Monthly Archives: June 2012

Backpacking meals your kids will like

One of the things I love about backpacking is the challenge of creating a tasty and filling meal at the end of the day, without lugging an extra ten or twenty pounds of food in with me. Backpacking with kids adds even more to that challenge, as they are discerning little folks, with taste buds as sensitive as a New York food critic.  They can sense the dehydrated food in your pack before you even pull it out, and steer away from powdered milk like cats from water.

The thing is, those little ones need a good meal filled with fat, a little protein, and plenty of calories.  Even better is if you can get them to drink enough to stay fully hydrated.  Bring lots of drink mixes to encourage imbibing, and think about starting dinner with a soup–Ramen noodles are easy, for example.

Here are a few meal suggestions to satisfy the little connoiseur, giving him or her the energy to get through a few days of long walks in the back country.

A note before we get to the recipes.  As with car-camping, there are ‘kits’ that I like to prepare when I go backpacking…  The Olivia Bag covers most things, but I also have a little kitchen bag for backpacking.  In it (along with utensils, etc.) are a few things that I know I’ll need no matter what meals I decide to make.  I’ve got a tiny container of olive oil, some commonly used spices (salt, black pepper, red pepper, cinnamon, paprika, oregano, taco seasoning or chile powder… curry is also fun). (more…)

Ideas for outdoor ‘dates’ with little kids

It’s been obvious these past two months (since Viv was born) that I need more 1-on-1 time with Isaac (almost 3). He’s quickly coming down with a serious case of the Terrible-twos-meets-middle-child Syndrome.

My other two children get their alone time with me every day. Ari and I get time together while the kids are napping in the afternoons. Viv and I bond at odd hours of the night. Because of middle-child related issues, I just can’t seem to find that time with Isaac anymore, but I think it’s something we both need.

I wanted to take Isaac for a hike today, but due to high winds I took him to the grocery store with me instead… Isaac’s a pretty spazy kid, and loves to be ‘helpful’.  That helpfulness resulted in several produce topplings, a close call with a few cartons of eggs, and a lot of time spent unloading all the stuff he’d put in the shopping cart.  Not exactly the quality time I was looking for.

There’s something about spending time 1-on-1 outside, especially for a kid with Isaac’s energy level that tops any other date I’ve tried. The fresh air, the lack of distractions, and the way it puts me (and therefore my child) at ease.

I’ve started brainstorming future outdoor dates for me and my kids. Things that work best one-on-one anyway that we can do within an hour or two. (more…)

Teaching science and coming out alive: Lessons learned from a pack of kids

When I wrote about the giant slingshots a few weeks ago, I felt the need to tell the back story that goes with my building them.  But it made for a ridiculously long post, and the slingshots were hidden beneath my prattle about teaching.

So here is the back story… the saga of how I learned to teach science to small people.

About four months ago I landed myself a part-time job teaching science labs for an after school program here in town.  I have Kindergarten through seventh grade, one grade at a time, each grade once a week.  I was so excited to start—I love kids, and I love teaching… what could go wrong?

My first week they ate me alive.  I’m 35 years old and by the end of the first week I was weeping at my kitchen table, to the horror of my poor husband who couldn’t figure out how a first grader could bring me so quickly to tears.  Here are some highlights of that first week: (more…)

What should have been Family ‘Burning Man’

This past week my friend Amber and I planned a camping trip. Our hope was that it wouldn’t be like your regular run-of-the-mill camping trip. We wanted to create a family style Burning Man festival. We live in Nevada, so it seemed only fitting, and we hoped to add a little of that Burning Man creativity, pizzaz, and chaos (I like to think we nailed the ‘chaos’ part pretty well).

What we got instead were 35 MPH winds. We couldn’t camp in the Burning-Man-esque dry lake bed we’d picked out because the wind was too strong.  If we’d made a burning man, we would have watched him take flight across the desert soon after.   Our hot dogs would have dried out before they got to the fire pit.  And the materials we’d brought for art projects would have scattered across the desert like New Year’s confetti faster than you can count down from ten.  We had to opt for a sheltered rock cove and a low key evening instead.

