Monday, June 13, 2011

Gettin' back to it!

It's been awhile since my last post, I apologize.  I have been training to run a half marathon, and so at some point, I needed to run rather than hike, so that is what we did.  I'm so lucky to have a little one who likes to move, and content to move at a nice pace in a stroller for an hour here and there.  With the race behind me, we are again looking at hikes.  On the list is a meandering loop to finish out some of Forest Park's Wildwood Trail and our second meetup hike with a munchkin Meetup group of hikers and kiddos.  When I wrote about finding outdoorsy families to hike with, a reader commented about Meetup.  Brilliant idea.  We signed up, searched, and found a group of parents and little hikers.  We went for our first hike with the group to Mt. Tabor.  I can tell that I am going to like this group!  Will post again soon!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Little hiker solution: disc golf

In a recent post, I lamented that Scarlett was getting to the age where she wanted to be out and we still had a mile and a half from the car.  I'm experimenting with a few solutions, and we came across one purely by accident: disc golf.  Yes, that random version of golf for hippies and granolas.  Perfect, perfect for toddlers.  Sunday is family day, we relax and enjoy our family unit of 3.  Sometimes other family joins us, my brother and his fiance, close friends or Wes' sister and her boyfriend.  Yesterday was such a day.

Kayloe and Molly joined us for a game of disc at Milo McIver State Park.  The 18-hole course is long and pretty flat.  It's busy, but not crowded and the holes are long and straight.  Red was just asleep when we arrived, so we put her in the stroller, and of course she promptly woke up.  But that meant that we had the stroller, sounds annoying I know but it wasn't actually, and she could walk when she wanted and ride when she needed to.

She mostly walked.  Luckily, disc golf can be a leisurely game, so walking with a toddler only makes it a little more leisurely.  The bonus is that she was also pretty entertained by the game, so sometimes she would walk up and put a disc she'd been carrying in the baskets and liked to see the discs ring the chains.  What a great way to spend the day with family, be outside with a toddler on-the-move and relax.  I highly recommend this.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How To Find Other Outdoorsy Families

Lately I've been a little hungry to share our life and love of the outdoors with other like-minded families.  Don't get me wrong, Red and I go on many playdates and we know lots of babies her age and both younger and older.  I just think it would be nice to have a few that also were regular hike pals too.  How killer would it be to have playmates from a very small age that 1) can keep up with you on a trail, 2) understand how to explore and care for nature and hold that as a priority and a dear responsibility and 3) are down to go and explore at the drop of a hat.  Camping is fun, but it would be really fun if it was communing with nature AND community.  Right?! Right.

Before becoming a mom, finding like-minded outdoorsy folks was easy, so why is finding the folks who have become parents so much harder?!  Part of it is that a lot of those folks simply haven't become parents, part of it is that if they are parents, their kids are older, part of it is that parenting is hard and getting out is a little daunting. I make it a point to say hello to anyone on the trail with their children, but I'll be honest, it just doesn't happen all that often.  To the credit of others, we also aren't on close-in trails on the weekends much.

As a parent in the information age, I've gleaned a lot of information from parent blogs, outdoor companies and the like.  I thought rather than a bunch of stories of our weekly hikes, I'd dedicate this post to connecting with folks.  Here are links to sites and blogs that I find worthwhile when it comes to getting out there with babes in tow.  Do you have a favorite not on this list?  Leave a link in a comment!  Thanks for visiting!

Outdoor Baby Network: a recently (12/09/10) launched social networking site for outdoorsy families.  Join and come be my "friend!"
Mountain Mama Maternity Wear: technical outdoors apparel for mommas and mommas-in-waiting.  Also nice about this one is that if you become a Facebook Fan, they tend to post a lot of great information and links.
Adventure Parents: a great resource.  The website has a blog, photos, inspiring stories about adventurous families, recipes, tips & advice.  Lots to peruse.
Blog: Climb With Kids: a great blog that has a nice collection of useful posts, geared toward climbing, but also has gear reviews, and covers family topics such as biking, camping, risk taking, bugs, first aid, etc.
Exodus Family Expeditions: So this family is going on a Road Trip RIGHT NOW, covering every state in a year and summiting highest peaks in each one.  Want a little inspiration to get out there, here you go.  There are other family blogs about long trips, but since this one is currently happening, it's a nice one to follow!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Oh what a week!

