Last year, while visiting family near Phoenix, Ariz., my wife and I decided to take our kids, 5 and 7, to Camelback Mountain. We didn't know if we'd make it to the summit, which is higher than the Empire State Building. The path is steep and rocky. Posted signs rate the trail "extremely difficult."

Last year, while visiting family near Phoenix, Ariz., my wife and I decided to take our kids, 5 and 7, to Camelback Mountain. We didn't know if we'd make it to the summit, which is higher than the Empire State Building. The path is steep and rocky. Posted signs rate the trail "extremely difficult."

Instead of scaring our kids, the challenge motivated them. Liam, the 7-year-old, entertained fellow hikers by excitedly proclaiming, "I laugh in the face of danger!" He and Maggie also concocted Indiana Jones-ish alter egos for themselves: "James Market and Jane Market, the 24-hour adventure guys!"

I have no idea where those names came from, but the role-playing worked. Under the watchful eye of their parents, the Markets made it to the top and back.

I can relate to my kids' occasional lust for adventure. It's what made Camelback sound fun, and it's why for the past three summers I've set aside a long weekend to go backpacking with a couple of buddies.

We've hiked along the cliffs of Pictured Rocks on the coast of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula, filtering our drinking water from the aptly named Great Lake. This summer, we traversed the muddy, rocky Long Trail in Vermont, carrying all the trail mix and heat-and-eat bacon we could fit in our packs.

At some point on these trips, we look at each other and wonder why we drove 11 hours to purposefully omit the comforts of home and walk miles through the forest with a 35-pound backpack. (Not that we're truly roughing it. This isn't Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls. We hike well-marked trails and eat rehydrated spaghetti and meatballs.)

Several reasons come to mind. For one, it's a way to hit the reset button. In the woods, where I'm focusing only on food, water, shelter and mileage, everyday stressors fade away. The mountains don't care about your email.

There's the camaraderie, too. But I think the biggest aspect is the sense of adventure - to go on a quest (not a race) with a goal in mind but a lot of question marks along the way.

In Vermont, for instance, we emerged from the woods in a different spot than we initially intended. To get back to the car, my friend had to hitchhike four separate rides. Meanwhile, my other friend and I learned we were near a swimming hole and a taco restaurant that serves delicious Vermont microbrews. (Dinner? Check. First shower in three days? Check.)

"Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man," writes author John Eldredge. If that's true - and I believe it is - then my wife and I have a responsibility to foster that spirit of adventure in our kids. We can't hike Camelback every day, but we do spend a lot of time outdoors.

I'm not sure if our efforts are enough to counteract the more typical quest we parents go on: the journey to make our kids' lives as safe, pleasant and easy as possible. It takes conscious effort to nurture a child's inner longing for adventure rather than suppress it. Perhaps the first step is to acknowledge it. From there, my hope is that my kids will lead me down the paths they want to explore.

-Joel Oliphint is a freelance writer who was admittedly spooked by mug shots of two escaped murderers posted on the Long Trail; there is such a thing as too much adventure.