Summertime Challenge – Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park

Well, we made it. We made the Summertime Challenge.  With all the other summer social obligations: weddings, pot lucks, and BBQ’s it was hard to find the time, be we were able to walk about, surrounded by nature at lease once a month, all summer long. Well, we still have September, but considering school starts before that, Im not sure we still count that as summer.  September in the pacific northwest says summer, but the school calendar says “Bah Humbug”!

The last hike was the longest, and most challenging for us.  It was just the 3 boys and mom.  And let me tell ya, the baby is a trooper; I only had to bribe him with the promise of daddy a few times to keep him moving.  He didn’t walk the whole 4 miles, but he did walk a good 2 miles. The rest of the way, my shoulders did the carrying.  The older two boys were great. They didn’t complain, except to say that mommy and baby couldn’t keep up, and carried everybody’s lunches in their backpacks. We didn’t stick to all the groomed trails, and some of the walking was a little jumping over roots, rocks and narrow little goat trails. But it was a blast.

Find the Perfect Hike

We left a little late because I was agonizing over the perfect trail to walk on. Not too long, not too tough, not too steep and with enough interest to keep little kids wondering whats around the next corner, e.g. just right – said baby bear. So, I hit my friendly http://www.WTA.org (Washington Trails Association) website. Their hike finder tool is fantastic. You can filter by location, sights, level of difficulty (kid-friendly).

Pack for the Hike

Then, we had to pack for the hike. Anyone who leaves the house with people smaller and younger than yourself know its a good idea to bring these items along on a trip, to anywhere. Unless its Grandma’s house; she pretty much has everything.

  • Diaper bag – with plenty of wipes
  • Change of clothes/shoes and socks
  • Lunch and healthy snacks (Peanut butter & local honey is a mainstay as well as oranges & apples)
  • Lots of water

I Googled the address and we were off!  The weather was warm. We shared the trail with horses, and other people of all ages out for either a pleasant stroll or a hardcore run through the woods.  Everyone we met was super nice and we really enjoyed ourselves.

Things We Learned:

  1. Pack the night before if you want to leave early
  2. Wear bug repellent, sunscreen and a hat. In my neighborhood, we have plenty of wind to keep the mosquitoes down, not so around these trails. The olders moved fast enough that the mosquitoes wouldn’t stick, but the little guy was in trouble.
  3. Make sure everyone has on long pants (see mosquito note above) and in case of trips, falls and sticker bushes.  We had a little of all 3 on our walk.
  4. Download a map of the hiking area and plan your hike accordingly. King County provided a Map at the trail head (Quite useful, thanks King County!) But, in my naivete, I thought the path was probably another loop, so didn’t bother to look until we found a spot for lunch. We had walked way out of our way from where we wanted to be and added an extra mile to our walk.
  5. Keep the Map! Along the route, during a diaper change no doubt, I dropped the map.  I hope some poor lost soul found it and used it. Thankfully, I was able to ask for directions. Did I mention that everyone we met was nice?
  6. On your hike in this area, either hike to a designated picnic area, or plan to make your impromptu lunch on a fallen log (we did). Just remember to pic up your trash!
  7. Wear comfortable shoes. I don’t own hiking boots, but after this, Im thinking I should invest in a pair. Oye, my aching feet!
  8. When hiking with kids, plan to take breaks. Break for water, rest, and most importantly potty breaks. This is where having boys is quite nice!
  9. Remember, if it takes you 1 hour to walk in, it will take you 2 hours to walk out along the same path.
  10. Have fun. Enjoy the time with the family. Savor the peanut butter!

 

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Summer Challenge – July

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Summer has finally arrived in the great PNW – Pacific Northwest. It tends to wait around until the 4th of July holiday around here. I will take what I can get, cause this girl can finally enjoy some natural light at home and in the office.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, people feel so hemmed in by the rain, cold and generally grey weather, they tend to cram everything in during the summer. I swear every weekend has had out of town visitors, weddings to attend or a church potluck. So, like the professional procrastinator I am, we did not do a traditional hike this month. We went to the Woodland Park Zoo this weekend. Last month, I managed to score a free ticket through a great Starbucks program, so we just had to pay for the littles, and the baby is still free.

