My son Sam, age 8, and I started climbing together back in 2017. He did the biggest hike a child of his could be expected to do in our area, Mount Washington, with an elevation of 6288’ back in July 2017. This year he did Madison and Adams, as well as a couple of the New Hampshire 4000’.  Sam has a younger brother though, Max, age 6, who although physically capable has shown less interest in being on the trail and my instinct was his interest and focus needed a little more time to develop. So that was our goal for this summer and fall, to acclimate Max, to hiking. We got a couple weekend days in the past month or so to get him on the trail with different magnitude climbs.

Max and I did some relatively horizontal hikes over the summer to get him used to being on the trail for longer periods culminating in a couple hour hike around Buffumville Lake in Charlton, Massachusetts at the end of August. For this last hike he carried a small pack with a water bottle in it and kept a good attitude throughout.

As summer moved on we decided to try a couple shorter duration vertical climbs that would be rewarding in their views but not to challenging a climb. For starters, we did Mount Wachusett with an elevation just over 2000; in north Central Massachusetts back in September. The trail was not overly steep and not too long making it possible for the three of us to reach the summit in under an hour. He carried his lunch and water bottles in his nap sack. At the top he and his brother got to explore the fire tower, some of the look outs, the ski lift, the World War II Mountaineers Division memorial, and the gold fish pond.  He managed getting to the top with only a short five-minute break.

Next we headed on to “western” Massachusetts, north of Springfield and did a walk around a reservoir their and then a climb up Mount Tom, approximate elevation 1200’. The hike took just about an hour to the top and then we explored some of the look outs and fire towers along the service road. The park service operated an information center near the top and both the boys enjoyed checking out the story boards about the history of buildings on the mountain in the last century and some of the artifacts about animals found there. Mount Tom offered great views overlooking the nearby city and some of the mountain ranges further west in the Berkshires.

With two successful climbing starters for Max completed, we decided to plan a little more difficult but very popular climb up Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, elevation 3,166’.  I asked a friend if he and his children ages 11, 8, 8 if they would like to join us. My reasoning was it would be a longer climb and Max would find it more interesting and fun if there were others in his age range beside his brother along to share the experience.  We all carried packs with lunch, snacks, water, and our rain parkas for the climb. The trail was not overly difficult but took longer with more breaks to make it enjoyable and fun. The children all spent over an hour having lunch and exploring the summit while the adults enjoyed the view.

Max, the youngest, held his own, and appeared to be having a good time.  After our hike down, we went and enjoyed a dinner together at a very popular restaurant nearby. I had delayed exposing Max to hiking because of his tendency to not stay focused and stay on the trail. Breaking him into the concepts slowly with smaller hikes of increasing duration or difficulty, having him carry a pack, and going with others has allowed him to grow in to it. I think I see a New Hampshire 4000-footer in his future during next summer’s hiking season!