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Q&A: The Value of Trip Reports for Hiking with Kids

Posted by Jessi Loerch at Jun 18, 2021 10:39 AM |

Trip reporter Robert “Ups n Downs” Shirk loves to get out on trail with his kids, and trip reports are a big part of how he researches trails. Ups N Downs is also a prolific trip reporter, and we caught up with him recently to hear more about why trip reports are so important to him for his adventures.

Trip reporter Robert “Ups n Downs” Shirk loves to get out on trail with his kids, both his own kids and the many foster kids who have lived with his family over the years. He makes sure to hike with all of the kids who live with him, and he appreciates the opportunity to share his love of the outdoors.

Trip reports are a big part of Robert’s hiking routine. He’s been writing them regularly since 2016, and they’re also a powerful way for him to find hikes that suit his needs — especially when he’s hiking with kids.

We caught up with Robert recently to hear more about why trip reports are so important to him for his adventures.

A man wearing a child in a backpack leans down toward another child walking toward him. Two kids are in the background. They are all in a forest area.
This photo is one of Robert's favorites and includes (from left) his son, grandson, daughter and foster son. Photo by Ups N Downs.

Why do you enjoy writing trip reports?

I enjoy writing trip reports to share the fun and adventure I find out on the trail. I also like to attach my favorite photos from each hike to highlight the different aspects of the area. And I enjoy sharing detailed information and current conditions so people can make informed decisions on which trails to visit.

Why are trip reports written by other folks important to you?

Exactly for the same reasons I enjoy writing them. I enjoy the stories, I've found out about many hikes that I otherwise would not have known about, and I make decisions based on the latest reports. There's nothing worse than driving two hours to find the road to the trailhead blocked or the trail snow covered. For this reason, I always have a backup plan (or three) in mind and by using the map finder I can quickly line those up close by.

How do trip reports help with planning for hikes with kids?

We've been foster parents for 15 years, and my motto has always been no one leaves before taking at least one hike. I'm pretty sure more than half of my reports are with kids. I've carried a lot of them on my back, so trip reports have come in handy when planning. A big benefit of detailed reports is I've been able to use much longer and harder hikes that have an easy first mile or two as a kid hike that also satisfies me. A good example is the Park Butte Trail — a few years ago, I took my 9- and 2-year-old up to Morovitz Meadow and back and it was an awesome adventure.

Do you have a trip report that you're particularly fond of?

So many to choose from! Newcastle Beach Nature Trail because it was the first hike our last foster child walked on his own, and the joy on his face was priceless.

Why is it important to you to hike with your kids?

With all the distractions available to kids these days that keep them inside, I feel it's important to expose them to nature at an early age to build a love and interest for it that motivates them to go out and explore. They have a natural curiosity that is perfect for seeing and appreciating all the little things we sometimes miss as we grow older. I've seen the greatest joy and fascination from them being out on trails.

My parents took us hiking and camping and those are great memories I still replay in my mind. It instilled not just a love of nature but an appreciation and respect for it.

My most memorable moment was celebrating my 50th hike out of my 100 Hikes in the Alpine Lakes on trail with my wife, two children, a grandchild and our foster son. The scariest was slipping and falling forward on a puncheon bridge with my daughter in a front carrier. I still don't know how she missed hitting her head.

Thank you, Ups N Downs, for sharing your trail stories!

If you hike with the young people in your life, we hope you’ll file a trip report when you return. Your experience could help another family enjoy their own time on trail. And if like to hit the trail with kids, check out our free Families Go Hiking newsletter, which offers trail suggestions as well as tips and tricks for hiking with kids.