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Category Archives: Family Adventure Advice

Postpartum Mountain Biking – When to get back on the bike?

Note: this post contains words related to child-birth. If theses sort of words make you light-headed, please look at this post instead.

Shortly after every pregnancy I’ve opened up my laptop, pulled up the internet and typed in to the search bar things like “postpartum mountain biking”, “how soon can I mountain bike after pregnancy”, “mountain biking after delivery”, “getting back on my bike after vaginal delivery”, etc.

I never find anything. No testimonials, no words of wisdom, no pictorials. Nada. I am going to rectify that situation. This post is for all those new OutsideMoms looking to see when other Moms get back on their mountain bikes after the brutal event known as ‘giving birth’. (more…)

DeLorme topo maps: Essential for the outdoor traveler.

Since posting my article on dispersed camping a few days ago I’ve had quite a few questions on HOW one goes about finding places to camp on public land. Today I’m prepared to answer that question in the form of a gushing review of the DeLorme’s Atlas and Gazetteer series.

I’ll admit, when I started my review of these priceless books-of-maps, I couldn’t figure out why they went to the trouble of calling them “Atlas and Gazetteers”.  So fancy-schmancy… what was the point?  Being ever the resourceful one, I decided to find the answer.  I called Olivia.

“I dunno”  she informed me.  “Look it up.”

So I did.

Atlas: /’atles/  A book of maps or charts.
Gazetteer: /gazi’ti(Ə)r/   A geographical directory of places containing information on things like mountains, waterways, camping areas, historic markers, state and national parks, roads etc.

Huh.

Put them together and that’s exactly what we have here:  A book of amazingly detailed, large-format topographic and informative maps.

Because Atlas and Gazetteer is too long to keep saying I will here-to-fore refer to these publications as A&G.

I’ve been a fan of this A&G series for a very very (very) long time.  It’s amazing how often we use these them. They go everywhere with us, they even have a permanent spot in the back of the van underneath the mat so that if we’re out of the house, so are they.

They provide information on camping, hiking trails, cities, and most importantly, back roads! And they have a version for all 50 states.

How do I use them?  Well, let’s take some hypothetical situations that (strangely) mirror real ones that may or may not actually happen on a regular basis. Here is a small portion from this sample page. (note the A, B, C correlations to the map). (more…)

My camping style: no fees, no toilets, no people

I’m not that in to campgrounds. They make me feel claustrophobic, you have neighbors, you can hear them, your dog has to be on a leash, you have to pay, you feel bad for peeing outside your tent in the middle of the night.  I always feel like I need to keep my kids quiet… and it’s just sorta stressful for me.

I go camping to get away from the world.

This is why I love camping on public lands. You can pretty much set up camp wherever you want, which is technically known as ‘dispersed camping‘. I have topo maps of just about every state in the west for the sole purpose of knowing exactly where to find Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.  I pour over the maps, until I’ve located the perfect obscure road. (more…)

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.

COYOTES AND WOLVES

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.

VENOMOUS SNAKES

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…)

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…)

Keep moving on the trail: Create a kid friendly map

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has put together a yearly event encouraging children, families, schools and communities to go Screen Free and make changes towards a more active and outdoor lifestyle. This year the event will happen April 30 – May 6th.

Tales of a Mountain Mama has pulled together a group of bloggers (like us) to help celebrate with blog posts (such as this one) aimed at encouraging families to go ‘screen free’ next week. She’s also got a week full of giveaways on her site, you can find out more information about that here.

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While helping plan a father/son backpacking trip last summer, we were brainstorming about ways we could keep our boys (ages 4-6) moving on the trail. What could we do to encourage movement and limit whining…

We thought of the usual things: Plenty of snacks and treats (i.e. trail incentives), take some play breaks, emphasize the ‘big boy’ aspect, be patient etc.

We also brainstormed something far more genius: What about creating a kid friendly map, with pictures of prominent landmarks they could keep an eye out for. This would not only give them something to stay busy with on the trail, but would also incorporate some observation skills, as well as a little introduction to reading a map.

It was worth a try.

I can’t take any credit for the final product. One of the men on the tip ran the trail the week before and took photos, then he and his wife put together the maps. I love how it turned out! The large map was printed out as a 4X6; the way-point pictures were printed out smaller. All were laminated and stuck together with a metal ring.

Here’s a picture of the Map as well as a few way-point pictures.

NOTE: Word on the street is that the 6 year old took to it better than the younger kids, so keep that in mind.

