Bergen and I have been busy on the hiking trails this summer! Not only are we exploring, discovering, and enjoying the great outdoors (per usual), but we’ve also been testing hiking shoes and boots from Hi-Tec. Hi-Tec Sports is a hiking and walking shoe and boot company out of Modesto, California. I’m starting with a review of the women’s V-Lite Altitude Pro Lite hiking boots, but stay tuned for a follow-up review of Bergen’s Aitana Low waterproof hiking shoes (also mentioned in our kid’s summer hiking guide).
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A nice walk in the woods has it’s place in the hiking world. Tall towering trees, greenery and foliage surrounding you, maybe even a creek or waterfall to gaze at or take a quick dip. Sometimes we want more though. We want an even greater reward for our effort than just the pretty scenery. We long for that light at the end of the tunnel–a gorgeous sweeping view of the landscape giving us more of a perspective of our place here on earth. Viewpoints also often mean you’ve accomplished something big, and that’s extremely satisfying!
This past winter, I set a goal for Bergen (4.5 years at the time) and I (Georgia came along for the ride on my back as well) to hike to the top of Little Si, a smaller neighbor mountain to the larger Mount Si in North Bend, Washington. In order to prep for the journey, we tackled several other trails with viewpoints and similar, but not quite as difficult, terrain and distances, and since then we’ve added a few more hikes with viewpoints to our tally. Consequently, we now have quite a few hikes that we can recommend to other families where your hard work will be rewarded with an amazing view.
One of the many reasons I love hiking as an outdoor activity is because of it’s simplicity. If you can put one foot in front of the other, relatively speaking, you can hike! Passing along this love to our kids has come naturally, and it seems to work particularly well because there really isn’t a lot of stuff involved. We can figure out where we want to go, toss a few things into a daypack, and we’re set for a fun adventure in nature.
Each season brings it’s own unique characteristics, and thus changes what we might need to brave the elements, though summer is probably the simplest of all. And since there are still plenty of summer days left this year, here’s our round-up of some of the best, and most useful items for kids to explore the outdoors on these hot, sunny days.
The hike to Poo Poo Point via the Chirico Trail in Issaquah, Washington can get a bad rap because of it’s crowds and steep climb. We recently hiked the trail as a family, and while we found both of these things to be true, we also came away with the conclusion that it’s well worth the effort. Even if you might need to let other hikers pass every couple of hundred feet (we were hiking on a sunny Saturday afternoon) and you might huff and puff on the way up, and be sore on the way down, the payoff is huge. Here’s what we loved:
Poo Poo Point–Chirico Trail
During our recent trip to Vancouver Island, BC last month, we really only had one day to explore the Pacific Rim National Park, so we needed to make the most of it! Two of the biggest draws in the park are the beaches and the rain forest, so in selecting the main hike for our morning, Schooner Cove was the clear choice since it would provide us with a little bit of both!
In order to feel less guilty about all the junk we’d consume at our Super Bowl extravaganza last weekend, I decided to take the kids on a good calorie burning, heart pumping hike. I don’t really need an excuse to go on a hike, but this was a great way to get the kids out of the house while Slaed (born and raised in Colorado & devoted Denver Broncos fan) prepared, stressed and prayed, for the big game ahead.
As you might have read from our Winter Bucket List post, I’m hoping that the three of us (Georgia, the 1-year old on my back in the carrier) can conquer Little Si this season. The mileage, at 4.7 miles round trip, isn’t something that I’m extremely concerned about, but more the mountain climb and elevation gain (1300 feet). So in preparation, we are training with hikes that are a bit easier, but have relatively similar distance and hill climbing.
Olallie State Park’s Cedar Butte trail definitely fit the bill as another good hike to get ready for the more difficult Little Si. It’s also less popular than it’s neighbor, Rattlesnake Ledge, which was bustling with folks and crammed with cars in the parking lot as we drove by.
To give you an idea of our hiking experience, I once again documented the journey with a video!
Olallie State Park’s Cedar Butte Trail
Mondays are turning out to be our day for hiking and adventure. Bergen goes to school 4-days a week (Tuesday-Friday), so Monday is our one full day together. In the new year and partially thanks to our winter bucketlist, I’ve been more motivated to be intentional with our “free day”. Last Monday, we explored St. Edwards State Park in Kenmore, Washington.
