Category Archives: Outdoor Activities

Your favorite fall activities (and winner announced)

Congratulations Erin Z! You just won a pair of Patagonia shoes compliments of! Erin’s favorite fall activity?

Ooo, I love playing in the leaves with the kids in the fall and as an outdoor ed preschool-3rd teacher this year I have really enjoyed spiders, bird watching, and soon making leaf crowns!

A woman after my own heart… I will be contacting you shortly, you’ll have 24 hours to respond to my email to claim your prize!

Now, for a roundup of your top 12 fall activities:

“Ooooon this Harvest Moon”

I have a thing for the Harvest Moon. Maybe it’s the time of year? The air is getting crisp, the leaves are starting to change, the chaos of summer is over, I get to start wearing a jacket again… Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m a big Neil Young fan?

Whatever the reason, the Harvest Moon has driven me to the top of a mountain peak every year for the last three years. I try to time arrival on the summit to just as the sun is starting to dip below the horizon in the west while the moon rises in the east. I sit on top of the peak, bask in the beauty, eat really good snacks, and as soon as it’s too cold to loyter any longer, I hike back down by the light of the moon.

This year I hiked Deseret Peak in Northern Utah. The view was a bit smoky (from all the fires in Idaho), but the company was great. I don’t get the chance to hike with Olivia much these days, and that’s really unfortunate, for her. Pretty sure I talked her ear off for five hours straight.

I love this tradition.


Finding night critters using a black light

If you were to ask your kids what kinds of critters come out at night, they’d surely rattle of a list that included bats, owls, raccoons and other cute furry or fluffy stereotypical nocturnal animals.

The world of nocturnal critters is bigger than you think, in fact the other night while hiking in the dark I encountered toads, trap door spiders, salamanders and countless insects hovering in front of my headlamp.

The experience reminded me of all the night adventures my Dad use to take us on as kids. One of my favorites was an activity known to the entomology world as “black lighting”.

What is black lighting? Well, simply put it’s collecting nocturnal insects by using an ultraviolet light to attract them to a white sheet.

What you’ll need: (more…)

The Perseids are coming!

Comments Off on The Perseids are coming!

The Perseids always fall around my mom’s birthday, and growing up I remember many a birthday party that involved clambering into the car and getting away from city lights.  The challenge was to see more than Dad.

We’d make dutch oven Gingerbread with Peaches and serve it with ice cream, kept cool under a brick of dry ice.  This weekend, my husband and I will be throwing a mattress out on the back lawn and sleeping under the stars (if the monsoons stay away, that is–cross your fingers!).  Join in the fun!

The stars are aligning for a perfect weekend star party:  The moon will be tiny and coming up late in the evening, the weather is warm, and it’s a weekend!  Time to throw out some blankets and stare at the night sky.

And the best part?  It’s free.

The universe is conspiring to create some fireworks (a.k.a. The Perseid Meteor Shower), and the best time to see them will be Saturday night (the peak is apparently Sunday at noon, but, that won’t work for obvious reasons).  There should be 50-100 meteors per hour (don’t be disappointed if you don’t quite see that many).  The meteors are tiny fragments of thousand-year-old debris associated with the Swift-Tuttle Comet.

Check here for more info on the meteors and other things astronomical.

Watching meteors is a great family event that develops focus in little ones.  Want to share the night sky with your kids?  Here are a few pointers on getting set up: (more…)

Taking a lesson from Olympic athletes: how to lose gracefully when you’re eight

The Olympics are here! I love the Olympics—I like seeing people be the very best at something. It makes me feel good—happy to be a human. Each time they come around I decide that these are my favorite—last winter I decided winter Olympics were the best of all… now I’m thinking it’s summer.

When I was little my mom and a neighbor threw an Olympics for us. We had gymnastics, choreographed swimming, and running events. We were told about the Olympics a week in advance so we had time to ‘train’ and prepare our astonishing feats of physical prowess. The neighbor’s daughter and I prepared a perfectly choreographed swim routine, competing against the other ‘team’ of my sister and her sister. Our two moms watched our final performances and rated us on a scale of one to ten. Then they handed out medals, made from canning lids wrapped in tinfoil, and with a hole punched through for the ribbon. I still have them.