I’m proud to say we stuck out the camping trip despite the never ending wind, though Amber and I were somewhat disappointed. The kids, on the other hand, could have cared less. They ran around the rocks pretend-shooting each other for hours, took advantage waves created by the wind at the lake, flew kites, hunted for bones, mastered the giant sling shot, and ate dust while taking rides on the tailgate of the truck. I suppose we made due.  I suppose they’ll remember it fondly anyway, burning man or not.

I managed a few pics.


What to know when encountering wild animals

To help ease some of your outdoor paranoia’s, here are a few simple guidelines for the most common ‘dangerous’ wild animals.  Maybe knowing more about the ones in your area will make it easier to get past any latent fears and take advantage of the outdoor areas near you.


Range: Coyotes are found throughout North America, even in downtown Los Angeles!  Wolves (the Grey Wolf) is found throughout Canada and in the northernmost states of the U.S.

Coyote attacks are extremely rare. I’ve had several strange encounters with coyotes lately; thankfully they have not seemed intent on hurting me.  Wolf attacks are also extremely rare.  I only found four cases where a wolf/wolves had killed a person in the last twenty years in the U.S., and two of them were from ‘pet’ wolves on chains (one was a runner in Alaska).  There are a few more cases of attacks where everyone survived, including this story from Canada.  Interestingly (and sadly) wolf kills are not uncommon in Russia.

  • If a coyote approaches you, try to look big, make loud and sudden movements, and throw rocks.
  • Don’t run. Like most canids they may chase a moving object.
  • Make sure you stay between the coyote and your children.
  • If a coyote is barking at you, back off slowly. If it’s spring she probably has pups and just wants to make sure you stay away.
  • Wolves in the lower 48 are still rather uncommon, but should you and your kids run into a pack in Alaska, don’t run and don’t turn away.  Make noise, make yourself large, but don’t be overly aggressive.  Find a stick and some rocks to use against the animal–aim for the nose.  Wolves don’t climb trees well, so get yourself up in one quickly if you can.


Range: Species of rattlesnakes and rattling relatives are found throughout North America.  In addition, there are a few species of Coral Snakescattered throughout eastern and southern U.S.,the cottonmouth/water moccasin, which occur in the southeastern states of the U.S. up into the lower half of the Great Plains, and the copperhead, which occurs along the east coast, and throughout the southeast.

What to do before you see a snake:

  • Hike in shoes, the higher the tops the better.
  • If your worried you also might want to consider wearing pants.
  • Avoid hiking in tall grass, swimming in swampy water, and putting your hands and feet onto cliff ledges you can’t see.
  • Schedule hikes early in the day, before it gets hot.  Many snakes like to come out in the heat of the day, and lay in the sun where you may walk.
  • Learn how to identify poisonous snakes.
  • Be aware of the sounds and movements around you.  Rattlers will try to warn you if you are disturbing them too much, but if you don’t hear the sound, it does no good! (more…)

Are you hindered by ‘outdoor paranoia’?

Remember back when we asked you (our readers) to fill out a survey? At the end of the survey we asked: What topics would you like to see on the blog in the future?  We particularly enjoyed this one:

How to fight off a mountain lion. Seriously, every time I think about going on a hike I think about mountain lions attacking me and my children. And then I don’t go on a hike. I think I have problems, how about addressing outdoor paranoia? :)

Encountering wild animals when you and your kids are out is a valid concern for any caring parent. But don’t let concern prevent you from enjoying all the outdoor world has to offer.

Think of wild animals in the same way you think of bodies of water — a fear of drowning shouldn’t keep you from camping near a river.  It should instead motivate you to buy life jackets for your children and come up with a plan for being attentive when you are near them.  Similarly, unfriendly dogs in your neighborhood are no reason not to go walking, they are simply a reason to carry a big stick.

Encounters with dangerous animals are rarer than you’d think. Of all the times that people go hiking every day, all over the country, an attack happens very seldom (20 people in the U.S. have been killed by mountain lions in the last 100 years, for example).  Most animals are as uninterested in getting close to you as you are to them.

I’m wondering if ‘outdoor paranoia’ has something to do with how a person is raised?  For example, growing up in rattlesnake country has made me rather blasé about their presence, but  I can’t tell you how many random hikers have scolded me for taking my kids hiking in ‘rattlesnake country’. (more…)


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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