As I have stated before, we get outside for an activity at least once every weekend. And every weekend is different, be it Children’s Museum Tucson, Tombstone, or Irwin Pool on Fort Huachuca, but we always find something to do other than just sit around the house. A couple weeks ago, my boss suggested that we check out Coronado National Memorial, which includes Coronado Cave. Since I had not been there in about six years and my girls had never been there, I figured we would give it a whirl.
Coronado National Memorial, nestled up against the Huachuca Mountains, is located in Cochise County about 20 minutes south of Sierra Vista, AZ. It is a relatively short drive from our house and it seemed like just the place to hike for a few hours with the girls. And since I had been on the hike to Coronado Cave before, I knew that I was not going to get surprised by steep cliffs or dangerous trails. As per the routine, we stocked up on snacks, water, sunscreen, and Band-aids before we headed out to the visitor center (you can never be too prepared).
Even though the visitor center is only a one-room building, it is still a very interesting place that houses a lot of information on the Coronado Expedition. While I took interest in the building materials and techniques used by the Spanish in what is now Arizona, the girls became quite enamored with the armor that the Conquistadors wore at the time. Elaina thoroughly enjoyed wearing the Spanish Morion, or Conquistador Helmet, even though it was much too big for her.
The girls especially like the chainmail shirts that were at the center, as they had many different styles and the girls could try them all on. They were a lot lighter than I expected, but that does not mean that I would mind wearing them all day out in the Arizona sun. The visitor center also had a cute little gift shop in the corner, where the girls got to pick up a couple coloring books while I picked up a package of my favorite chocolate in the world (Taza Chocolate Mexican-style chocolate, Vanilla-flavored, which unfortunately melted in the car during our hike).
We were just going to take a short couple kilometer hike up to Coronado Cave, heading inside if the girls were up to it. Elaina grabbed her walking stick and headed up the hill towards the cave.
I had Gabriella on my back in the carrier, with them agreeing to swap out after we got to the cave. And I did this full well knowing that at least some point on the climb up, I would be carrying both of the girls.
Eventually that happened, and I ended up lugging around 75 pounds of niñas on my back and shoulders. Again, I should expect nothing less when hiking up a pretty steep hill with a six- and four-year old. Even with plenty of rest and water breaks, Elaina was bound to get a little tired.
Once we got up to the cave, we all took a much needed rest break. The girls grabbed a snack while I drank water and stretched out (even though I am in pretty good shape, carrying them both uphill is still a pretty good workout). Unfortunately, neither of them wanted to go down into the cave. Part of the reason was because the opening was pretty dark (I mean, it is essentially a giant hole in the ground), and even though we all had flashlights or lanterns, they still did not want to brave it. The other reason was because the entrance is not particularly accessible. The opening is very rocky, with the “path” not having a handrail. No complaints here, but the girls were not about to climb down rocks to get to a pitch black cave that was home to bats and spiders. I even climbed down about 30 feet into the cave, with them protesting the entire time that they would not be able to see my in the dark. I tried; maybe I will have better luck next time.
Elaina passed off her walking stick, got in the carrier, and then Gabriella led the way down the hill. We cautiously took our time on the way down to try to prevent Gabby from tripping, falling, and possibly rolling. And there definitely were some areas where I felt more comfortable holding her hand as we walked.
About halfway down the hill (as opposed to three-fourths of the way up), the lead got tired and had to be hoisted upon my shoulders. Even with both of them up there, hiking downhill was much easier on my legs (but not my back). In a short time, we were back at the car, and the girls got to rest on the ride home after a fun day out in the sun.
Hiking is a great activity to do with your kids. You get outdoors, interact with nature, and it can be pretty good exercise. It is also a great learning experience for your children and a good environment for teaching them. Not sure how many questions I answered during this two-hour adventure, but I am very sure it was in the hundreds. Kids are always learning, either for better or for worse, so it is always a good thing to facilitate that through positive learning environments. So if you are looking for a fun (and usually free) activity for you and your little one(s), considering getting out and hiking.
Thanks for checking in on us!