Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

Morning walk

Most mornings I walk along Lake Michigan, which is a mile straight east from my house. This summer, it’s been like bathwater, so I walk through the surf.

To swim on the Illinois side of Lake Michigan, you have to be serious about it. Most summers, the water temp stays in the 50s into June, and never gets much above the high 60s. This year, it’s been measured as warm as 81. The shallows barely register as cold, even after a storm (of course, we’ve only had two storms all summer). The first time I ever waded on the Michigan side, I couldn’t believe how warm it was. To me, lake = cold.

Walking is one of those gifts in a crowded urban life, where sensory input creates this constant psychic noise. On my walks, I let my mind just wander, or empty. Yesterday, I scribbled down the random thoughts that wandered in. It’s walking as poetry.

Walking to Lake Michigan

Don’t forget to look at the fish pond. Are those babies?
The water is still so warm but too rough to skip rocks this morning
I wonder how close I can get to a gull?

If Isaac gets here, should I walk in the rain?
Where’s that dog who likes me?
Hey– I could blog this!

I really should start jogging
And I need to make more granola and that ground cherry jam
90,000 people live within a mile of this beach but I count only 6 people
Where are they?
They can’t all be at work

The early morning people are all skinny

You can see the sand in the churning waves

I love finding vintage hippie playgrounds
Made of found materials from before they standardized and commoditized them

Washing the sand from my feet

The fountain water is much colder than the lake

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Now that the heat is going away, we are spending even more time outdoors. I find it extremely important to teach my daughter about the environment around her, and how to take care of it. This morning we went for a hike on the nearby Natchez Trace. This is the second official “hike” she’s gone on with me and I was afraid we’d already taught her poor lessons about nature. Thanks goodness my sister came to the rescue. She’s been going to school for, well, years – I call her the tenured student. She’s studied geology, teaching, and biology; she’s worked as a tutor, homeschool teacher, nanny, camp counselor, nature guide; and she’s more patient than I have been as of late. If it wasn’t for my sweet sister, I’m not sure I’d have the desire to take my daughter back on a hike anytime soon.


So what could be so hard about taking a six year old hiking on a nature trail? She got upset when I told her she could not take home some leaves and sticks to save in her nature box. The girl talked and talked and talked, then talked some more, as we were hiking – interrupting all the conversations we older gals would have. She wanted to stop at every water crossing for snacks and drinks. It was a special treat for her, but it was frustrating to stop every 15 minutes for a break. We quickly learned that we’d have to work around the Kid’s desires. I don’t feel the need to leave her at home for these shorter hikes, but we quickly found some tools to keep her interested in the world around her instead of the “plans” she’d made. Ahh, it’s tough having a perfectionist as a child, but even more difficult when you’re a perfectionist and idealist yourself!

rock table

My little sister, she who is seven years younger than myself, she without her own children, she who’s been going to school for just this thing for, well, forever… she showed me how to manage my own daughter on a hike and I love her for all of it! In my excitement to spend time out in nature, exercising my tired bones and spending time with my sister, I’d forgotten that part of the reason of taking my daughter with was to teach her something.


  • Get them thinking about the world around them by engaging their brains.
  •  Ask children about what they see.
  • Why would a plant grow in one place instead of another?
  • Why should we cross streams on rocks instead of tromping through the water, overturning every rock we come across?
  • Why is it important to stay on the trail?
  • What can your children see that is significant of the season?
  • Count the different sounds you hear.
  • birds, bugs, water, wind through trees, raindrops, sticks breaking, nuts falling.
  • Have the children guess what could be making those sounds. What type of bird do you think is singing? Do you think that squirrel is angry with us? And so on
  • Can you imagine why it would be so important for an animal to have good senses?
  • Why is it important to take only photographs and memories with you?
  • Imagine someone coming into your house and moving all of your food and furniture around. How would that make you feel?
  • Even items that aren’t food for animals can be food for other things like mushrooms, trees, and so on. The circle of life affects all organisms.


Having my sister with us on our hike today gave me insight of how to teach my own child about the world around us. What techniques and tricks do you use with children when out in the wild?

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While I was camping last month in the Smoky Mountains, I was appalled to watch as our camping neighbors gathered a large tub of river rocks to take home with them. I was further surprised to learn that the “taking” of native plants is so widespread that it’s actually causing an imbalance of those ecosystems – causing some plants to become more and more rare.

I wholly encourage all of you to get out there and find something new. Spend time with your family and friends. Go somewhere different. Explore and challenge yourself. Stop and experience the world around you. But do it responsibly!

Here are a few helpful websites with outdoor activities and ideas to help you minimize your impact on nature while you’re exploring.

Leave No Trace is a wonderful organization that explores “active stewardship of the outdoors”.  The site teaches how to be more aware of our impact on nature as we spend time enjoying it.

The National Wildlife Federation has a fantastic resource called “Be Out There” that lists tons of activities and things to do while outdoors.

The USDA Forest Service has some helpful checklists for camping and hiking. There are also some great tips for a better experience while outdoors.

How do you keep your impact to a minimum while spending time outdoors?

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Take a Hike

It’s summer here in the states and most of us who are “not dabbling in normal” are very busy with the weeding, mulching, fertilizing, harvesting, canning, etc. on top of all the other regular chores we tackle on a daily basis.  For many of us, myself included, its very hard to take a day off – a day to rest and rejuvenate.  However, I’m learning that taking a day of rest every now and then is the best way to get more done when I return to my work.

For me, a day of rest, means getting out into the woods in the form of a hike.  While hiking can be hard work depending on the trail, it can also be a pleasant walk in the woods.  A walk surrounded by the sounds and smells of nature that allows you to just get away from it all for just a little bit. 

I’m blessed to live in an area surrounded by national forests and national parks meaning I have a wide range of choices.  However, no matter where you live, I’m willing to bet you have a few choices nearby.   Here are a few resources to help you find a hike in your area (this info is based on the US as I don’t know of good sources outside the US, please comment with those if you have them):

  • Backpacker Magazine’s Find a Hike Database, lets you search by city, state, park, etc.
  • US Forest Service– Has information on the many trails in each state, searchable by state
  • National Park Service – Allows you find information regarding each individual national park
  • I Love Parks – Has links to the state park services in all 50 states and does include a few international organizations as well.  Once you find your own state, I’m willing to bet the opportunities abound.

There’s always going to be work to do, its always going to feel like you’re neglecting your chores if you take just one day off.  However; I’m willing to bet if you allow yourself just a bit of time to get outside and enjoy the woods, you’ll come back to your work more refreshed and you’ll have had a great time with friends and family too (if you take them along that is).

Morrell Falls, near Seeley Lake Montana (2.7 miles from Trailhead, a great day hike).

Morrell Falls, near Seeley Lake Montana (2.7 miles from Trailhead, a great day hike).

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