5 days, 3 hikes with a kiddo and a run without.  Now that is heaven.  Right?  I think so.  Red may be getting to the age that she doesn't agree.  Not to get me wrong, I have a very even tempered, easy going kiddo, but on our Wednesday hike in Forest Park, she very clearly said "want to get out" about a mile and a half from the car.  I'm curious what other outdoorsy parents did or do to stay out a little longer.  Does a parent simply have to accept that trails will be a lot shorter in distance and a lot longer in duration? Or is there a way to meet in the middle?  I don't have the answer, so if you do, leave a comment on the post!  I'll keep you posted about what we find out for our kiddo.  I'm told it is just something that we have to go and work through, and as we do, I'll be happy to post 3 attempts at taking one picture and continue to remind myself that we are raising an independant free thinker, and one that loves nature... right?

This is the end of the hike that represents half of the Forest Park Conservancy's All Trails Challenge; 40 miles of Forest Park, complete.  30 of them with Red.  Man, I love this girl!

Monday, April 25, 2011

All Trails Challenge Hike #6: Newton Road Loop

This trail is notable for a few reasons.  For starters, we did it backwards, according to James Thayer's route in Portland Forest Hikes: Twenty close-in wilderness walks, and it is a hell of an upward trek in the beginning, gaining most of the 840 ft in elevation gain in the first mile.  I can't imagine going down that with Red in a pack any way but on a bottom, so I'm glad we did it that way.  Not to mention that it is beautiful on the way down hiking along a small creek through a fantastic valley and you can soak it in more descending elevation, in my opinion.  Secondly, the rhythm of this rocky BPA Road may be a good soother for kiddos, because Red slept for most if not essentially all of this 4 mile hike.  Lastly, we had great company, an old college friend who I haven't seen since I was pregnant with Red.  A challenging start to a hike, a sleeping toddler and conversation in the adult form of the English language for 2 hours.  It was brilliant.  Absolutely brilliant.

Many parents will attest to the newfound joy in little things after you have a child; and not always is it little things that little ones do.  Sometimes it is that magical hour between someone going to sleep and a beautiful sunset.  Other times it is a shower, or heaven forbid, using the restroom without a munchkin audience.  This time, oh this time was catching up with an old friend on a hike.  Sparklingly brilliant.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Walk in the Park: 16 miles in Forest Park

After contemplating if I was going to post about each hike we've done this year, I decided to book it to the last one.  Last Friday Red and I hiked 16 miles through Portland's Forest Park.  I may be crazy, hiking 16 miles with a toddler in a backpack, it's true.  After doing so, I think I'd say that I am.  Nuts.  I can't say I'll do another one quite that long again this year.  Yep, that was it.

Almost ready to hit the trail, I was already having some reservations.  For one, who in their right mind, especially those like minded people who enjoy their sleep, starts a hike at 6:30 in the morning, WITH THEIR BABY!?!  That would be me.  Yep.  We already decided that I was crazy, right?  Right.  Secondly, the night before I was reviewing my plan with my husband, and realized that my math was wrong.  The section of Forest Park's Wildwood Trail that I planned to hike wasn't 14.34 miles; it was 18.9.  WHAT __  _____ (add your own carefully chosen words here)?!?!  I had mentally set myself up for a hike that was, in comparison, much shorter.  Add to that, I had lost a contact earlier in the week, so I had to hike with my glasses (not my favorite) and that the forecast was not in our favor.  Cancel?  Maybe.  I had weighed all of the options and came to the conclusion, "This is a city park, not a wilderness area" and "there are lots of easy outs if I need one" so off I went.  My wonderful husband had agreed to do a car shuffle so that I didn't need to plan a loop and a carseat would be waiting Red at the end.  Have I mentioned how wonderful he is?  Well, he is.  He is the best.

