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Starting Your Own Outdoor Traditions

Posted by Susan Elderkin at Nov 29, 2013 08:35 PM |
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The holiday season is rife with traditions. This year, include a hike in your annual plans -- or plan a year of adventures for 2014.

The holiday season is rife with traditions, from annual Thanksgiving feasts to family gift-giving to New Year's resolutions. In my family, it's also a time to plan the next year of outdoor adventures -- and to take a few as well. I find that having annual trips and traditions helps motivate my family (and me) to turn off the screens, get out of the house and make memories outdoors.

We recently asked WTA's Facebook community what outdoor traditions they have, and combined with my own experience, we have created this primer for traditions you can start right now.

Post-holiday adventures

According to annual tradition, Facebooker John S climbed Mount Teneriffe today and Gwen T took her "Post Turkey Day Trot" at Wallace Falls, something both do every year. What better way to work off a feast than to take a hike the day after a major holiday. While the malls are filled with shoppers, the trails have a fraction of the people they do in the summer.

It may not be Black Friday any longer, but it's still the holiday season. Get some fresh air, work off the turkey and pie and choose a trail that you want to visit each year at the same time.

Where will you be on New Year's Eve?

Last year, my family started a new tradition. We took a short vacation to Ocean Shores for New Year's. With school vacation entering its second week, we were ready to get out of town and do something new. We were fortunate to find sun at the coast and enjoyed a hike at Copalis River Spit, snowy owls at Damon Point and a side trip to the rainy Quinault rainforest where we lunched at the iconic lodge on New Year's Eve. It was the best New Year's I've had in years, and my son is still talking about the owls and the wind he braved to see them.

Plan a milestone hike for yourself or with someone special

Boy fishing Sun Lakes State Park
I tailored the mother-son getaway to my son's interests. In addition to hiking, we went paddle boating and he caught his first fish right here at Sun Lakes State Park. Photo by Susan Elderkin.

During the spring of my son's fifth year, I took him on a long weekend to Central Washington. We hiked coulees, caves and to the wild horses high above I-90. We also went paddle boating and caught his first fish. The time spent together was magical and memorable, and I'd like to believe helped to instill a love of the outdoors in him. This year my daughter turns five, and I'm planning her mother-daughter trip for this spring. I can't wait until May, and she's already talking about it.

No kids? A milestone tradition need not be just for small children. Several of my colleagues take every birthday off from work to go hiking. Or you could celebrate an anniversary or a special event like a graduation or a new job by taking an outdoor vacation.

Making a tradition out of camping and backpacking trips

Family backpacking
Fleeing thunderstorms last August, we took our second annual family backpacking trip to the foot of South Sister in Oregon.

For the past eight summers our family has taken a camping trip. From the North Cascades to Mount Adams, we have met up with friends and relatives to enjoy the beauty of Washington. Now the kids have come to expect a camping trip in July or August -- and the hikes that go with it. And since camping has gone so well, we added backpacking to the mix the summer my daughter was three. My husband and I sported comically large backpacks on our trek to Shi Shi Beach, but it hooked the kids. No one even blinked this past summer when I announced our backpacking destination - which was longer and required them to carry more of the load.

When we asked the Facebook community about their traditions, several mentioned annual backpacks and hikes. Stephanie T hikes up Kelly Butte each summer to honor her great grandfather who helped supply the lookout there in the 1930s. Paul W has taken an annual August backpacking trip to the Pasayten or Sawtooth areas each year for the past decade. And Paul B heads to the Olympic Coast each winter to enjoy solitude not possible during the summer.

It's not too late to start

What if you don't take an annual Mother's Day hike or go camping the same weekend every summer? It's okay! Start a new tradition this year. Spend New Year's Eve cross country skiing in the Methow or snowshoeing at Mount Rainier (tip: there is still availability for lodging). Gather some friends and plan your first annual camping trip this summer (tip: Washington State Parks starts taking reservations nine months out, so now is the time to snag a spot in popular campgrounds). Or plan your post-Christmas hike to a park nearby (tip: it doesn't have to be fancy or difficult; just fun). It's never too late to begin an annual thing. Simply pull out some maps, grab a calendar and start planning! Then come back after your trip and tell us about it in a Trip Report.


Very nice article! :)!

Thank you for this post! What a GREAT family picture!

Happy hiking and memories to you and your family in 2014!


Posted by:

"Bob and Barb" on Nov 30, 2013 05:04 PM