While it has been inspirational to see the young people take up the cause of global warming, it is also exciting to see them putting down their devices and enjoying the great outdoors.
An example was a recent trip by the Wanganui Tramping Club to Tongariro National Park which involved three generations, including four children. The children found tadpoles in the Rotokawa swamp, rock-hopped over streams and explored and swam in rock pools in the Mangateitei Stream.
They loved their overnight experience in the cosy Lupton Hut. The trip leader also noticed their increased confidence as they negotiated the streams on the way back to the van.
It was a highly successful trip on which the children took to the outdoors with enthusiasm.
The key to developing a familiarity and love for the outdoors is to get them young and make it fun. I recall taking my youngsters on many day and overnight trips in which they slept under tent flies and tramped bush and mountain tracks. Skills were learned by assimilation. For my kids weekends in the bush were normal.
Now they are adults and don't get out so much but their experiences have taught them that the bush and mountains are not alien environments but ones to appreciate and enjoy.
As I flick the pages of an outdoors magazine I see photos of children on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, standing by waterfalls and trekking in forest parks — all with smiles on their faces, including one lad who walked the Heaphy Track barefoot.
I am not a hunter, but I salute the dads and mums who take their kids hunting and introduce them to the skills of getting around safely in the bush.
Tramping clubs are concerned that they are an ageing group and wonder how they can foster the next generation of club members. One response is to take kids tramping and clubs regularly hold tramps for youngsters, often with encouraging results, such as the Wanganui club's foray into Tongariro National Park.
When it comes to kids and the outdoors, the poster kids would have to be Elizabeth Rapsey, aged 9, and her brother, Jonathan, aged 7. In March with their parents they completed the Te Araroa Trail, the youngest to walk the 3000km route.
The family walked at least 20km a day for several months but sometimes covered up to 40km. The children found the trip tiring at first, but a few weeks later they were carrying their own packs and were still full of energy at the end of the long days. The Rapseys were inspired to walk the trail after visiting Fiordland with the children twice and being amazed at how well they did.
Hints on making tramping enjoyable for children include: Begin with short walks (30 minutes might be enough); involve the kids in the planning; try to find a walk that ends with something to see such as a waterfall, a big rock, a lighthouse, the sea etc so the kids can feel a sense of achievement at getting to the destination; go with another family – shared experiences are often more fun; pack treats to enjoy along the way; make the kids carry something but share the load; look for a hut that is easily accessible so you can walk in, have time to enjoy being there, make dinner, toast marshmallows, look at the stars and still have the energy to walk out in the morning; be light-hearted and make memories.
The Conservation Department has family-friendly tramps and walks available in all regions which can be googled.
Dave Scoullar is a tramper, conservationist and member of the Te Araroa Whanganui Trust.