Yep, I figured it was outdoors, surrounded by nature (in cages, but still) and consisted of walking around for the better part of the day. Clothing attire is comfortable with supportive shoes – so it should count. Since its my post, Im calling it.

We got to the zoo at 10am and stayed till 3, and still didn’t see everything. The baby was entranced by the monkeys and the bears. The olders loved the giraffe and the alligator/snake house.

Some things to consider if you plan on bringing your kids are:

1) Take a picture of your kids and have a pre-arranged place to meet, in case they get lost. We split up into 2 groups to find a restroom and had to use cell phones to find each other again.

2) Bring money, and lots. The only reason we went was because of the free ticket, but entrance for a family of four, plus parking, can easily run $70 alone.

3) Wear comfortable clothes. I saw people walking around in heels, and I don’t know how they did it.

4) Pack a lunch, and LOTS of healthy snacks. This zoo has food carts all over the place. My kids wanted ice cream, cotton candy, you name it. Thank goodness for goldfish crackers and craisins, and fruit snacks to appease their little selves.

5) Get a map, download it before you go or plan ahead on the iPhone app. If you aren’t into ‘experiences’ like feedings, you can miss the crowd. Also, since the layout is a little wonky with dead-ends all over the place, you can plan to see everything you want with minimal amounts of the usual backtracking.

6) When dealing with small ones, STOP AT EVERY BATHROOM YOU SEE! Was that too loud? Kids are so enthralled with the animals or complaining about the walking, they never think about bodily functions till its too late. Do them, and you, a favor but pack a change of clothes, just.in.case.

7) Plan to spend the day, unless you have a pass and live close enough to visit often. Get the most of your entrance and spend the day. If you have a young one who naps, bring a stroller in hopes they will conk out before total meltdown. It took several shady areas and exhibits for the baby to finally acquiesce, but thankfully he did and was in better spirits later than the 5yr olds. If your young one needs a particular lovey or blanket along to help that process, consider bringing it.

8) Remember when meltdowns strike or things start to go crazy, time-outs can happen in any random bench, corner or cave. My boys know, even when our and about, I will follow through.

9) You can make it a fun learning opportunity about geography, biology, science and even reading or English. Describe where the animals are from, why they have spots, or why they are only up at night. Have the kids read the signs, or look for animal symbols, it’s fun having them spot the word ‘Tiger’ on the road markers and decide to follow the arrows.

10) Don’t forget to have fun. Like many, going to the zoo is not a normal day. So if the kiddos are not on schedule or act a little crazy, then remember why you left the comfort of your neighborhood to begin with. It’s an experience and a memory in the making, and make it a good one!

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Summertime Challenge – Junuary

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It is almost the end of June, or this year Junuary. In the great Pacific Northwest, summer might have started according to the calendar, but the sun generally doesn’t start showing its face on a regular basis until late July. Since out family challenge is to explore more of what the great outdoors has to offer, it means we need to be true to our NW roots…we need raincoats!

Today we donned Thomas the Train raincoats, backpacks and the baby wore a hat (something I need to remember for next time) and we set off to Snake Lake trail off of S19th street in Tacoma. The Snake Lake watershed is connected to the Tacoma Nature Center, and both are run by one my favorite governmental entity’s in Pierce County, Metro Parks.

The walk was easy with the 18month old. We didn’t bring a stroller for him, or use a backpack carrier either. Though the backpack might have made it a faster walk. He tends to dawdle, even in the rain. I have to keep reminding myself that this is still relatively new. We met many people who were using the path to run and saw some great sites along the trail. Great thing is that the rain was light while we were walking and some portions of the trail were dry because all the trees kept the rain to a minimum.

