Is Our Youngest Paddler Tougher Than You?

Aug 6, 2012

Is Our Youngest Paddler Tougher Than You?

Don’t let a pre-schooler show you up on family vacation.

Let’s start by noting that, if you’re hesitant to try an outdoor vacation, you’re about to hear about a 4-year-old and 8-year-old that kayaked Grand Teton.

If you’re a parent itching for this kind of trip, but wondering if it’s a good idea, what with your kids and all, let this suffice as a, “Yes, you can.”

Nicolas Zibell and his family had never experienced the U.S.’s western national parks, but he wanted to open his daughters’ eyes to their grandeur.

Clara, 8 years old, and Chloe, 4, were excited about the trip from the get-go, Nicolas says.

“It was new, it was beautiful,” he says. “They actually thought it was fun.”

The Zibell family — Nicolas, his wife, and daughters — joined an O.A.R.S. crew on a Jackson Lake kayaking trip in Grand Teton National Park. It was 2 days of paddling and hiking, plus a night of camping.

The highlights according to Nicolas:

  • Incredible scenery

  • Surprisingly gourmet meals

  • Surprisingly comfortable camp set-up

  • Beautiful moments around the campfire

  • Two young girls hooked on active, outdoor adventures

“When they wanted to paddle, they could paddle,” Nicolas says, describing how he and his wife took a daughter each in their tandem kayaks. “Sometimes they didn’t help — they actually paddled backwards. They also wanted to compete and finish before the other.”

Adventure FamilyThe family even experienced one of the ever-present worries of outdoor trips: a rain storm. But, he says, the girls took it all in stride.

“It’s an adventure, but it’s very comfortable,” Nicolas says. “Even if you don’t know anything about [kayaking and camping], there’s no reason you can’t do it.”

With his busy business life, Nicolas says he appreciated the chance to get out of cell phone service and spend quality time with his daughters.

“It’s the perfect way to reconnect with the kids,” he says.

And the next day, his oldest daughter asked to go whitewater rafting

The wildlife, looking at the stars at night, the fog lifting off the lake in the morning, the hike over wooden bridges, bear scratches on a tree — it all had a big impact on them all.

“The kids still remember it,” he says.

 The Zibells will be joining the O.A.R.S. family again this summer, for a taste of whitewater on the Lower Klamath River in California.

Does you have a great family vacation story from an outdoor adventure? Feel free to share it in the comments below!
Reid Williams
Reid has guided whitewater and taught swiftwater rescue in the U.S. and Central America on 13 different rivers, after brief turns as a chemistry teacher and a newspaper journalist. These days, he tries to turn people on to active, outdoor lifestyles as an executive at WELD.