Thursday, September 29, 2011

Symphony Lake Trail - Eagle River, AK

We are in the midst of a spectacular fall. A string of gorgeous color streaked days has graced us. Today we experienced some rain on the drive to the trail head, but no rain on the trail. The rangers added a little adventure to our trek today. Typically there are a few slippery parts of the trail, but today the entire trail was on big squishy mud pit, thanks to the trail maintenance project that is currently going on. The trail will actually be closed starting on October 3rd through the rest of the month. It is a bit hairy on the way down, especially when carrying precious cargo. There were a total of 11 moms, 1 aunt, 2 dads and 15 kids on the trail. While some went a little furthers then others the average distance traveled was about 1.5 miles due to the slog. While the mud was mildly inconvenient for the adults it was the ultimate outdoor experience for the little trekkers. There was some joyful mud slinging and giggles while sliding about.

We were reminded this morning of how close winter is with a fresh dusting of snow on the peaks and frost on the ground. Mittens and snow caps were donned by many. As we get into the colder weather it is important that we all try to arrive on time and get going with in 15 minutes of the meetup time. The longer you wait with cold kids the bigger the chance of not heading out at all is. We know having kids means that isn't always possible to be on time, but it helps if everyone is ready to go at the same time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Prepping for Winter - Part 2

Termination dust is in the mountains, signifying that it's time to go down to the basement and break out the winter clothes. We spend a lot of time talking about what our little ones should wear outside for a successful family outing, but we often neglect to talk about what we, the parents, should wear. An expedition lasts only as long as EVERYONE is happy and comfortable. I've seen parents, and some long-time Alaskans, skating at Westchester Lagoon, sledding at a local hill or hiking on trails in the winter, their kids are perfectly bundled up in the appropriate layers, but the adult is wearing jeans and their lips are blue.

As mentioned in the first part of Prepping for Winter, all outdoor experts whether talking about infants or adults, say "Cotton Kills." Cotton unlike polyester & wool fabrics does not wick moisture away from the body, nor does it dry fast. Having a cotton layer, especially up against your skin is an invitation to hypothermia and frostbite when you are active. Sweat saturates the layer and clings to your skin, subsequently freezing from the arctic air.

Loose layers are key to feeling comfortable and allow you to regulate you body's temperature. Tight fitting clothing can decrease circulation, inviting frostbite to spread more quickly.

Footing - trails, sidewalks and even parking lots are a dangerous place, especially in the freezing/thawing months of early winter (fall for people in the Lower 48) and spring. When ever you are carrying or wearing a child it is important to consider wearing ice grippers. You go down, so does your kiddo. Some sneakers like Ice Bugs come with studs built into the treads of the shoe, others fit over the sole of your shoe & there are services provided by local stores, such as Skinny Raven, to put studs in an old pair of running shoes or boots.

Gloves & Mitts - Like baselayers, you don't want cotton or any material that is slow to dry. Mittens are the most effective tool to keep you hands warm and provide the best space for hand warmers. Gloves separate the fingers which looses heat. Mits are the ultimate example of power in numbers, however you do loose some dexterity.

Extra hand and foot warmers are always a great thing to have stashed in the car along with extra layers of clothing. Cosco sells them by the case. I'm on a mission to try to find an effective reusable brand.

While it is true you pay for what you get, there are reasonably priced layer options at any department store and at lots of second hand stores. Good gear is an investment that should last you years.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Favorite Trail - Beach Lake Trail

This trail never fails us! Exactly a mile from the car, around the lake and out to the inlet the, no matter what time of the year, every step of the way is graced with a stellar view! I counted 29 parents and kids out this morning. Mid way we stopped and let the kids meander and snack. Many took the opportunity to throw rocks into the ocean. A gaggle of the larger toddlers did the entire 2 miles round trip on their own! Mine wanted to be carried the last 50 ft or so. He was tuckered out. There were some new faces today. The age range of the kids was a few weeks old to almost 4, now that the bigger kids are back in the throws of the busy school year. A few of us stopped to pick currants and high bush cranberries on the way back. They are still pretty tart as we haven't had a good frost yet to sweeten them up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Prepping for the Winter Ahead

Anxious about taking your new little one out in the cold this year, or is this your family's first winter in Alaska? Dressing your little one for success in the outdoors is important. Fortunately there are some amazing resources available here in Anchorage. Local author of Babes in the Woods, Jen Aist will be teaching her annual Babes in the Snow class at Providence Hospital  Saturday 10/1/10 from 12-2 in the Entrance 5: Maternity Center Education Room at Providence. Scholarships  available or register at The Childrens Hospital or call 212-8474. Her book can also be found at any of the local bookstores.

Basically you want to think about dressing your baby as you would for the current weather conditions. Keep in mind that your child is not exercising while being worn or pushed in a stroller, so they may need even more clothing than you. If you are wearing your child in a carrier such as an ERGO or a Beco carrier, you will transfer body heat back and forth to one another, however this does not occur in most frame packs and strollers.

Base layers are key. You want your child's core to maintain it's normal temperature. Moisture wicking base layers such as wool and polypro are important as they keep your child dry, even if they sweat or have snow get in between their layers. Cotton as the outdoor experts say, kills. You don't want moisture to get trapped and freeze on their skin. Your outer layers will be typical fleece, buntings or snowsuits. Hats, wool socks (or other wicking material) & mittens are also important to always have with you, just in case. I often put my adult size socks on my child's feet over his base layer so that when he is in a carrier his skin is not exposed when his pants inevitably ride up. Wool socks make great mitts too.

While most of the gear you need can be purchased at REI, many parents in the group have found items for cheaper at the local consignment shops, craigslist, ebay, and the REI outlet online. Why pay full price if you don't need to.

I also always have extra gear on hand. If you have any questions or would like  try or see some of the gear in person feel free to email me and I can make sure to bring it to the next Trek.