Friday, February 24, 2012

Laying First Tracks

Alyeska, a ski resort, about a 45 minute drive from Anchorage is home to some of the worlds best groomed alpine ski trails. While many adults like to go there to test their limits, it is a great place for the littlest of skiers. Rentals for toddlers are just $10 and the magic carpet, a glorified conveyor belt/ski lift is FREE. For the older kids they offer a wide range of lessons for different ability levels and host many clinics, camps and a racing program. The only beef I have with them is it is really difficult to reach the ski school by phone or email. They do have some info listed on their website, but it seems best to just go there and ask them questions in person.

Our Little Bear took his first runs on real skis at Alyeska this winter. It was a great success, if success is measured by the fact that he had fun, wanted to go down over and over and wants to do it again. His Bop (my husband) focused on it being fun, relaxed & they took warm up breaks for cocoa & cookies. There were some crazy over zelous parents there with toddlers screaming "No" as they went down and their parents giving them directions they couldn't yet understand. Having too high of expectations and not taking ample breaks is no way to instill a love for the sport. If he wasn't into it we were not going to push it. We were prepared to only last 15 minutes for the first time but were there for an hour and a half and just as long the subsequent times.  He now knows the routine is pizza at Chair 5 after.

A safety tip - if parents wear their helmets kids will too. Start right away. Our little guy has seen us wear helmets while biking, skiing, and playing hockey from day one. He thinks they are just part of the equation and actually believes they are pretty awesome. He was as excited about getting a new helmet for Christmas as he was his hockey skates, maybe even more.

Now is the perfect time to get a little one started skiing. With the longer days and the temps so much warmer then they have been, you don't need to suffocate them with tons of gear just to stay warm.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Johdpur Experiment

With all the record amount of snowfall we've had this winter, it is hard to tell if some of the less traveled and ungroomed trails will be packed down enough for easy travel with little ones. Today's trek was an experiment of sorts. We took off from the Johdpur Street entrance to Kincaid Park and took the multiuse, mostly single track trails that looped around the sand dune and the motorcross park. Some trails were more worn then others. With a chariot and a B.O.B. carrying little ones in our group it was a little bit of a work out and a tight squeeze. There were a few obstacles in the way like a big embankment of snow between two trails. What seemed like an hurdle to us parents... was an opportunity to our toddlers who saw it as a challenge to climb over and over again, fueled by the bonus of sliding down again. Yes that is my daredevil son going down head first.

At one location we were blasted by coastal wind and a mystical view of mountains emerging from a frosty fog, basked in sunlight. Some ravens were enjoying the drafts of wind and flew by to do a few tricks just for us. One was carrying food in its talons and right when it got in front of us, threw the morsel up and caught it in its mouth.

Depending on the kids' present moods and desires some turned back early and let their little ones crawl or wander around for some self directed exploration. When we arrived back at the parking lot the kiddos congregated to play as the parents chatted. One thoughtful mama brought a thermos of steaming hot, tasty tea to share with the group.

One of the many things that I love about this group, is the parents are always flexible. We can travel at different speeds, yet all usually gather at some point to talk and play. We don't have a rigid plan, just a goal to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, nature and one another. Between the hike and the hanging out after we spent a good hour and a half outside in this winter wonderland we live in.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Kodiak in February

February is the antithesis of tourist season in Kodiak, yet we trekked out there for a two week stint. My husband is currently building a research facility for ADF&G on the island. Kodiak is a huge island and known for its gigantic bears and fishing industry. The city of Kodiak itself only takes up a very small portion of the mostly wild island, with villages scattered along the coast.

Only an hour flight from Anchorage, we drove down to Homer and took the Alaska Marine Highway ferry in order to bring our truck and pup over with us. The boat ride is 9 hours... on a good day. Fortunately for us, both crossings were pretty calm sailing. We've heard horror stories of 20 ft. seas where if you reserved a private cabin, you couldn't even lie on the bunks with out hitting the ceiling. If you enjoy calm seas or have a stomach made of steal the ferry has a movie theater, a great cafeteria (with odd hours), a small play area for toddlers and a myriad of places to sit and take in a spectacular view.