The first 5 miles were simply put, BLISS.  This is a CITY PARK.  Yes, that is right, owned by the city.  It also happens to be the closest city park to my new home.  Which makes what you see my child's playground.   How brilliantly fortunate and amazing is that!?!  As I walked, and Scarlett took it in, I felt an amazing feeling of gratitude.  So far the weather was Oregon Mist and not rain. There was an incredible grove of Hemlock so big and so dense that I would have guessed it was much earlier by the light.  So far the trail was in great condition.  So far Red was warm in her many layers and winter mittens and content to take in the surroundings.  So far.

As I passed the 10.25 mile marker that marked our first 5 miles and a quarter of the hike under the belt, Red let out one of those great bloodcurdling screams.  AH!  What happened?  Did she get bit?  Was there a branch that missed me but nailed her?  What could make a happy toddler so incredibly mad all of a sudden?  I naturally unbuckled and set her pack down immediately to check.  A little cold, but nothing immediately wrong.  Not hungry, wasn't interested in milk.  A quick diaper change and a little leg stretching later, I tried to put her in the pack again.  Pissed off munchkin.  Kicking the pack, screaming, the works.  It was great. I hope you caught the sarcasm there.  A premium 16 month fit about being in the pack.  I think the scream was her asserting her opinion.  And the kicking was definitely a message to me that I hadn't gotten it the first time.  We had already passed the 53rd Ave entrance, to which I could book it back to, but then what.  The easy out was only as easy as what we had to do when we got there!  No car, no carseat to put in someone else's car...  Wes was most likely at an install and wouldn't be able to leave until it was finished.  53rd is not exactly a heavily traveled road by people with empty carseats if you know what I mean.  And if there were one, it may very well be in a luxury automobile and picking up a momma and a kiddo on the side of the road well out of the question, not to mention whether I'd feel ok getting into a random car.  It was a fit, right?  Not the end of the world, not hypothermia, not frost bite.  So we took a break, and then I explained that we had to get going.  It worked, sort of.  She got in, but man oh man she was annoyed.

At the next "easy out", Firelane 2, she just looked so tired, and so not exactly happy with me.  But the fit was over, she was content to take it in and have a drink.  At this point I was looking at maps and wondering what the new plan B would be, and if we got to the next checkpoint, what that plan B would be.  Right after this point, the trail became a mudrun.  Just the weekend before, I did a 5 mile trailrun from Lower Saltzman to Maple Trail and out at Firelane 3.  The trail had looked good.  Now I was very happy to have some poles.  The Oregon Mist turned to Oregon Rain.  My gratitude was fading and that mental game within started.  I should have planned to stop at 53rd.  What had I been thinking.  Just about then, my once mad daughter started cooing and babbling a happy babble.  Oh, sweet music to my ears.  It is no surprise that she may be enjoying the mud slip and slide.  On a trek to Pacific City with our friend Fae, she thought it was just hilarious whenever someone slipped even a little on the large sand dune.  Fae had a German term for it that essentially translated to finding enjoyment from another's pain and suffering.  But in this case, I just didn't care, it was what I needed and I picked up the pace.  I kept pulling out the map when it wasn't slick to think about changing the route.  It was at least 11 miles left once I got to Firelane 3 to get to my car waiting for me at the end of that trail.  The thought of 11 more miles really didn't make me happy, but if I dropped down to Leif Erikson, it had to be shorter.  That old road was only a little more than 11 miles total and I was a good grip into it.  I could also head back to NW Portland from there and Wes' shop was only a mile past the Leif Erikson trailhead.  Ok, new plan and plan B established.  

