We’re hanging onto the railing near the precarious feeling Point Bonita Lighthouse located in one of our nation's great National Parks. The swirling El Niño storm pelts our group of four adults and twelve 10 year olds with its down-pouring rain, big gusts of wind and massive, churning wave action crashing into the cliffs around us.
We've hiked up and over and then down again from a beach way over Yonder. And the kids, somewhat prepared with the right gear for this weather, are digging it.
In fact, they’re not just digging it. They’re all really, really into it.
Buzzing around, laughing with each other, the kids are seriously not complaining and just managing the sideways rain that happens to have them, and all of us adults, soaked from head to toe after a few hours on the trail.
So why are we all so happy being outside during the “worst” weather? Shouldn’t we all be running for cover and huddling miserably in a wet clump?
Here are eight reasons why hiking in the worst weather can be the best hiking there is:
The rush of excitement gets our hearts pumping and synapses firing in healthy, strong reaction. It feels GOOD to be out here braving the elements, and our bodies naturally respond in a stimulated way.
A good adventure brings out the best in us. Adventure challenges us, makes us feel confident and worthy of the next hurdle ahead. As the infamous San Francisco based adventurer Mark Twain said: “…throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
3. Unique Experience:
Hiking in a rain storm is not your average day at the office or behind the desk at school. The uniqueness of the full sensory experience lights us up from inside.
4. Unexpected Enjoyment of Risk – from grumble to joy
Getting ready to head out in the dorms that morning with the kids before the hike, there was a palpable sentiment: “Are we going to go out in THAT weather?” Which flipped completely by the end of the day to: “That was my favorite day of the trip!!!” Yes. The kids realized that giving an uncertain experience a chance, no matter how daunting initially, can absolutely be worth the risk.
5. Great Stories:
The best stories, the ones we share over and over which then become family legends, are the stories where we overcome the most obstacles. A day in the harsh elements where we are presented with an unusual challenge is always the story that we tell over the campfire years later. When I think of our own best family stories, it’s always the three days of pouring rain while portaging in the Adirondacks and my dad blows up the camping stove – like a rocket into the sky – in the middle of the wilderness. We still laugh about it years later.
6. Learn Our Limits:
Hiking in not-ideal weather tests the limits of our bodies both physically and psychologically. Can we mentally get through the constant, driving, sideways rain? Can we physically place each foot carefully, thoughtfully so we don’t slip on the slick trail?
Puddles. Glorious, splashy, messy, wet puddles. Puddles get their own category. Why? When I polled my kids as to what was they loved the most when hiking in "bad" weather, they all enthusiastically replied: stomping to the end of the Earth in all of the giant puddles. Big, wet, giant, splashing puddles.
8. Pure Fun!
Which is the perfect segue to the ultimate way hiking in the worst weather is the best hiking: it’s just totally, completely, 100% FUN. With the right gear so we stay warm and mostly dry, it’s just plain old FUN to be out there while Mother Nature roars. I can feel my own face cracking in the wet and cold with a giant, megawatt smile that could probably rival the local lighthouse we visited that day.
Disclaimer: Of course, be reasonable and safe and check the forecast before you head out. Heed all warnings and stay in until the worst is over if possible. Hiking in rain or snow is fun. Hiking in a hurricane or blizzard is just not smart.
But then again, let’s push ourselves and our kids a little. Into the adventure category.
Exhilarating. Thrilling. A tiny bit of danger. Stir it all together and we get the recipe for a great day on the trails.
So grab your foul weather gear and let's sail away from the safe harbor. And maybe cling to a railing or two like Lilly and me and a group of soggy kids... Time to #getOutside!