This week, I decided we’d tackle a hike, Cougar Mountain’s Wildside-De Leo Wall loop, that didn’t go so well the first time. You can read about that misadventure here, but I’m happy to share that things went a whole lot better the second time around! I didn’t lose my phone, we managed to find the viewpoint, and everyone was in good spirits. Life allows for do-overs, and I’m so grateful for that!
I love the varied terrain of this hike. We were up high with views, down low with rushing creeks, jumping over puddles, crossing bridges, and checking out horse tracks. So much interest, especially for my 4-year old companion. To get an idea of exactly what I’m talking about, we documented the journey with a video:
It took some advance planning, and a bit of preparation, but this past weekend, I got the chance to hike without my kids. While I love hiking along side my children, well..carrying one of them, and either chasing after or encouraging the other to keep up, I needed the chance to trek at my own pace.
As we’ve reached late summer and move into early fall, the feeling of a new season and new (school) year makes me feel like I need to set goals. Do you feel that same? I’m not one to pass-up a fresh start.
One goal that we are currently making a priority is the no-carrier hike for Bergen (3 years old). As I’ve described in our end-of-summer bucket list and recent hike, I’m in no shape to be carrying around a 40-pound little boy, and with a baby on the way, we would love for Bergen to be more independent and build his stamina.
We packed a whole lot of Arizona into one excursion during our visit to the state a couple of weeks ago.
A whole lot of typical Arizona was involved. You know…
- Saguaro cactus (among other varieties) towering over us, waving
We’ve come to the point where we can’t go to (or even drive past) any natural area without Bergen (2.5 years old) yelling out in question and excitement: “HIKE???”.
He knows what he likes and that’s getting to be outside on the trail exploring. Whether it’s among the towering cedar trees at home in the Pacific Northwest or the giant saguaro cactus waving from the dusty Arizona desert, on the trail seems to be where he’s most content.
Out of all of our adventures while on Kauai, hiking the Kalalau Trail is at the top of both of our lists of best memories from our week-long stay on the Garden Isle.
The trail head begins at the end of the road; the furthest you can drive from the North end of the island. There are no roads for motor vehicles on this part of the island, so if a helicopter ride, kayak trip, or swim isn’t in the cards for you and your family, this hike is your chance to see the treasured Na Pali coast.
Though we would have loved to go further (the entire Kalalau Trail is just under 11 miles out), we only had time and baby-patience for the 4-mile round trip hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach. Despite the low mileage, the terrain is quite treacherous. It varies in steepness, and elements from dry rocks, to slippery rocks, to puddles, and streams. We came prepared, and also picked up a few tips along the way.
1. Arrive Early. Since the trail is the only land access to the Na Pali coast, the destination can be quite popular, and parking is an issue. If you’re like me, you’ll also want to avoid a crowded trail. Getting to the parking lot at least before 8 am will ensure you of both.
2. Bring a few hiking comforts. If you have hiking poles, it’s smart to bring them along. Slaed brought his, and I borrowed one on the way back. Hiking with a toddler on your back can throw off your balance, and the pole helped give me some extra stability. Other comforts include the obvious: water and a little snack for when you arrive at the beach.
3. Hiking Shoes. Wear hiking shoes that work for you. With the slippery and rocky areas of the trail, you want to be comfortable to explore, and not constantly concerned about your feet. Chaco sandals worked (loved being able to walk across the stream with out worrying about drenched shoes) for me while Slaed wore trail running shoes. On the way back we saw many a’hiker sporting flip flops. Maybe they made the trek, but I bet it wasn’t easy or comfortable.
4. Enjoy the view. We needed this reminder for some reason! I guess we got so focused on the hike, that we would forget to stop, and take some time to cherish the experience. Leave it to Bergen to help us out. On our way back, he would not stop fussing. I whizzed through the trail thinking we needed to get out of there as soon as possible. After some full on screaming, we decided to just stop and take a break. We all drank some water, had a few crackers, and just checked out the amazing Na Pali coastline. Once back in the ergo, Bergen was good to go the rest of the way.
5. Extra clothes for kids. While we certainly were not swimming at Hanakapi’ai beach (much too dangerous), Bergen still managed to the get pretty wet and sandy playing and romping around. We were glad to have packed an extra outfit for him to change into for the hike back.
6. Check Ahead. Closures for maintenance can occur. Also beware and respectful of the ocean. It not advised to swim Hanakapi’ai beach, and especially dangerous from September – April due to treacherous surf conditions.
What are your tips for hiking with kids? Have you traveled to Kauai? What was at the top of your “best memories” list?
