Some of our best family hikes are those that do not have expectations; no mileage to track or destination in mind, just the desire to get out, explore and enjoy each other's company.
While we were in Joshua Tree National Park, we did not have any cell reception to google "best hikes." After being misled by the map, we simply veered off at a beautiful rocky point and set off on an adventure.
The kids weaved in and out of the natural caves, squeezing into the nooks and crannies that the adults could only peer into. They wondered what critters inhabited the dirt holes. They tracked the jackrabbit pebbles as far as they would lead, and inquired about each and every cactus on the path. They especially loved the dried, dead cacti that resembled carcasses and imagined all the crafts and tools they could make with them.
It can be challenging to have children at different skill levels. The oldest wants to run ahead and climb up high, while the youngest wants to toddle along and pick up every rock in sight. It has taught our children that they must be a team.
The older one needs to be a leader, teacher and guide, the younger kids and gain courage from their older siblings, learning to venture into places they might not have gone into otherwise.
We walked in circles that day and at some points had no idea where we were headed, but we allowed the kids to take the lead. Overall, the true meaning of hiking for us is simply being together and making memories as a family.
It isn't a race to the finish line nor the counting of steps nor the tracking of time. It's about getting lost in exploration; not worrying about where you are going, rather who you are with.