American youth between the ages of 8 – 18 on average are logging 7.5 hours of screen time per day, and that’s not counting time spent using tech for school. Our National Forests provide the opportunity to improve their mental and physical health as well as develop a capacity to work hard and persist through setbacks over time, and learn GRIT. As a parent, I strive to ensure that my daughter is able to experience these lessons in nature firsthand.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Act and the Wild & Scenic River Act, I arranged for my 13-year-old daughter and I to go on a two-week adventure in our National Forests. Our first leg would be inside the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest (including 3 days and 2 nights on the Rogue River). The Rogue River was one of eight rivers first designated as Wild & Scenic in 1968.  

We floated, ran rapids, hiked, and saw Zane Grey’s original 1939 cabin. We also spent time at a true swimming hole up a side creek. My daughter, Kira, and I even saw black bears, watched the Perseid meteor shower, and learned about new flora and fauna.  Kira tried rowing on her own, which led up to her taking the boat through a class 2 rapid! 

We then wandered up the coast of Oregon and set our sights on Olympic National Forest. Ruby Beach was stunning. The Hoh Rain Forest section provided two short and beautiful hikes: Hall of Mosses Trail and the Spruce Nature Trail. Overall, there are so many wonderful day hikes in Olympic National Forest  that there is much more than most can accomplish in one short visit. During our time in Olympic National Forest, we saw sparkling waterfalls, amazing old growth forests, moss-encrusted trees, and so many shades of green. 

What did she learn on our trip through these national forests?

•    The value of patience;

•    How to take risks and be more confident in taking them;

•    To feel the fear and do it anyway;

•    Anything is possible but you have to be brave enough to try;

•    A positive attitude and perseverance are the keys to success in any situation; and

•    There is only one person responsible for living the life you want: you.

Our National Forests provided me with a means to “unplug” and connect with my daughter. These special places enabled us to create significant memories and experiences to help us grow as father-daughter and as individuals.

Our National Forests provided us with scenes of beauty and wonder that are hard to really capture in photos or videos. Our forests allowed us to be present and spontaneous. Being so far from digital expectations that are placed on us was wonderfully freeing. 

When we give our children and ourselves this type of space, it provides moments of clarity, inspiration, and illumination. We begin to see that much of the daily “hype” in being connected does not serve us. While out in these natural cathedrals without walls, we lose our connected identity and we become but a nameless observer of nature, allowing us to connect with the fundamental essence of who we are as human beings and as family.

About the Author

Ron Smith is the editor in chief of The Digital Outdoorsman, an online publication that provides information, insights, analysis and strategies on e-Commerce and digital marketing. In his free time, Ron enjoys spending time with his daughter creating experiences from all kinds of adventures on our National Forests.

National Forest Foundation