Thursday, June 28, 2012

Eklutna Lake

It is always a gamble to go out of town when it raining in Anchorage-- will it be the same or better? Lucky for us, the closer we got to the lake, the better the weather appeared. Yes, it was still cloudy; however, the cloud cover was hauntingly enchanting. If that helps at all.

The recent  rainfall did not daunt the 10 parents and kiddos that came to trek this morning. It was great to see some new faces as well! Our plan was to do the Eklutna lake trail--- a pebbly, relatively flat trail that goes around the lake. Very toddler and stroller friendly even with the copious puddles!

While we started out in a large pack, the puddles quickly drew the walkers off to explore.

Two little guys decided they would rather go back to the lake rather than walk around it. The rest of the group continued on for a half mile or so before they too were lost to puddles and playtime.

As is always, it is not about the destination, but the kids enjoying the outside and exploring. Explore they did indeed!

Times like this require us all to be in the moment and be happy of water proof shoes and boots. Or be thankful for remembering  that change of clothes or rainsuit.

 Thank you for all who came to trek with us! Cloudy or no, so many beautiful sights to behold.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Point Woronzoff

If you don't mind a bit of airplane traffic, this is a great trail.  We hopped onto the Coastal Trail at Point Woronzoff (at the far end of Northern Lights).  This paved and well frequented trail will take you all the way to downtown or to Kincaid Park.  We headed towards Kincaid for a different bit of scenery. 
 It is gorgeous through the huge trees.  Keep aware for the bikers zooming down this path though!  While you are at it, keep your eyes open for the moose as well.  One group saw a large moose and heard a little one behind it. 

 There are wonderful stopping points along the trail where the trees open up so you can see the inlet.  There are benches and perfect spots for little kiddos to stretch their legs. 
 Our group set off with a wide range of ages with umbrella strollers, bikes, jogging strollers, little babies in packs and other kiddos running.
 While there were a number of regulars, it was nice to meet some new parents.  I didn't get a chance to talk to some of them as they were fast!  I was with the toddler walking group and brought up the rear!
The kids had a great time near the little pond in the huge grasses after the hike.  They said they were making "mazes".  The parents all agreed that it is fantastic to not worry about ticks, chiggers or snakes as their kiddos played in the underbrush!

I hope you join us next week for a hike!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Smokejumper Trailhead/Campbell Tract

The clouds parted for a while to give us some sunshine this morning. 12 families set out on an adventure on the trail with many kiddo hikers. There were even two mamas with strollers who braved the uncertain trail conditions!

As was to be expected, there were many of Alaska's state birds on the trail with us--- mosquitoes! All the natural bug repellent in the world could not get them away from us. So the group opted to bail on the small wooded Moose Track trail in favor of the pebbled wide road trail that connects with Abbott Loop.

Insect repellent: Very utilized!

We had a wonderful cow moose sighting along the way which energized all the wee ones. Wildlife sightings are always such a treat--- especially when they are at a safe distance.

This moose didn't pay us any mind; the best kind!

 Many puddles were stomped along the way. We were even given a treat of a bubbling brook under a bridge.

After heading to the Abbott Loop trailhead, we ventured down the Elmore Rd bike path to keep the mosquitoes away. The combination of wind and cars whirring by saved our skin for the last part of the walk.

The group almost went 2.6 miles total! Quite a good walk for those kiddos who did the whole thing themselves!

 Thank you again for a wonderful morning. See you next week!

Today's Hike

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rain, Snow, Sleet, and Cold: Why spending time in the outdoors in most conditions is important and healthy.

Summer notes from Kodiak - While in Kodiak over the summer, I've been trying to get interest from other parents to create an outdoor play/hiking group. I've encountered a little resistance that has surprised me... "We'd love to... as long as it is nice outside." Why does this surprise me? Kodiak is an island community prone to wind and rain. I assumed that parents and kids were a little more hearty (they quite possibly are and I just haven't met them yet because they're already outdoors having fun. We've only been here a few weeks), and would take their kids out because they may not get our for a while if they wait for that perfect day. Having lived in Anchorage through record rainfall and snow years, we've come to accept the weather for what it is and deal with it. A sunny day is just that much more appreciated. Here in Kodiak if the skies open up for a few hours people know to take advantage of it!

