Getting Kids Out Into Nature

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Category Archives: Tips and Advice

Becoming a Hiking Family – 6 tips to get you on your way

The New Year is well under way, the holiday lights are down, the excitement of a fresh start is fading, and we are getting to the tasks of building new habits. Does your New Year’s Resolution involve becoming a hiking family? Do you yearn to be outside more with your kids, and to live a more adventurous life? Perhaps you’re intimidated by how to get started on this new hobby. Or perhaps you are a new parent and have fears or insecurities about getting out with your baby. With our dreary winter weather, outdoor resolutions are harder to get a start on. I’ve got some tips for you here that should ease your transition.

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Boardman Lake Melting Out

Don’t Fret About Gear. Appropriate gear is important, but don’t let lack of official gear from the REI catalogue stop you from getting out. Most people have athletic clothes that can work as base layers, and a trip to a thrift store or consignment shop can help fill in gaps. Some sturdy shoes, any kind of water bottle, and something waterproof to cover up with are the biggest essentials for beginners. Even a plastic poncho can work well for a while until you can swing something more expensive. Once you get out a few times, you’ll know more of what you need and can start building up your gear as money allows.

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Walking the Gentle Path

Start Slow and Easy. Don’t push your family to do a 10-mile mountain climb right off the bat. Pick flat and short hikes to get a feel for everyone’s pace and to allow time to build up stamina. Having some easy victories under your belt will give you more confidence to try harder trips. Winter is the perfect time to stick to gentle trails closer to home, and you’ll be much more confident by the time the mountain snow melts.

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Trail Closed

Don’t skimp on research. Many trails that are popular summer routes can be dangerous or just plain inaccessible in the winter. Use the trip reports at to see what trails people are hiking, and what the conditions currently are. Are dogs allowed? Will you need microspikes? Did the road wash out in last autumn’s rainstorms? And don’t forget about parking passes – local city and county parks are generally free to use, but state and federal lands almost always require a pass, and you need to know which one to have in your car.

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Glacier View Trail

Bring a friend. Hiking with kids can be difficult, but having friends along can make things go smoother. It’s more fun for the kids, and can help adults feel safer. If you don’t have any hiking friends, check out local branches of Hike It Baby for lots of local hikes, bike outings, park days, and toddler wanders. The Mountaineers also has classes and outings just for families.

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Lake Ann and Surrounding Mountains

Join a challenge or set a large goal. Some of us are motivated by a competitive spirit, or by a larger goal. Hike Like a Woman is sponsoring a 365-Mile Challenge for 2018, and that is helping many folks get out for short walks and longer hikes (registration is currently closed, but they plan to open it again for short periods of time). Or perhaps you have a difficult bucket list hike that you need to get in shape for. Some people use their fitness tracker to keep track of mileage or compete with friends. Find what motivates you, join a group, and get encouragement from others.

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Pacific Chorus Frog

Slow down and look for beauty. Take time to stop and look at mosses, ferns, flowers, or creatures. Find out what motivates your children, and pick hikes that make them happy. Young children aren’t necessarily moved by sweeping alpine views, but tend to be more interested in what’s right in front of them. Look for birds or bugs, slugs or lichens. A hike with any kind of water feature is sure to be a hit with most kids. Even the dreariest winter hikes can offer glimpses of beauty if you train yourself to notice. And then you’ll be even more inspired to get out the next time.

Interview with Hike It Baby Founder, Shanti Hodges

Way back when my first child was little, I realized that hiking would be a good way to get us both outside and help stave off postpartum depression. I asked around in my moms group and among my friends for people who wanted to go hiking with me. This was before Facebook and Meetup, and…Continue Reading

Book Review: Leaflets Three, Let it Be! by Anita Sanchez

I recently received a book for the purposes of review that I’d like to share with you today. Leaflets Three, Let it Be! is a picture book for children about identifying poison ivy. But it also shows the many uses of the plant through the seasons. It is written by Anita Sanchez and illustrated by…Continue Reading

North Cascades National Park – National Park Week 2016

  North Cascades National Park is one of my favorite places to explore. Rugged mountains, jade-green water, few roads, autumn colors – all these things and more draw visitors to the park. North Cascades is smaller than Mt. Rainier or Olympic NP, and gets far fewer visitors. It’s still possible to find solitude in the…Continue Reading

Day Hiking: Mount St. Helens, Book Review and Interview

Mount St. Helens has held a special place in the soul of the Pacific Northwest since its eruptions in the 1980s. Many of us parents are old enough to remember following the saga on the news, and remember where we were on the day of the big eruption. We find it fascinating to visit this…Continue Reading

Interview with Author Joan Burton

Whenever people are new to hiking and wonder how to get started or which trails to go on with young children, I recommend the book Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington and the Cascades by Joan Burton, with photos by Ira Spring. I recently had the fortune to sit down with Joan Burton and hear…Continue Reading

Gold Creek Pond Snowshoe Trip Report

The kids have gotten noticeably stronger this year in their hiking abilities.  We’ve also made some new hiking friends who hike in all seasons, and they invited us to come snowshoeing with them this winter.  A Secret Santa has been leaving presents on our doorstep (a 12 days of Christmas theme) and one of the…Continue Reading

Happy New Year!

It’s a New Year, with new ideas and new hopes and plans.  It’s been pretty quiet in this space lately, as we focused on the holidays.  I also took a writing class with Christina Katz from the end of October through Mid-December.  Most of my writing energy went into that class instead of this blog,…Continue Reading

Thinking About Fall and Winter

Well, we had a hike planned today.  I even had the kids pick where to go, and they were looking forward to it.  But when we woke up this morning, my most sensitive and emotional child burst into tears at the thought of hiking.  I couldn’t get him to budge on the idea, even with…Continue Reading

Tips for Fall Hiking

We were fortunate this year that our warm, sunny weather extended well into October.  We were able to get out into nature without too much preparation.  But now the rains have started, bringing cooler weather and snow to the mountains. Our attentions will turn closer to home, as we explore trails at lower elevations.  We…Continue Reading