I also remember not winning. The disappointment and sense of something being wrong with the world when my little sister beat me at gymnastics (note my silver medal). I remember crying and pouting… and I remember my fellow eight-year old Olympians doing the same thing when they lost. Losing is hard when you’re small—heck it’s still hard for me. But it is an important skill to learn. (more…)

Use #5 for a stick: Catch a crawdad

Crawdad catching season is in full swing around here. It’s such a popular past time with my kids I thought I’d share a few tips for other small aspiring ‘fishermen’.

What you need:

  • String
  • Stick
  • Paperclip or binder clip
  • Bait: Salami, peperonii, bacon, bologna or your choice of bad fatty meat

The set-up:

  • Tie your sting to the end of a stick
  • Tie a clip to the end of the string or tie the bait directly to the stirng

The Technique:

  • Find a  place that has crawdads. Lake, stream, river, canal etc. (ideally the water will be clear enough to see the bottom)
  • Locate a place near rocks or along the edge of the water.
  • Dangle the bait in the water, allowing it to sink to the bottom near the edge of the rocks or bank
  • Wait for crawdads find the bait
  • When the crawdads pinch the bait and try to tear a piece off, pull the bait out of the water at a steady moderate speed and dangle the crawdad over a bucket (when the crawdad realizes it is hanging in the air it will let go and fall in the bucket)

We have tried bringing some crawdads home as pets with limited success. (more…)

Kids love plumbing

So one of the things that I stumbled upon while entertaining-I-mean-teaching small children over the last few months is that PVC pipe is amazing.  It is good for all sorts of things–practicing walking on a balance beam, learning the ins and outs of balancing something on your hand, building rocket launchers, marshmallow shooters, marble roller coasters, and making funny noises.

But of all the activities we used my wide selection of PVC pipe for, plumbing was my favorite (and I dare say theirs too–even the ever-so-picky sixth graders had a blast!)

If you’re looking for a great way to keep your kids entertained outside for a few hours next week, consider investing in some PVC pipe, aka, Legos-You-Can-Pour-Water-Through. (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…)

Planning an overnight family bike trip

Today’s post is compliments of Stacy from A Simple Six. Her and her family (of 4 kids) recently took a different kind of weekend vacation, they did an overnight bike trip. I love the idea and have recently been thinking to do something similar with my family. While we’ve been eyeing a simple trail in Point Reyes National Seashore, I love that Stacy’s starting point was her own front yard.

Thanks Stacy for all your great advice on how to plan an overnight family bike trip. Fabulous ideas, can’t wait to put them to use! And as always readers, please feel free to leave a comment with your own advice, experiences or questions.

How do you save money on family vacation travel? Have you seen the price of gasoline!? What about hotels? The frugal solution could be in the form of a single overnight bicycle camping trip (S24O), one where you roll right out of the garage and pitch your tent several miles from home. Some tips for planning your trip: (more…)

The exciting world of Macroinvertebrates

If there was one thing I could suggest you do with your kids this summer, catching aquatic macroinvertebrates would be near the top of my list. Nerdy I know, but in every Nature Center I’ve worked at, this activity has been the favorite of  parents and children alike (well, most parents). It involves water, mud, nets and unearthly looking creatures seldom noticed by humankind.

What’s an aquatic macroinvertebrate you ask? It’s a small water dwelling invertebrate, big enough to be seen without a microscope. Many of these critters are actually juvenile forms of well known adult insects. For example, does the picture to the right look familiar… it’s actually a dragonfly stuck in its awkward teenage years.


  1. Net for each child. This can be as simple as a aquarium net (ideally a long handled one) or as fancy as a ‘real’ aquatic net.
  2. Large shallow plastic tote. Something to dump the contents of your net into so that you can sift through it. We’ve used a variety of containers, whatever you use, just make sure the water/plant/sludge mixture is only about an inch or two deep so that you can look through it easier. (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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