A couple of additional ideas I’d recommend for keeping kids moving on the trail:

Packing for a camping trip: Your ultimate guide

When we had our giveaway a few weeks ago one of the most mentioned camping tips was to make some sort of camping box. A large waterproof tote that holds the majority of your camping supplies. The idea behind such a box is that you always have the bulk of your gear packed and ready to go. I could not agree more.

The problem is that it’s hard to keep ALL your camping gear together all the time (because a lot of stuff gets used for day adventures as well).  Some stuff gets put away between adventures, but some stuff we’ve bought two of; it’s worth it to buy an extra set of supplies and make a kit that ALWAYS stays together.

I’ve already done posts that list out all the items needed to make:

  1. Mobile kitchen: a bin that houses all our cooking essentials and a few other odds and ends.
  2. Mini Survival kit:  a go-everywhere kit with random survival and medical supplies (although we still also bring a larger first aid kit).

You can also easily make dedicated camping kits for personal hygiene and dog supplies (see lists below).

To make packing the rest of the gear easier, we try to keep most if it together. We turned a corner of our garage, and a corner of our guest room closet into ‘gear closets’.  They house the aforementioned camping kits, as well as our sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tent, tarp, climbing/kayaking gear, backpacks etc. When it’s time to pack, everything is easy to find.

When preparing for a camping trip we throw our mobile kitchen and survival kit in the van and use the checklist below (download a PDF of this Ultimate Camping Checklist here) to gather/remember everything else. (more…)

Your Best Camping Tips (and the winner is…)

Lets get right to it. The winner (chosen by random.org) of the $50 REI gift certificate is LAUREN!! Congratulations!

Her best camping tip:

I have to agree with those who mentioned “the bin” system. I live by it. It makes camping life so much easier. But, a tip of my own… frisbees make great plates and obviously provide other fun functionality as well, and always have duct tape on you… whether car camping or backpacking. It’s easy to have a bit of it wrapped around your water bottle or stashed and it almost always comes in handy. I mean, what can’t you fix with duct tape? :)

Now for a roundup of YOUR BEST CAMPING TIPS:

Note: Some comments were combined and most have been shortened, for details on these ideas read through the comments on this post.

1. Create “The Bin”, The Bin (a rain proof tote) has everything you need for your camping trip with mini-bins inside separating your camp area essentials (make two: one for backpacking, car camping, etc.).

2. Go often. The more often you go, the easier it is to actually get out the door because you have to establish some sort of a routine to actually get out the door!

3. Glowsticks and headlamps for kids. Makes them easier to spot in the dark, plus makes the dark that much more fun.

4. Simplifying your meals and prepare as much as you can ahead of time.

5. When camping with kids, go with another family. Everything seems a little more manageable when there are more hands on deck.

6. We have a list that we print out before every camp trip so we don’t forget anything. We have a specific list for camping near water, in the mountains, or backpacking. (more…)

Use #4 for a stick: Getting down (or up) the trail

Does this sound familiar?  You’ve….

  • loaded your pack with snacks, bandaids, baby wipes, extra clothes, spare kleenex, candy, and a bazillion other things
  • cleaned off the carseat(s),
  • strapped the kiddo(s) into the car,
  • driven 25 minutes to an exciting looking trail head
  • sung row your boat and the song that never ends over 346 times on the drive
  • extracted the kiddos from the car
  • and set them off down the trail….

only to find that they are tired and ready to go home five minutes into the hike.  You try candy, coaxing, singing, follow the leader, knock knock jokes and as many other tricks as you can think of, but have only made it another 50 feet down the trail… and two hours have passed.  Let me recommend one more trick for getting little ones moving down the trail (and, truth be told, this still works on me today): the Hiking Stick.

Tell them they need to find a hiking stick because it will give them the energy to go further.  They’ll try 30 different sticks, cruising down the trail in search of new and improved ones, and totally forget that the point was to go for a ‘walk’.  They’ll try them forwards and backwards.  Between their legs like a horse.  Over their shoulder.  It might turn into a gun. They’ll balance it on the palm of their hand.  And who knows what else they’ll think of.

Point is, they won’t think about the hike.  Tell them to find you one too–it has to weigh a certain amount, be a certain length, be the right height, have a curve for your grip, etc.  The hiking stick is the ticket to at least 100 extra feet.  And if you’re in the Mojave and there are no ‘sticks’ to be had?  Substitute something else:  find me a white rock, a tortoise shell, a flower, etc.  Scavenger hunts are wondrous motivators.

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    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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