NEWSFLASH: IN CASE you missed this week’s Kids These Days! broadcast of Inside the Teenage Brain: Teens take risks! Yes, parents, grandparents, and guardians of anyone age 12 to 18, you’ll need this nugget of information while on vacation.
I’m thrilled to finally receive validation confirming the teenage brain is wired to do crazy stuff. In fact, I learned it aches to do stuff; wild, crazy and overly nutty stuff, especially while in the company of other brains with equal settings.
No wonder parents hear the whining, witness the iPod tune-out, and see the rolling of eyes while teens are pushed and prodded through museum after historical site after interstate road trip. Here’s the irony of traveling with teens - young people need to feel a bit out of control to be in control; of emotions, bodies, and other people, we adults included. A teenager, I’ve discovered, is happiest when barreling down a mountain on a bike so fast the wheels are practically on fire, even if mom or dad is standing at the bottom of the hill shielding eyes from certain inevitable calamity. A teenage traveler wants to feel the rush of adrenaline as much as a parent wants to feel none, and I can’t think of a better state in which to offer such experiences to a growing adolescent body and brain.
Alaska is perfect for teenagers. Enough mental and physical challenges are available no matter where a family decides to begin their travels. Below are a few excellent options that just might rate a “that’s cool!” statement when completed. Do double check age, weight, and ability requirements, however, before booking any challenging activity for your son or daughter.
Mountain biking. Alyeska Resort in Girdwood and Eaglecrest Ski Area in Juneau offer summertime mountain biking around the area’s slopes. Between the cool chairlift ride up and the screaming fast trip down, kids will feel the thrill of independence coupled with the knowledge that everyone is watching from the lodge and hitting “update status” on their Facebook app. For a longer, touring-type approach, try Sockeye Cycles in Skagway or Haines, offering multi-day trips as far as the Canadian border, all gear and bikes provided.
Zzzzzzziiipppping through Alaska's forests
Ziplining. Really, what could be more in tune with a teenager’s zen than a series of zips 100 feet in the air? From Ketchikan to Talkeetna, ziplining is fast becoming the activity of choice among the adventure-loving set. In southeast Alaska, try Alaska Canopy Adventures and their 11-zip trip set high among the hemlock and spruce trees. Talkeetna is the latest community to jump on the zipline bandwagon, with Denali Zipline Tours, slated to begin zipping through the trees sometime in July, 2012. Note: Most ziplining companies require participants to weigh between 90 and 270 pounds, for safety reasons. “Zippers” must also be able to understand and fulfill self starting/stopping procedures along the course.
Mountain adventures. Alaska possesses more glacial ice and rock than many other states in the Union, and much of it lies within easy access of the state’s largest community of Anchorage. Ascending Path guiding service leads day and overnight trips to remote areas of Alaska, with a ton of learning along the way. Want to climb a glacier? No problem, the Spencer Whistle Stop Rail and Ice Climbing trip combines a great trip aboard the Alaska Railroad with a little moraine exploration on the flanks of Spencer Glacier.
Teenagers want to show us they can, indeed, be “all that.” Give them the opportunity and see where it takes them, and you.
Erin Kirkland is the mother of two boys; one teen, one wanna-be-teen. Follow her crew’s Alaska adventures at AKontheGO.com, a website dedicated to Alaska family travel resources.