With winter recently coming to a close, you might not be interested in cold weather gear. However, if you live in a region still experiencing chilly temperatures or want to plan ahead for next fall and winter, you’ll want to consider Stonz Wear.
Stonz Wear is a children’s outerwear brand featuring cold (wet and snowy) weather accessories. They specialize in boots and mittens, and we particularly love the story of their origin. Try as she might, Stonz’ founder Lisa Will, could not keep her young son’s feet warm. She wanted to shoe or boot that would protect those tiny feet from the cold AND stay on, so she got to work designing and creating her own.
With a toddler not keen on snow and cold weather, and a preschooler who’s never strapped on snowshoes, I wasn’t sure what to expect for our first family snowshoe adventure. Bergen, our 5-year old, loves hiking, and has been climbing mountains with me since he learned to walk. But snowshoeing?
I foresaw him getting frustrated with the plastic clodhoppers and throwing them off in disgust. Then after being relieved of the clumsy feeling, he’d end up sinking in three feet of accumulated snow. All the while, our 2-year old would grow tired of being carried in the backpack. I envisioned her whining, screaming, or worse throwing a complete tantrum no snack, treat, or lollipop could pacify.
No, that’s not exactly how our first family snowshoe adventure transpired. It ended up being a whole lot of fun for most of us, but it wasn’t without a few bumps! To give you an idea of our set-up, here are a few nitty-gritty details: Slaed has his own snowshoes, I borrowed a pair from a friend, and we rented a pair from REI for Bergen. Georgia was carried in our Deuter Kid Comfort 3 for the 3-mile trek. We chose to hike along the Wonderland Trail (Longmire to Cougar Rock Campground) for it’s easy terrain, pretty views along the Nisqually River, and easy accessibility from Mount Rainier National Park’s south entrance.
How do we inspire the next generation to care for our planet?
In the words of Benjamin Franklin,
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.
One of the best ways to instill a genuine respect for living things is through experience. Children need to be provided with opportunities to be a part of the natural world. Formal and informal, structured and unstructured, adult-led and independent, this dedicated time leads to knowledge. And this knowledge leads to understanding, power, and action. Jane Goodall said, “Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall they be saved.”
There are so many ways to build upon a child’s “nature IQ”. Hiking, camping, nature-based projects, classes, field trips to environmental centers, and good old fashioned backyard fun are just a handful of ways to start learning! We also love utilizing zoos, aquariums, and science centers as we explore locally and when we travel. These facilities often provide hands-on activities and opportunities to observe flora and fauna in an engaging way.
Do you have an exciting travel destination on the calendar for 2017? As we go about the new year, even though we have several other trips coming up, there is ONE in particular that we can’t stop thinking about. It’s the ONE we are most focused on in terms of preparing and planning. Slaed is purchasing travel guides and reserving books from the library. I’m scouring websites and daydreaming over gorgeous instagram photos. And together, we’re also watching all the YouTube videos we can find on the location!
It finally dawned on Slaed how much we are turning our attention to this one single trip, and that got me thinking. Are other families doing the same? Where are other traveling families headed in 2017 that they can’t stop thinking about? Is there one particular place they are telling their friends and family about, and focusing all of their planning and preparation on?
I asked my fellow family travel writing friends to share their “family’s destination of the year”, and YES, it turns out, we are not alone. Other families are also equally excited about one vacation in particular, and they were gracious and generous enough to share!
Here you’ll find 14 family travel destination ideas from the experts. You’ll learn a little bit about each locale including why it was chosen and what makes the destination a great choice for families. If you’re looking to add adventure into your 2017, you just might glean some inspiration and ideas!
Where the Experts are Vacationing in 2017
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands: Our Family!
Due to it’s close proximity to our home in Seattle, we usually explore Snohomish County, Washington via weekend day trips. Less than an hour, depending on our specific destination, north of us, we can enjoy all the culture, recreation, shopping, and outdoor adventure the region has to offer, and still get home for naps or bedtime.
Last fall though, we got to do something a little different. We actually stayed the night! As I mentioned in my recent staycation post, planning a trip close to home has so many benefits. One of those benefits is that you get more time to enjoy the destination. We were able to pack so much fun and adventure into a short weekend in Snohomish County! Today I’m sharing our family friendly recommendations for things to do (indoors and out), places to eat and drink, and where to stay.
A note before we start: Snohomish County, Washington is quite a large area (over 2,000 square miles), so this is by no means an exhausted list of all the area has too offer! We’re just scratching the surface of this rich region.
