Tuesday, May 31, 2016

6 must-do tips for hiking with kids


Iwasn’t raised in a outdoorsy, hiking kind of family.  I’m from a California, techy kind of family.  So when I married this rugged camping, hiking, hunting, mountaineer guy I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  It wasn’t until our family started to grow and we were trying to find an identity of what kind of family we were going to be that my love of hiking began.  It’s for the most part free, quiet, and a perfect way to grow together as a family.  Also, I really believe in exposing my kids to a reasonable amount of risk as they grow so that they can learn what their little bodies are capable of and measure for themselves what might not be safe.  These are invaluable skills to building self confidence and empowering them to do whatever they want.  

I get asked all the time though how do you hike with all those little kids.  Here’s my best advice and tips on the subject:

1. Never ever ever leave the house without food.  EVER!!  No matter how short the hike, no matter how long you’re planning on being out.  Once you hit those trails the kids will start to turn.  A couple granola bars, some fruit snacks, even a juice box does wonders to perk a tired hiker up.  

2. While we’re on the subject of food I like to have a pack of gum in my back pocket when we hike.  Something sweet that will make good bubbles.  Then once the kids start to complain I’ve got my secret weapon.  “Once we get to that rock up there with no whining you can get a ½ piece of gum!”  Then hand it out again after the next big obstacle or steep incline.  It makes them excited to get to that rock and also it keep their mouths busy while we go.  Try it!  It’s amazing.

3. If I know we’re not going to be around crowds or other hikers it’s fun sometimes to bring a little bluetooth speaker and play some music as we go.  I even have a hiking playlist full of upbeat fun songs they all know.  It keeps the pace up and helps keep their minds off tired legs.

4. Research!  Before you go on a hike try to read and learn about it as much as possible.  Although sometimes it’s fun to just go and explore without a plan for the most part they like to know how long we are going to be hiking, what kind of cool things we’ll see and how intense it’s going to be.  It also helps you plan for what kind of gear you need.  Nothing like being the idiots trying to wrangle a double stroller up a single track trail.

5. Speaking of gear, we tried it all.  We’ve had all kinds of hiking backpacks, front packs, side packs.  You name it we’ve probably tried it.  Our very favorite hiking carrier of all time is the Ergo.  It keeps the weight evenly distributed, and keeps them down low so they aren’t banging their heads into low branches.   Plus with them strapped on like this it keeps me pretty free to climb and boulder when I need to.  You wouldn’t believe the places we’ve gone with the kids strapped on like this.  (I don’t usually carry 2 at a time, but I totally can!)

6. Finally BE FLEXIBLE!  Countless times we’ve had to change plans or not go as far as we’d hoped or leave the trail to discover something new.  That’s the fun of being outside with your kids.  There’s no rules, no expectations, just being together finding new stuff.  

Like I said I’m not a natural adventurer, but we have had so much fun exploring together as a family and getting a little stronger in the process.  Don’t be afraid to get out there, even if your kids are tiny.  That’s the very best time to get them used to it.   


Monday, May 30, 2016

Scout Falls - American Fork Canyon

Scout Falls is a rewarding and fun hike for families. Scout Falls trail is part of the larger Timpooneke Trail - which can lead to the summit of Mt. Timpanogos; but with young children (and at the time a very pregnant me - 35 weeks) the summit is not part of the equation. Scout Falls is well marked, often shaded and even parts are paved - although it is not stroller friendly - 1.5 miles one way.

Park at The Aspen Grove parking lot and follow the signs to the Timpooneke Trail - it is quite sunny and open until you pass the small ranger house. As you hike, be sure to point out the variety of fauna and flora to your children.

In the late spring, the run off of the spring is quite impressive! It was a raging waterfall when we hiked it and there was still quite a bit of snow at the base of the falls. My children thought the snow pile was a glacier so we agreed with them - they thought that was the coolest thing to be standing on a glacier!

We spent about 40 minutes throwing rocks into the water below and had a small picnic - we have learned that hiking makes for hungry bellies, so we often bring a meal or at least snacks.

As you can tell I was very pregnant with baby #5 - this hike was not strenuous and I enjoyed the hike.

I mean, really, can you beat that beauty?! 

However, if you hike in the summer, the trail and falls are significantly different as shown below:

It was fun to cross over the little streams along the trail...

The falls was quite a bit smaller, but there was more shade along the way.

We feel that we must do this hike during the fall to see the beautiful leaves in color.   

Friday, May 27, 2016

French Kiss Friday

What’s even more fun than hiking with kids?  Hiking WITHOUT KIDS!!


My husband and I love to get out and explore when we get a minute to ourselves.  Sometimes it’s long weekends away on really intense hiking adventures.

Or it’s just a walk up the canyon in the evening while the babysitter deals with bedtime.  Being outside, breathing in the fresh air of the mountains is so good for a relationship I think.  As we walk we talk about our kids, what’s stressing us out or what’s happening at work.  Don’t get me wrong, dinner and a movie is awesome and usually what I feel like doing on our date nights.  But when we don’t do that and get out together and talk I’m always so glad we did.  

(Also, try it on a clear night with a full moon and no headlamps.  It’s just kinda fun!) 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Slot Canyons with children

Just 5 miles east of Escalante in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are two short slot canyons that are a great introduction to canyoneering for children (This was my first slot canyon experience and it did NOT disappoint) and fun, too. Because of the ease and beauty of Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Canyons, they are popular. But do not let that deter you. Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Canyons are accessed from a rough, washboard, rutted 26-mile dirt road, but you do not need a 4-wheel, high clearance vehicle - our minivan made it. Although the drive is long, the hike is most definitely worth it! 

