Over the last few months I've been taking my older son, Noah, out on hikes around Phoenix. For the first few I kept him in a carrier strapped to my back. He was too young to walk far over the rough ground of a hiking path. As long as I brought some snacks, a sippy cup with water, protected him from the sun, and kept our outings less than a few hours he seemed to enjoy most of our hikes out.
As Noah approaches his second birthday I've been letting him out more and more. Usually I aim for hikes that are around five miles long with a nice flat stretch of land in the middle for him to wander around. This does limit where we can go, since Phoenix does not have an infinite number of hiking trails, so we've done a few of them multiple times. Hidden Valley of South Mountain works rather well for us. I get to carry him up a steep mountainside and get my workout in and then we get to enjoy the sandy path and fun rock climbs of the valley on top.
It's unfortunate that he'll be old enough to start longer hikes just as the summer heat really starts in Arizona. I'd love to take him on full adventures and leave the carrier behind, and I think he'd be ready for it by June or July, but I really shouldn't do too many hikes with a two year-old when the daily highs are over 120°. So I'm not sure what we'll do this summer.
The other new hiker who's been venturing out with me is Katie. She was a great hiking partner when were living up in Michigan (as long as the hikes stayed on trails and were relatively short) and has started to get out more since we moved. Oh, and we bring Thomas along as well. I usually carry both Noah and Thomas, one on my back and one on my chest like an overburdened turtle, and we let Noah out to walk for some parts. I worry that the summer heat will discourage these outings as well so I'm enjoying them while I can.
Besides the bright sun and high temperatures there are other things that I don't like about having Noah (and eventually Thomas) coming out with me in the desert. Snakes, scorpions, and spiders are all more deadly to young children than a grown adult like me. Cacti have thorns. Well, most all plants in the desert have thorns that little kids aren't as careful around. Also, it's harder to tell when they are getting too tired or thirsty. Noah has been good so far about signing for a drink, and when we're out he's usually downing a lot of water, but it's still something I'd hate to run into.
The biggest thing I worry about is that my sons won't get to enjoy the outdoors like I did growing up. The desert has enough dangers to discourage too much playing outside, especially during the summer, and it just seems so dull compared to a lush green forest. If we end up settling in the Phoenix area they may surprise me and really take to the open lands and rocky mountains… I just hope they get to enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Michigan.