After our walk, we ended up at the Tacoma Nature Center. We read books, tried on skunk/beaver/duck costumes and watched turtles swim in their habitat. The center was a big hit because: it was indoors, warm and the activities were numerous! Even during lunch, my older boys, who’ve been there before, kept explaining, ‘look at that!’. It was a natural place to stop and eat the lunch we packed. We made sure to clean up after ourselves. The facility is so nice, it would be a shame to leave it a mess!

Lessons Learned
1) Bring a hat! (I got really wet)
2) Keep a change of clothes in the car, in case of falling in the mud – or other extreme boys sports. (This helped keep us warm and dry on the way home)
3) Pack a lunch. This is a great way to make sure that you’re prepared when the munches hit and a way to rally the troops toward the end…only a little farther till we can stop for lunch! Plus, you can save money vs. eating out.
4) Bring a change of shoes. I forgot to pack the baby’s rain boots and he was mad I kept lifting him over puddles. He wanted to stomp in puddles like his brothers, but I didn’t have a change of shoes. So yes, I became the crazy lady telling her boy, who is surrounded by mud and nature, to be careful about getting dirty…

Juvenile Diabetes Research – Beat the Bridge

Last month, I didn’t even realize it, but we started our summertime challenge.  My company had a large team of people signed up to run in an effort to beat the bridge, but it wasn’t until a very good friend of mine called and said “Wanna walk with me” that I even coJDRFnsidered participating.  Thank goodness for her, because now we were off and walking.

The count for our group was substantial, my friend and her daughter, myself and my three children, for a total of 6.  After I convinced my 5 year olds that the 4.5 mile walk was a good idea, and there would be rewards (extra pool time at the end of the week) for not fussing, they finally got on board, the walk itself was really great.

We walked all around the University of Washington campus, talked amongst ourselves and met some really nice people from all different kinds of companies wearing their logo t-shirts.  We packed some portable and easy to eat & walk snacks like apples as well as water for us and the kids. I can’t remember the amount of time it took to finish because I wasn’t paying attention.  And, the 5year olds felt great they got a medal for finishing.

Lessons Learned

  1. Find the exit, quickly: As we came to the finish line, we saw vendors and tents all around.  Because we were in the middle of the pack it was crowded, but doable.  While we walked around to see everything many more people arrived.  It got scary, so I told the older boys to hold onto the stroller for fear of losing them in the crush.
  2. Remember where you park: I was in a new parking lot and didn’t even see the signs marking the sections of the lot.  It took us 20 minutes in the rain to find the car. *head smack*
  3. Bring a lightweight jacket WITH A HOOD: see post #2 about walking in the rain brrrr…

With that in mind…I’m thinking about walking the 5K for the sound to narrows.  I’m not quite up to the full 12K yet. Maybe toward the end of the summer.

Hiking – our family’s new challenge

Its funny, as a mom who works outside the home,  my weekend time with my kids is precious.  My older two, the 5 year old twins, when reminded that tomorrow was Saturday and mommy would be home have different responses. One said “Yeah, mommy will be home”; while the other said very glumly “No TV! Oh man!”.  I like outdoor time, especially as the weather starts to warm up!  This summer, I think our challenge, in addition to the garden, will be going on 1 hike, volksmarch or other walk per month.

With the cost of gas and available time, I think I am only going to challenge myself to 1 hike a month, but since that is 1 hike more a month than last summer – I’m okay with that.  If you are interesting in challenging yourself this way too, here are some resources I found:

Family Friendly Hiking Guides

http://www.wta.org – This is a great website that has family friendly and expert hiking trails.  The website has tips and packing lists for day hikes as well as local excursions.

Save on gas and click at http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/map to bring up a map of your local area to show a list of available hikes. You can even filter the map for family friendly hikes.

AVA or the American Volksmarch Association page for clubs in Washington: http://www.ava.org/gen3/data/clubsbystate.asp?EVState=WA I loved to Volksmarch as a younger person and would love to pick it up again.  These are usually very nice, peaceful walks with no race or stress component.  This website will direct you to local clubs and the events they host in your area.