than they think, seeing you crumpled up in front of the TV at the end of a long working day?

Ten Rules for a Father and Son Hiking Trip

Help is at hand! An easy hiking trip of several days can provide father and son the perfect opportunity for getting to know each other. As long as you respect the following rules:

1. Do not try too hard.

Don’t let your holiday collapse under the sheer weight of your expectations. You’ve been neglecting the relationship with your son a little – and sometimes feel you hardly know him anymore. You wouldn’t be able to say much more about him than that he likes to sleep till 3 p.m. and listens to something that he calls “music” and that you’d classify as “noise”. So, don’t expect a miracle, like a tearful embrace at the end of a three-day hike: “Dad, you’re the greatest Dad in the whole wide WORLD!” This only happens in Hollywood movies.

"A Father and son into the hiking trail-photo"

Instead, tell yourself: I’m going to have a good time with somebody who is very dear to me. We will enjoy the fresh air, good food and a drink or two in the evenings. Anything beyond that would be a bonus.

2. You’re  still Dad, he’s still Kid.

He’s not your friend, he’s  your son. He knows it, and you should know it, too. He expects you to take the lead, and it’s  your responsibility not to disappoint him. It’s obvious and natural: you plan, you pay, and you’re in command.

And don’t give him make-believe assignments: “I decided that you’ll be the map reader for our journey.” Only to grab the map away angrily from him after the first wrong turn.

3. But listen to what he’s got to say.

Taking command doesn’t mean that you should behave like Attila the Hun. Take your son seriously when he makes a suggestion – or a point. And do not flare up in a fit of pique when he appears to disagree with you whether you should turn left or right. Not least because he may be correct. Leadership, never mind good leadership, is not the same as furiously insisting that everybody respect your “Authoritaah”.

"A Father and son discussing their hiking in Germany-photo"

4. Do not over-organize the trip.

Most of the fun – for both of you, but particularly for him – comes from the feeling that the two of you are setting out into the unknown. This is an adventure. Don’t spoil this.

Do not, for example, pre-book any accommodation along the trail. You’ll find something, don’t worry – just bring enough cash for all eventualities. And a mobile phone. The golden rule of all successful family holidays applies even more urgently for this one: give your holiday the space it needs to breathe.

5. Do not overreach yourself.

You’ve never done any hiking before? Then, don’t expect to get through more than 10 miles/15 km a day. Plan a three-day trip, ideally with a nice country town at the end where the two of you can relax a little before you go home. And take it easy: spend your nights in the comfort of a hotel or a youth hostel.

"Father and son on a hiking trail in Germany-photo"

6. Do not compete.

If he is in his mid or late teens and you are over forty, chances are he will outpace you on any climb or ascent. Accept this, gracefully. When it comes to stamina, however, you may still have the edge. Don’t rub this in. Behave, for once in your life, like a mature individual.

7. Do not pretend to know something you don’t know.

Not a great outdoorsman? Don’t know how to survive in the wilderness – and can’t even read a map properly? Well, welcome to the club. Do you really think your son knows you so little that he thinks you are the reincarnation of Daniel Boone? Be upfront and honest about your limitations – and don’t worry: your son will forgive you.

"Father and son enjoying a scenic hike in Germany"

8. Shut up.

Do not abuse your privilege of seniority and the captivity of your audience to give long lectures about trees, birds and rare beetles that you may have spotted along the way, local rainfall patterns or local history.

It should also go without saying that you must refrain from opening up old wounds (and school reports) or half-forgotten family quarrels. Don’t make your son regret he ever agreed to come with you.

9. And listen.

If you have done everything right, it is just a question of time until your boy will begin to open up. He will not be sharing something personal-personal, about which girl he fancies, for example. Boys simply do not operate that way.

It will be something semi-personal instead, something about a video game that he has played recently, or about the reasons why he prefers a certain style of music to any other. What this means is that he is opening the door a little bit to see whether it would be a good idea to let you into his world.

"Father and son playing games on a hiking pause"

Now, don’t ruin everything with snide remarks about the soullessness of contemporary pop music. Or something along the lines of: “Video games? When I was your age, we didn’t need that sort of crap to have a good time!”