The rain was now mist again.  Thank gawd and goodness!  We made it to Firelane 3 without much ado.  Many mountain bikes had really had a great time on that trail and I think I would have enjoyed myself on a bike as well, without a little one.  About a half mile down we made it to Leif Erikson!  Whoo hoo!  What mile marker were we at?  Between 4 and 4.25...  hmmm.  A little break to let Red run and contemplate the meaning of this.  That meant that we had about 6 miles left.  It also meant that we could shave almost 3 miles from the day.  It wasn't really misting or raining at the time, nor was it dry.  5 miles to Wes' shop, 6 miles + a little bit of road to my car. hmmm.  Happy baby, not raining.  hmmm.  Change the diaper, give Red some new dry pants and get hiking.  To the car.  Just do it. Get it done.  Go home and drink warm beverages for the rest of the day.  Wes was prepared to get BBQ (one of my weaknesses, but also a great reward) for dinner and I was keeping my eye on the prize.  We hadn't seen anyone for awhile, just some runners back around mile 6 or 7.  So that was what got me going, I admit it fully - BBQ.  Whatever it takes, right?!

Around 2 miles later, someone sounded like she needed to have lunch, so we stopped.  Again.  Changed a diaper, ate some food, changed to a pair of woolies after she found a puddle.  Life was good.  Beautiful place, beautiful company and happy company to boot.

Getting back into the pack was a breeze.  Big sigh. whew.  ok.  4 miles to go.  Hey there is a runner!  "Good morning, do you have the time please?", "11:15", "thanks".  Awesome!  We actually weren't making the worst time!  Forget dinner, BBQ for lunch if we make it by 1!  Yeah.  Still motivated by BBQ.  My diet is guilting me right about now.

1 hour later...  man, my hips are starting to really burn.  Scarlett has settled into a nap, and after singing Music Together songs for an hour, I am happy about that.  2 miles left.  Whew.  Keep going.  One step at a time.  high step it to the next bend.  This part of the trail is very familiar.  We hike it often enough to see that we are getting close.  Walking right through the puddles is refreshing, and the thought of a river at the end is a nice daydream.  Ice bath at home?  Um, hell no.  But it was a nice thought for a second.  By now I am fully aware that I am thinking less about the beauty surrounding me and more about the heal-to-toe express that means finishing the hike.

At the Leif Erikson trailhead I was overcome by joy.  We made it!!!  Now, just hike the road to the car (my car said that it was about .35 miles, spit in a bucket)...

We get to the Wildwood Trailhead by way of Germantown Road and she is still asleep.  Getting a pack off was never so unnerving or such a relief.  My hips are hurting but I feel ok.  Mental note to call for an acupuncture appointment.  I can hear Kimberly telling me to take it easy already.  BBQ?  nope.  I want some cottage cheese and tomatoes and a coffee.  Another 16 mile hike next week?  Um, no thank you.  I'll take the 5.  

I remember having the very clear thought somewhere by Firelane 2 that this hike will either be held against me when she is older, or she will love it.  The next day I had to smile at the thought of the later as she continued to crawl and play in her backpack throughout the day.

Thanks for reading this!  See you next time.  The BBQ was delish for dinner. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fae's Mystery Trail Outside of Bingen, WA

So Fae, Adria, Red and I went for a hike.  Like the last hike we went on, we had a vague idea of where we were going, and a purpose.  We wanted to see the Fritillaria that bloom in abundance on the drier side of the Columbia River Gorge.  

It started as one of those, "I did a hike on this trail once.." that led us to a trailhead on private property (I love those!).  The folks who own the land are nice enough to let hikers, and mountain bikers ride the trails that cut through their property.  It was beautiful!  It was coniferous single track in the beginning, and it opened up  into this glorious area of lichen covered Oak forest.

The four of us, ok...  the three of us plus one rider, hiked about 3 hours, and since there are no maps, I'm going to guess that we most likely hiked 3 miles in and another 3 out.  Red rode happily (aside from that needed diaper change) in her Pikkolo carrier from Cat Bird Baby.  She completely enjoys being outside, and she had one of her favorite people, Fae, and Adria to keep her entertained.  On short hikes like this, the soft buckle carrier is my favorite option.  It's light, keeps the kiddo close to you, creating a very stable way to hike.  All of the memory foam and adjustability makes this carrier in particular, very, very nice.  In overcast Spring weather, it's also a great way to keep the littlest member of your party, warm!

and then there were flowers!  It was just an absolutely lovely day.