Thursday, February 28, 2013

Russian Jack

It was a gorgeous day for a hike on the Russian Jack Trails! The perfect late winter day we live for. The kind that makes winter seem bearable. We've been blessed with a lot of those days this winter. Today's theme was Terrain - how bumpy, steep or flat the trail was. The kids discussed how fast or slow they could go based on the terrain - fast on downhills, slower on the ups. Many chose to challenge themselves with some of the steeper topography by climbing the hills and banks on the trailside. At one point there were so many kids climbing a hill that it looked like a munchkin version of the Chilkoot Pass.

The Russian Jack trails are a great starting place for hikes with little walkers and skiers as these multi-use trails are groomed. There's a lot of options and it connects with the larger Anchorage trail system.  There's a fantastic sledding hill, a chalet to warm up in and the Municipal Greenhouse is located here too. A fantastic tropical oasis in the middle of the sub-arctic winter. I recently discovered you can rent the chalet for events for relatively cheap. It would make a great place for a winter birthday party, conveniently located next to the sledding hill. Here's a map from the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage's page:

Today happened to be my eldest's birthday. We brought some treats to share to celebrate with our friends. The original plan was to have them while warming up in the greenhouse post hike, but it was so beautiful we opted to indulge outside, rather than deal with removing and putting on gear inside. If your little one's birthday falls on a Trek day, feel free to bring a treat to celebrate, but do not feel obligated. 

The Hike that Wasn't

When I went to put my pup out this morning it was snowing like crazy. I couldn't see the mountains from my house. Always my barometer for how driving conditions and visibility are going to be. If it were an intown hike, I wouldn't have batted an eye, but since this one is a bit of a drive for many of us I panicked and cancelled. By the time I had posted and emailed about the cancelled hike, the snow squall had subsided and the skies opened. I decided to pack up my boys anyways and head out the the trail, one of my all time favorites to make sure someone was there if others hadn't logged on to their computers and still gone.

Fortunately, a great friend hadn't received the message and we had the trail all to ourselves. Though I was sad others didn't get to experience this exceptional trail on this glorious morning, I was kind of glad too. We had time to catch up. We took our time. A big baldy eagle presided over the lake high up in an old birch. 

When we first arrived I didn't think we would last long. We had left the heavy winter coat for my oldest at home. By chance we had an extra fleece to layer his other fleece with and when the sun broke over the mountain, its rays imparted warmth.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ruth Arcand Trails


Today's Trek had us going down the Ruth Arcand Trail System off Abbott Loop. These are multi-use trails, that are truly multi-use as they are widely used by horses, as well as humans, as their is an Equestrian Park located here as well. I haven't been there in over a year, and I think the trail system has expanded. I don't remember the lovely trail markers. You can also access these trails from behind Spring Hill Elementary and Hanshew Middle if you happen to live in the Independence Park Area. They are a bit boggy and buggy in the summer months and are known to have to frequent bear users. 

I know I'm going to jinx us when I say - wow what a great run of weather we've had for treks lately! Another "warm" day of temps in the high 20's. Winter hiking doesn't get much better than this. This Trek's theme for discussion was tree identification. Despite the tree's missing one of their most important defining characteristics - their leaves, we were going to try to keep a count of how many different types of trees we found along the trail. There's not a lot of diversity in this particular area. We only counted 3 species based on our intermittent observations.

After the Trek we stopped and let the kids play at the playground. There was a great little parking lot of sleds at the park. There were about 16 parents and about 35 kids, half about preschool age and the other half young enough to be worn/carried in packs. There were quite a few first timers, many veterans and a few in between. One mama pulled a fantastic homemade kick sled!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Alaska Environmental Literacy Plan Needs Your Voice!

If you feel strongly that outdoor education is important in our children's education please make your voice be heard! AKELP is looking for your feedback on the Alaska Environmental Literacy Plan! Please go to the link below to show your support and thoughts! Comments are due this week, by February 15th! Please show them some love for this amazing initiative!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Outdoor Brain Benefits?

As if we need more proof that bringing our kids outdoors is good for both their minds and bodies, an article in Psychology Today entitled "Do Early Outdoor Experiences Help Build Healthier Brains?" helps validate that.

This is all the proof I need: The Double Nap Phenomenom that occurs in the afternoon after a morning of hiking and playing on the trail with friends. It sure benefits my brain and helps theirs rest more efficiently.

Westchester Lagoon - Chester Creek Trail

We started out to day at Westchester Lagoon and chose to head East toward the mountains on the Campbell Creek Trail, instead of hitting the Coastal Trail. Going in this direction provided trees and a nice windbreak. The Coast Trail this time of year can be pretty cold when you aren't in the trees, as it is a low lying area right on the Cook Inlet. The frigid air settles out there at the bottom of the Anchorage Bowl.

There were a lot of parents and kiddos hitting the trail. About 15 parents with about 30 kids. This seems to be the norm these days.

The theme for the hike to day was noticing signs of the season. We discussed along the trail what clues told us we were in the middle of winter: the lagoon was frozen, trees had no leaves, there was snow... We thought it funny that there were life jackets (PFDs) hanging on the sign, as they are not a sign of this season!

There were a couple of first timers, which is always great to see. My oldest found another boy, who just happened to be one day younger than him. It is funny to see that at almost 4 years old, the months still make a difference. They were perfectly matched in their energy, interests and communication.

Our family returned home for our post hike tradition of what we call "Liquid Smores" - graham crackers dunked in hot cocoa with marshmallows. Even my littlest man partook in the routine with enjoying his first graham cracker ever.

Apart from the snow covering these PFDs these are decidedly not signs of the season!

Cargo sleds are starting to become the vehicle of choice on Treks these days. Their high sides are great for containing kids and gear!

The Chester Creek Trail has many tunnels that allow pedestrians to never have to cross a road! They are also fun for echoes!
Playing at the playground after the Trek is always a good way to ensure a nap!

 My boys enjoying the post hike tradition of liquid smores!