10. Interested? Sell the idea carefully.

Do not offer it out of the blue – only for the son to think: OhMyGawd, Dad must have read something about father-and-son bonding on the Internet. Instead, wait for the right opportunity to come up – this could be a TV programme about hiking, for example. Say: “That looks like fun.” Or. “I have always wondered what that would be like.” The whole idea will work best if the suggestion comes from him.

"Father and son on a hiking holiday"

Have you got any father and son advice to share?

 

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19 comments to Easy Hiking as a Father and Son Thing

  • Great post about sharing quality time with your son. Laughed out loud at your Attila the Hun comment! Very funny. Nice pics of course too!!

  • My son and I go once a year for 2 or 3 days, mainly in Germany where hiking trails are generally sub-divided into neat little stages that end in a small town. The Rheinsteig south of Cologne would be your best bet for the full German hiking experience.

    Britain has a range of excellent hiking trails, too, such as the Ridgeway and the South Downs Way. I don’t know where you live, Paul, but if I were still living in or near London, that’s where I would start: Eastbourne to Lewes past the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head – something even a 15-year-old boy in the foulest of teenage moods will enjoy.

    I wish the two of you all the best for your trip – and tell me how you got on!

  • Paul Lamb

    hi michael,
    just wondering where u went with your son and how u planned the hike e.g like did u hike hotel to hotel?
    as id like to take my 15year old son on a trip like this
    thanks Paul

    Also well detailed post thanks

  • Great post Michael! Super advice you’ve shared. I have always found that if I keep my mouth shut and listen, I get much more information from both kids even my son!

  • Great advice…we take golf trips with my dad quite often, and some of this would definitely apply:)

  • Very well written post with excellent pointers. My husband and son have a great relationship and really enjoy each other’s company. My son lives thousands of miles away so now it’s a real treat for either of us to see him.

  • I have several favorites, Michael, but #2 stands out. Good advice!
    Happy Father’s Day!

  • Good stuff here! I’m a father of two and while mine are just 9 and 4 years old, I found this article really helpful. Since I lost my dad when I was 11, it’s really important to me to have a long and great relationship with my boys

    Thanks!

    Eric

  • Jeremy, that’s experience from being a father for the last 23 years speaking. You’ll surely be a great dad yourself. Just make sure you always have time to do things with them while you still can. Our son is almost ready to fly the nest and has been planning and taking his holidays without us in the picture (except of course if Mom & Dad’s credit cards are needed).

  • Jeremy Branham

    I have to admit this is probably my favorite post by you. The advice you give here is awesome and I hope I remember these tips for many years. I hope when my sons get older that I can look back on the times we had and appreciate them. What great memories you have had with your son and I hope I will have great bonding experiences with wisdom like this!

  • Good post full of no-doubt hard-earned wisdom.

  • I think you’ve done an excellent job on this post. Your points are excellent and your statement to act like the Dad is bang on. Happy Father’s Day to you.

  • You are so right, Ray. All the more important for young kids. You want your grand kids to like hanging out with you.

  • Very nice post and timely, I think. I recently composed a post about hiking with young children (my grand-children), and much of this also applies. Happy trails!

  • No further advice to share — you’ve done a great job on that front! This is really a nice post. I like the tips and the sentiment behind them. Great pics of you and your son.

  • Awesome post. I am just about to do a Father’s Day post myself, so this got me in the mood to complete my ode to Dad effort. Great advice for father’s on how to deal with their teenage sons hiking. It is a great way to re-connect and stay connected throughout the years.

  • Wait until all of your three boys are teenagers – that’s when the real fun begins. Thanks for dropping by Jillian.

  • With three boys of my own, I am inventing new words constantly. If I mention the word “hike”, “adventure” or “exploration” their eyebrows knit. But if I say we’re going on a trip, they light up and when on the trips they excitedly do everything on our agenda, without complaints.

    Last night, walking home from dinner at The Broadmoor, my eldest, at 11, wanted to walk the grounds with me. It was an emerald blue sky with a full moon and I relished the opportunity to walk arm in arm with him around the lake, but the other’s were exhausted and so we crawled into the delicious bed instead to watch a bad Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action movie. I guess it’s all good.

    Tonight, we will indeed walk the grounds and I will listen to the outpouring of thoughts from our latest travels at the C Lazy U Dude Ranch. It’s all about finding your connection, and building tradition.

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