More Weekend Events!

StrollerHikes_Findahike2Liz and Ashley are teaming up to offer regular weekend events approximately twice per month.  Wonderful!  Ashley’s family joined Liz’s on a weekend Stroller Hikes Los Trancos hike a while back, and was so inspired that she volunteered to lead weekend hikes too!  Join Liz and her family March 22nd weekend at Monte Bello (home to Black Mountain backpacking camp, described above), or join Ashley on March 29th.  Get out and enjoy that sunny weather and some great hiking with the whole family on the weekend!

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Leadership Meeting in April

Stroller Hikes is developing a leadership committee to take on the wide range of things Stroller Hikes does.  Join the committee and have a voice in how Stroller Hikes markets itself, spreads its wealth of information online and at community events, and manages its resources.  Commitment to this leadership group can be big or small.  If you’re interested in joining the committee, contact Debbie at admin@strollerhikes.com.

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Santa Cruz Help?

IMG_2842 (Large)Mika is beginning a new chapter in parenthood – preschool for her little one.  This means she can no longer lead her Seabright Beach Hikes.  Are you a coast or near-coast resident who wants to lead hikes to build community in your area, as well as build a routine for family time and fitness outdoors?  We’d love to keep hikes going at least once per month in the Santa Cruz Area.  If you can help lead a hike on the beach or a bit farther inland, please contact Debbie at admin@strollerhikes.com.

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Camp Comments

BlackMountain1

We heard from a lot of families last week about Amped for Camp.  Some families agreed that the options stretch the gamut, as well as the level of training and experience for the leaders.  Others agreed that it was time to plan for family vacations and camping trips, and appreciated the reminder.   Linda agreed that Camp Galileo is an excellent option, and since I have no direct experience with them, here is what she has to say:

If you–or any other Stroller Hikes families–would like to check out Camp Galileo this summer, I’d be happy to offer you all a $25 refer-a-friend discount.  My kids did two weeks of Camp Galileo last summer and absolutely LOVED it.  The staff is top-notch and provide a great balance of hands-on science, creative art, and physical activity.  It was my daughters’ number-one choice of activity for this summer, and their best science learning of the year, so we signed them up for two weeks this July in Almaden (they also offer at another location in San Jose, in Sunnyvale, Cupertino, and Saratoga for the South Bay, and plenty of other locations in the East and North: http://www.galileo-camps.com/locations-and-prices/overview ).   

 To get the refer-a-friend discount, enter the code 2014FRIEND at checkout, along with my full name and email address:  Linda Hutchins-Knowles,lindahk123@mac.com.  You’ll save $25 and I’ll get a $25 discount, too:  a win-win!  : )

 We’ve still not nailed down our summer plans, but have begun training Holly and Max up for some weekend camping trips at backpacking camps.   Last weekend, Holly hiked the hilly trails at Picchetti Ranch in Cupertino, on a 1.2 mile out-and-back hike, with 5 pounds on her back, not needing to be carried once!  We’re hoping to have her trained up for a 3-mile trip – no small accomplishment for an often stubborn girl who demands to be carried.  Meanwhile, I am training up to carry 25 pounds – hopefully an easy feat, though it is anxiety-provoking as it was about 13 months ago that I herniated a disc in my back. 

 As I don’t want to take on too much, too fast, I am not volunteering to lead any backpacking camping trips with Stroller Hikes, but if you are interested, Stroller Hikes is all ears about where, when, with how many attendees, and how far.  Might I recommend Waddell Creek (Big Basin), Black Mountain (with photo of play last year before bed, above, Monte Bello), or Point Reyes Coast Camp?  All are less than 3 miles in with a water source (you should filter, treat, or boil water from the source).  Stroller Hikers also love car camping.  We had several wonderful volunteers leading trips last year with tons of attendees having a great time.  Stroller Hikes can offer guidance about what to bring and plan for, and can loan out a huge but lightweight backpacking stove, as well as a SPOT (emergency beacon using GPS).  If you’d like to lead or co-lead, contact Debbie at admin@strollerhikes.com.

 -Debbie (Founder and President), Holly (3), Max (7), and Andrew

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Amped for Camp

Avid4AdventureI loved my summer off from work, last year.  It was one of very few summers working, since I was 13 and could get my work permit, and it was my first summer off with kids, the only two exceptions being when I was laboring by having my children.

After getting a job offer for a summer job, on Friday, Max and I sat down to assess what each of our goals are for the summer.  If I work this summer, Max will need a camp.  If I don’t work, I’ll want to indulge Max with well-trained mentors who can help him meet his goals.  Max was my partner in summer fun last year, and we had Hang-With-Mom Summer Camp at our house, open spaces around us, and at the local swimming pool.  It was great fun building with LEGOs, doing science experiments, hiking, and improving Max’s swimming skills.  Max’s goals this summer are to improve his skills in soccer, tae kwon do, and swimming, as well as build some cool LEGOs.  He also is interested in doing some survival skill training, like he knows Boy Scouts do.