(Since I originally wrote this I've found many kindred spirits! I knew they were here. In fact this may be the most welcoming community I've ever been to! I may have to be torn away from here when my husband's project is completed!)

We've come against this resistance before with our hiking group in Anchorage, but gradually parents have become more confident in their skills in preparing the whole gang for warm, comfortable and dry fun in all kinds of weather. Much of that thanks goes to our dear friend and author Jennifer Aist through her book Babes in the Woods and the classes and clinics she puts on for families (even if you aren't in Alaska, your group or organization can book her to do presentations!). There also happens to be a global movement to connect and reconnect children with the outdoors. This movement has largely been spurred on by the author Richard Louv and his books LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, and most recently, THE NATURE PRINCIPLE: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder.

Why is taking your kids out in cold or inclement weather important and actually healthy for them? Oh the reasons are numerous:
  • Fresh air is so important for so many health reasons, it helps with croup, colicky babies, it is very important in the winter months to help ward off colds and bugs that thrive indoors in close quarters.
  • Endorphins are thought to be released by engaging in physical activity and to elevate mood and energy levels, as well as promote a healthy immune system. They are said to help you recover from injury and illness faster too.
  • Emergency preparedness - when you know how to prepare yourself for being comfortable, safe and warm no matter what the elements have in store for you, you have a better understanding of how to keep yourself alive should you or your children find themselves in an unfortunate predicament.
  • Process skills and planning - as a veteran elementary teacher process skills and the ability to plan are traits that are widely lacking in today's children. Pushing on through and planning for an outing in inclement weather teaches kids how to predict what their needs will be and meet them trough planning and being proactive.
  • Follow through & determination - the ability to see a plan through to the end. If you say your're going to accomplish something like a hike... then do it. Teach your children not to let obstacles get in their way.
  • Flexibility - teach and role model for your kids how to roll with the punches and not let little things like rain get in their way of doing what they had intended.
  • True sense of satisfaction - there is nothing more satisfying than conquering an obstacle, even one as silly as weather. Some of the best hikes with Taiga Trekkers have been rainy or cold ones, because we all thought about bailing before we even got to the trailhead, but we all persevered and felt better about ourselves than we would of if it was a regular old sunny day.
  • Perspective - seeing life through another lense - rainy & snowy days aren't often thought of as beautiful, but they really are.
  • Deeper understanding of nature/science & its cycles - if you only spend time outside when it it is "nice" or rather I should say sunny (now that we've established that other kinds of weather are nice too), you miss out on all the amazing lessons to be learned about nature and how all it's phenomenal systems function. A simple example is leaves turning themselves over before a rainfall or flowers battening down the hatches by closing themselves up.
Now of course there are limits to what we will expose ourselves, an more importantly our children to. Those limits are different for every family, but it is important for us to not let a little rain or cold get in the way of our time outdoors. We'd miss out on so much wonder and opportunity if we did!

*please forgive the typos... this was written in a fury of a few quite moments, often typed with one hand while I've nursed an infant, or by miracle of miracles... both kids napped at the same time. The idea has been banging around my beaner for a couple of days now.

Kincaid Park: Jodphur entrance

Today's hike presented great lessons in flexibility and being spontaneous. The hikers today definitely made lemonade out of a few neon lemons we encountered in the parking lot:

Rather than chance having walkers run into said moose, the walking contingent opted to go down the main road to the motor cross track and onto the sand dunes. A smaller baby-wearing only contingent braved a small portion of the trail and remained unscathed. Safety first!

The sunny skies brought out a large group of parents and kiddos; a great mixed group of newer group parents and those that have been with us for a while. It is always a pleasure to have a good conversation with others, and for people to bring friends for hikes.

Kiddos enjoyed the large pond in the middle of the motorcross track (pre-bike arrival), and running up and down the sand dunes. Parents had wee picnics, chatted and intercepted little ones running for the bluff.

A large area of bird nests were located on top of the sand dunes. We could have watched them all day!

On the way back to the cars, a large group of motor cross participants arrived and put on a show for us. Actually, they were likely surprised to have an audience. Fortunately or unfortunately, I think some of the little guys and gals may want a few loud toys for birthdays and holidays.

 Many thanks to all who attended today. What a wonderful morning in the sunshine!