Unfortunately while we were on the island, my son and I were  suffering from a nasty cold. The people at the Kodiak Island Medical Center, run by Anchorage's own Providence Hospital were great when we had to bring our son in for pink eye. Knowing how contagious the cold we had could be, we didn't want to go out and spread the wealth. I'll share the itinerary we had and elaborate more on the things we did do. The weather was pretty awful too, even by Kodiak's standards.

Kodiak Wildlife Refuge center hold events for 3-5 year olds every Wednesday 10:30 – 11:15. We heard these are fabulous, and that even if you don't go to the event the facility is worth it alone. They have a lot of great programs for older kids, including a Salmon Camp during the summer that sounds fabulous.

The high school pool has open swim hours M, W, & F typically 6:30 – 8:30pm.  Saturdays and Sundays too, but the hours vary depending on meets.

Fort Abercrombie trails are fabulous, bring your snowshoes if you are going in the winter. We took our dog and explored a bit

There is public skating at the local ice rink open from 9:00 am to closing. 

The Kodiak Public Library provides many different opportunities for kids of all ages. We went to the story time. It was wonderful. The librarian read a Gingerbread Man story followed by gingerbread decorating.
  • Game time for kids at 3:30 – 4:45 Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • Children’s movie on Friday, Feb 3 at 6:00 – 7:45
  • Story time is every Thursday 11:00 – 11:30
Buskin River State Park - a great beach to go beach combing on. It is probably teaming with visitors during the summer, by the look of all the campsites there, however we saw very few people there, despite being there just about everyday to walk our pup. Aside from this beach there a little jems of beaches scattered all around.

Fossil Beach - the roads were in extremely poor condition during this visit, but my husband has been out to this beach where fossils are easily found in the cliffs at low tide. It is known for some great surfing if you have the right gear.

The Kodiak Information website has a great driving tour mapped out on it's website. It looks very much like the Alaska milepost, with every landmark noted along the way. Kodiak only has about 100 miles of road, but many trails and sights along the way. 

Kid friendly restaurants: We found 2 that worked really well for us on this stay, Henry's and Java Flats. Henry's is standard pub fare, with very kid friendly waitresses. Java flats is a little ways outside of town, but they serve up a beautiful latte, great sandwiches and the most amazing cookies! Noodles the Thai restaurant was delicious, but not really kid friendly - no kids menu, and our little man wasn't feeling adventurous with his taste buds right after surviving his yucky cold.

Kodiak is a breath of fresh air, in that it isn't hooked to the grid like the rest of the world. It uses technology where it is appropriate and relies heavily on person to person contact. It is one place where word of mouth and the good old phone book are still your best reference tools.

We'll be heading back for the summer and will update again with all the opportunities that season has to offer. We're excited about fishing, hunting, camping, beach combing and hiking once our new little bundle of baby arrives this spring!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Winter Days Worth Waiting For

It was the kind of winter day we wait all season for: temps in the twenties, packed snow on the groomed trails. 6 parents and 9 kids hit the trail today. The skies were grey, but the sun was trying valiantly to break through the clouds on the horizon. It was totally light outside when I was packing the car up for the trek. No more days of leaving the house when it is still dark for a long while. We left the parking lot of Goose Lake around 10:45 and arrived back a little over an hour later, letting the mobile kiddos get out and play on the pirate ship equipment at the playground. Jumping of the plank is so much more fun when into the snow and the slide is super slick with a snowsuit on.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Guest Trail Hosts

As I get closer to the end of my pregnancy I realize that making all the hikes myself is not a reality. I would love to have members take turns planning treks in April and May. Please let me know if you are interested in helping out. Muchas Gracias!

Treks Scheduled

Treks are now scheduled through the middle of March. To find out locations and RSVP visit the Anchorage Outdoor Family Network website by clicking on the logo below.