The trail head for the canyons is at the top of a dry wash. Most guides recommend hiking down into the wash and the climbing UP into Peek-a-boo Canyon and making the loop around to Spooky Canyon. However, we felt that with our 5 young children (one of them a baby), it’d be easier to do the loop in reverse, so we would be climbing DOWN (note: easier) out of Peek-a-boo Canyon. Another benefit of doing the loop “backwards” was we didn’t have to compete with other visitors - rock on!  

Once you hike down from the parking lot trail head, you enter the river bed with soft sand and  little sun cover. My children thought it was cool to walk on a dry river and to see/chase the many, many lizards along the way.  

There are a few spots with adequate shade to take a break to drink. 

Soon you come to the “entrance” of Peek-a-Boo Canyon, but don’t stop there, continue on about another 5 minutes and you will come to the entrance of Spooky Canyon.  My children thought it was the coolest thing ever! 

There are some tight spots in Spooky Canyon - we had to take off the backpacks and let our 2 year old walk through it on his own and we carried the packs (I even had to take off the Baby Bjorn and pass my baby down low to squeeze through some spots - it was CRAZY fun!). 

Spooky Canyon is definitely a bit tight at times, but the smiles and the thrill are really cool. Even our baby liked it (for the most part…he wasn’t a fan of being passed low through the tightest walls). Look at those smiles! It was fun to capture the hike from a different perspective and our big girls hiked much faster through those narrow walls! 

After exiting the top of Spooky Canyon, follow the trail to Peek-a-Boo Canyon. It can’t be missed as it is pretty well worn and you literally drop right on top of it. It is the larger, roomier (we were  able to keep our packs/babies on us throughout) canyon and the views are world class! 

Once we walked through the canyon (sometimes scrambling on the walls as there was some mud from rain earlier that week) and we had to get out, I was thankful we did it backwards as the drop out would have been difficult going up with small ones:

The return walk to our car went rather quickly since we all couldn’t stop talking about how stinkin’ cool the slot canyons are. We cannot wait to explore more and perhaps some technical ones this year! 

  1. Go east out of Escalante about 5 miles on highway 12 until the well marked “Hole-in-the-Rock-Road” sign.
  2. Turn onto the Hole-in-the-rock-Road and reset your odometer.
  3. Go down the dirt road for 26.5 miles to the sign “Dry Fork Trailhead” on the left
  4. Follow this road .7 miles to a junction (we parked here as the last .5 miles is deeply rutted and our mini-van was not going to make it - we hitched a ride in the back of a truck) and turn left there and drive to the trail head parking lot
  • Bring at least 50 oz of water per person and a snack or two - happy bellies = happy hikers
  • Wear comfortable shoes 
  • Wear sunscreen 
  • 20’ webbing comes in handy
  • Bring all ages - it is so fun! 
  • Stop at the local gas station in Escalante for a coke! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

5 steps to emotion coaching

A  few weeks ago some of us “wandering families” moms attended a parenting class by the wonderful Know How Mom herself, Georgia Anderson.  She talked a lot about the John Gottman approach to parenting that teaches us about “emotion coaching”  I wasn’t familiar with this stuff at all but in the weeks since the class I’ve tried it out on my family and have loved it!  I’ve been learning more about them and about myself everyday!  In case you’re new to this idea too here’s a quick run down about what we’re talking about: 

 The Five Steps of Emotion Coaching
Emotion Coaching is a parenting technique that helps children understand their feelings. When parents Emotion Coach, their children learn how emotions work and how to react to feelings in healthy ways.

Emotion Coaching starts by recognizing your child’s feelings. Many parents are able to see the positive emotions a child expresses, but drawing close to a child who is angry or sad can take some practice. While it takes effort to teach your child about feelings and appropriate behaviors, it is time well spent. Your relationship with your child will be stronger and your child will be more prepared for the challenges life can bring.

Here are the five steps of emotion coaching:


Be aware of emotions
Tune in to your child’s feelings and your own.
  • Pay attention to your own emotions, from happiness to sadness to anger.
  • Understand that emotions are a natural and valuable part of life.
  • Observe, listen, and learn how your child expresses different emotions.
  • Watch for changes in facial expressions, body language, posture, and tone of voice.
Connect with your child
Use emotional moments as opportunities to connect.
  • Pay close attention to a child’s emotions.
  • Try not to dismiss or avoid them.
  • See emotional moments as opportunities for teaching.
  • Recognize feelings and encourage your child to talk about his or her emotions.
  • Provide guidance before emotions escalate into misbehavior.
Listen to your child

Respect your child’s feelings by taking time to listen carefully.

  • Take your child’s emotions seriously.
  • Show your child that you understand what he or she is feeling.
  • Avoid judging or criticizing your child’s emotions.
Name emotions
Help your child identify and name emotions.
  • Identify the emotions your child is experiencing instead of telling your child how he or she should feel.
  • Naming emotions helps soothe a child.
  • Set a good example by naming your own emotions and talking about them.
  • Help your child build a vocabulary for different feelings.
Find good solutions
Explore solutions to problems together.
    • Redirect misbehaving children for what they do, not what they feel.
    • When children misbehave, help them to identify their feelings and explain why their behavior was inappropriate.
    • Encourage emotional expression, but set clear limits on behavior.
    • Help children think through possible solutions.
    • Don’t expect too much too soon.
    • Be aware of tempting settings and be prepared to help your child through them.
    • Create situations where your child can explore without hearing lots of "don'ts."
    • Catch your child doing lots of things right and praise her.
    • Do chores, like picking up toys, together.
    • Make tasks as fun as possible.
      (info is found over on http://www.parentingcounts.org/)

Here’s the best news of all: according to Dr. Gottman, if you are emotion coaching 40% of the time, you are doing a pretty good job. 40% people!  We can do that!!!