Happy New Year! Believe it or not, 2017 is here, ready and waiting for us to dive in. How are you feeling? I have such a huge feeling of excitement, hope, and anticipation. If I can stay focused, active, and intentional, I know 2017 will be an amazing year for our family. Sure there will be bumpy parts, there always are, but we’ll persevere and rely on the good to get us through. I’m looking forward to all that 2017 has to offer.
I’ve saved the best for last with this year’s gift guides! Today I’m sharing 8 gift ideas for the travel and outdoor loving mom in your life! In this gift guide for moms, you’ll find ideas to make travel and getting outdoors easier, items that will inspire, and items that will help mom plan an amazing year of adventure. Many can be purchased last minute, so if you are just getting around to buying gifts, you’re in luck!
Gifts for the Travel and Outdoor Loving Mom
Season’s Greetings! It’s that time of year again. As much as I love giving, I can get bogged down with all the possibilities. In case you might be feeling the same way and want some ideas for things that kids will actually need, use, and play with, I have over 20 gift ideas for the young adventurer in your life!
Here you’ll find gifts to help kids get outside (gear), gifts to inspire a life of travel and adventure (books), and gifts to light up your child’s playful spirit (toys and games).
Georgia and I have been busy testing the Deuter Kid Comfort 3 Carrier this past summer and into fall. We’ve loved the opportunity to add some experience with another hiking style carrier to our repertoire. This review is intended to help more families make informed decisions about the product they ultimately decide to purchase. If possible, we always advise to visit an outdoor store, such as REI, to try on the carriers yourself. When you see them in person, you are better able to see each carrier’s features. You can also feel the pack on your very own shoulders, back, and hips. However, hopefully our review will give you some things to think about as you compare and make your decision.
While our kids are active and spend a lot of time outdoors, they are not always on the hiking trail climbing mountains. Consequently, a hiking shoe is overkill for our everyday adventures, but some sneakers aren’t quite rugged enough for our rough and tough kids.
Thanks to M.A.P footwear though, we’ve found a great in between shoe! Bergen has been testing the Troy sneakers from M.A.P. (Motion. Adventure. Play.) Footwear this past summer and early fall. Overall we are pleased with the fit, support, and durability of the shoes.
To give you an idea of our testing process, here are a few details:
- Testing Time: 3 months
- Testing Conditions: long urban walks on sidewalks, long bike rides, forest school, flat well worn hiking trails, parks and playgrounds
- Other Notes: most of the testing has taken place in warmer weather, often worn without socks
When I first moved to Seattle so many of my colleagues and students that I taught (I’m an elementary school teacher currently on “sabbatical” raising my kids), raved about this mysterious place called Lake Chelan. Growing up on the east coast, I’d never heard of the area hosting Washington State’s largest lake, but I quickly learned that it was the place to go to get away from the gloomy and gray of Western Washington. Visitors could swim in the water (in summer) and play on the sandy shores, participate in water sports, and generally just enjoy the lake life taking in views of the surrounding mountains and being treated to the region’s natural bounty. I put Lake Chelan on my already long and growing list of places to see in the Pacific Northwest.
I’ve mentioned before how much fun it is for us to adventure along side friends and family. They might add another layer of logistics (and we have to be on our best behavior), but getting to hike with companions makes such a difference in our enjoyment and adds some richness to the experience.
We recently had the pleasure of hiking with my cousin who also lives in the Seattle area, and as I was thinking back and processing the time on the trail with her (and Bergen and Georgia), a hiking tip just popped into my mind: Go with an expert!
Rambling all over Washington State (and beyond), my cousin is an avid hiker, and really knows her stuff. As we trekked along the service road to the overlook we had a goal of making it to, she introduced us to delicious edible berries, matched up conifer cones and fallen leaves to their rightful owner towering above us, and helped us identify wildflowers.
Outdoor concerts are a huge part of summer in Seattle, so we were happy to return to one of our favorite outdoor venues at the Woodland Park Zoo for their Zoo Tunes Summer Concert series. We’ve enjoyed many concerts, it’s a bit of a family tradition, here on the north meadow, and all the effort to prepare a picnic, fight traffic (we have a few tricks), wait in line, and madly search for the best possible spot when the gates finally open is always worth it!
This year we were able to arrive earlier than usual in order to view two of the zoo’s latest additions: Yola, the baby gorilla, and the Butterfly Garden. Members of the zoo are allowed to “line-up” early inside the zoo & are admitted first, so thanks to our cooler and chairs, we saved ourselves a spot in line, and went on to explore the new exhibits.