I was pleased to show him first Avid4Adventure, a company out of Colorado that is offering three awesome summer camps this year in Corte Madera, Berkeley, and Oakland.  Actually, I may be even more excited to enroll myself in their camp.  While the YMCA and city camps offer a multi-sport week-long camp with traditional sports such as basketball, soccer, and volleyball, Avid4Adventure offers rock climbing, mountain biking, and kayaking.  If you visit their homepage (http://www.avid4.com/), you’re immediately sucked in – at the sight of some 8-year-olds seriously amped, next to their kayaks.  Along with the trio of sports, they train kids how to build shelters, read maps, and use compasses.  Where was this camp when I was younger?  While I regularly get mistaken for a student at my high school, I really couldn’t cut it for long as a 7th grader, so I cannot enroll.  If I were to work in Mountain View, their three inaugural sites in the East Bay are also a bit of a trek, but I was so compelled by their trio of exciting, individual sports, that I checked to see how much of a drive it would be to get Max to Oakland each day for camp, and thought a little about their extended care options to buffer the time it would take me to drive to/from him.  Hmmm…  (They are also offering discounts for early registrants and you can save $15 is you enter strollerhikes as a coupon code.  If you need more convincing, Emily at Avid4Adventure sent along the graphic at top; this camp seems more aligned to Stroller Hikes’ ideals than any other I have seen, so I was compelled to share it with the Stroller Hikes community.)

Max and I also looked around for those soccer and swimming options he was interested in.  There are piles of private swimming pools around here, all touting 30-to-45 minute options throughout the year, in their heated pools.  But summer day camps are much less common, and I’m not interested in short, infrequent lessons when summer’s really our only change to build water skills.  We found a promising summer camp at California Sports Center (AKA Fremont High School in Sunnyvale), which Max was thrilled at: in a single day they have several 30-minute stints of water play, and in-the-shade play on the field or in a classroom, as well, something that would be welcome for my fair-skinned redhead.  Since California Sports Center partners with the school district and city, prices weren’t crazy, either.

Another great place to look for camps is your local city’s website.  Cities partner with some very talented organizations like Kidz Love Soccer and California Sports Center, to keep prices low and keep safety and facilities in check.  You sign up typically through the city, so can have confidence that camp will proceed as planned and you’ll get a return on your investment, come summer.  Most cities offer extensive PDF guides on their websites, or paper guides near city hall.  I downloaded Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Cupertino city guides, and found each megabyte of PDF to be clear about cost, times, and age requirements, with nice summary tables to show you where, when, and how much, as well as longer descriptions of each program.  Many public open spaces, such as Deer Hollow Farm (Mountain View) have well established week-long summer camps teaching kids about animal care, nature, and crafts, one option for developing those survival skills, as Max is too young to join the 4-H, and he is not yet a Boy Scout.  For a lot of local parks, summer programs are still in the works, so, for instance, I’ll be keeping my ears open or writing Barbara Banfield at McClellan Ranch Open Space, to ask if they are offering any camps this year; McClellan Ranch is Max’s favorite open space in Cupertino.  City programs tend to offer reduced costs for city or regional residents, an added bonus.

Cost certainly is one factor when considering camps, and of my limited data set (two years), we have tried both extremes.  For Max’s first summer of camps, Max attended camp with the YMCA, through which he has had exceptional before- and after-school care for years.  While the costs were very inexpensive, we found that the temporary summer staff didn’t engage Max as much as he wanted or needed, and many seemed a bit too liberal for young people who crave structure.  This is certainly highly variable, based on who is hired, how they are managed, and how they are trained, but the following year, I tried a high-end private camp, hoping for a more positive experience.  We spent over twice as much for Camp Edmo, which Max enjoyed thoroughly.  I asked Max why he liked Camp Edmo so much.  “We went on adventures, discovered stuff, and got prizes.”  From my perspective (that of a teacher), the staff were always organized and engaged with each other and the kids, and the events included lots of challenges, both procedurally and athletically.  The kids learned some physics, created some inventions, and went on some ambitious hikes.  Max left with a handful of fun songs (with cute dances), a new friend, and several magnet prizes for our fridge.  If I can find a coupon on social media, I may register Max for Edmo again (a friend got a many-hundred-dollar discount through social media, last year), or likewise try out a different high-end camp like Camp Galileo.

Course, we’re still in the starting stages of figuring out our summers, but even writing this lights a little fire, as I know I’ll be competing with all of you to find Max the coolest summer experiences, while I also put together my list of things to do.  I might work at Google… or maybe I will try to pass for a 7th-grader and sign up at Avid4Adventure.  Or maybe they’ll take a volunteer on to paddle along with the kids in Oakland.  Maybe that’s what Hang-Out-With-Mom Summer Camp will become.

Happy planning!

- Debbie (Founder and President of Stroller Hikes), Andrew, Max (7), and Holly (3)

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