Wild Lives: Big smiles at Vagabond Ranch. Photo by Doug Schnitzspahn

At 5 and 8, my children are starting to get to the age when they can really join us on adventures. For Christmas, my daughter actually asked for a mountain bike. A mountain bike, to ride trails. My son high-fived me after he got bumped up to the next level at ski lessons. They can’t wait to camp. I don’t know if I should reveal this information or not, but my kids don’t actually sleep under their covers anymore. They curl up in sleeping bags on top of thier beds—which serves double-duty since they don’t have to make those beds in the morning. I couldn’t be happier.

2012 was full of too many tragedies, too much pressure on kids and parents to try to navigate a dangerous world. As far as I am concerned, getting outside and enjoying the wild is one way to move on, to accept, to find joy within ourselves, the ones we love and the world around us. On that note, I wanted to recommend some things I have done with my kids that have fueled their sense of adventure in hopes that we may inspire other parents (and, I don’t know, maybe dog owners) out there.

Vagabond Ranch. When my wife was away at a conference for a weekend, I decided it would be a great idea to ski in with my kids to the little cabin at Vagabond Ranch. Well, we went dad-style: we didn’t get to the trailhead until dark and it took the three of us until about mindnight to make the four-mile skin in. But I have never felt more proud of my 8-year-old daughter, who troopered the whole way while her brother slept in the Chariot after chugging for about a mile. There was no whining (maybe some wondering when we would get there), just the quiet of a winter night, the stars and the schuss of the skis. It was well worth it. The next day we explored the ranch. Cooked together. Manned the wood stove. All the day-to-day complaining was gone. (This is when they got the sleeping bag idea.)

Valmont Bike Park. There is a lot of angst over what you can and cannot do on a bike in Boulder. But we are damn lukcy to have this bike park. The beauty of it is that children of any age can enjoy the place—you find your own personal challenge. That’s typified by the jumps, which go from “extra-small” all the way up to an “extra-large” that would make Danny MacAskill happy.  But again, the real beauty of the place is that you and your kids can experience it together. You don’t have to find a sitter.

Goblin Valley. This little state park in Utah is a natural playground. The campground is full of odd sandstone mazes and the park itself was either made for children or the result of the creator on an acid trip—stone “goblins,” little hoodoos of red sandstone cover the place, and make it ideal for a big game of hide-and-seek. (It was odd though when an eldery couple we did not know walked by and I was hunched up  by myself hiding in a stone crevice… they just kept walking and ignored me.)

Ski School. Once more, we have too many great options here in Colorado. And just like teaching your significant other to ski, teaching your kids can be more arguing than it is worth. My kids went to ski school at Vail last month and I was mighty impressed. There is nothing better than picking them up and seeing how excited they are to have learned about a sport you love. And the best part is when they beg you to take one more lift ride so that they can show off what they learned and you can begin to ski together. Yes, that’s why we do this.