Riding the Pineapple Express

Puddle JumpingAlthough “Pineapple Express” sounds like a fruity and fun ride at a tropical amusement park, it’s actually the nickname for the huge rainstorm that hit California over the last few days. Despite the inconvenience of flooded streets and soggy mail, we had some fun jumping in puddles. Hope you all enjoyed the much-needed rain, too!

 

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No Bad Weather

A wet log is a slippery new climbing challenge and a hiding place for many salamanders.

A wet log is a slippery new climbing challenge and a hiding place for many salamanders.

It’s raining, it’s pouring, but hikers aren’t snoring. Although hike attendance is typically lower on rainy days, my children and I have had some of the most gorgeous and rewarding outings during wet weather. Admittedly, it takes extra effort on my part to get geared up and out the door when it’s raining, but I’m always glad when I summon the energy. The world feels different when it’s wet, and my children enjoy the new situation–worms and newts come out, spider webs and leaves collect drops of water, smooth climbing logs are slippery, and mud is a delight for small hands and feet. Provided we have the right clothes and a washing machine that will take care of the mud, there’s no bad weather. Join Stroller Hikes through all kinds of weather for year-round nature experiences.

 

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Redwood Magic

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Standing before the enormous roots of a fallen redwood

My family and I spent several days this week on the northern part of the California coast in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Wow! This unique part of the world is indescribably gorgeous and the massive size of the oldest redwood trees inspires a hushed awe. In between scrambling over fallen trees, bush-whacking through ferns, and scouting out elk herds, my husband and I read up on the super-cool characteristics of redwood trees and on the history of the redwood forest. Hooray for preservationists who had the foresight to protect a tiny piece of these grand forests and hooray for the people in the State Parks department who continue to care for these amazing places and make them accessible to us.  

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Move Like a Kid

Climbing a tree at the Palo Alto Duck Pond

Climbing a tree at the Palo Alto Duck Pond

Can you imagine spending a whole day climbing over chest-high ledges, constantly craning your neck to see things high above you, navigating down waist-high boulders, doing hundreds of squats, crawling through narrow tunnels, and taking dozens of falls in the process? Sounds rough to me, but that’s an average day in the life of my toddler. Getting onto the couch is a huge feat, figuring out stairs that dwarf your own size is complicated, and crawling after the ball that rolled under the coffee table takes a special sort of coordination. But I am inspired by the way my small children use their bodies. They are strong, flexible, determined, and undaunted by large obstacles. I want to be more like them, and I suspect that I’ll be healthier and happier when I use my body in such quantity and quality. To that end, I’m trying to be more mindful of joining in on their games of tag, climbing trees when they do, and crawling into their forts to share secrets. I think the health of my body and of my relationships with my children will improve.

 

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Motivating Reluctant Hikers

An enormous eucalyptus tree and some siblings, captured by a reluctant 8-year-old hiker.

An enormous eucalyptus tree and some siblings, captured by a reluctant 8-year-old hiker.

 After stalling at the trailhead with our out-of-town visitors, I finally walked back to the parking lot to find my dawdling 8-year-old. He was sitting on the bumper of our minivan, arms folded in defiance. “I don’t want to hike today!” he insisted. We’d promised our guests a perfect afternoon outing at Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve, and now the weather was co-operating but my son wasn’t. He’s too big to carry, too old to be bribed, and too young to be left alone to wait at the car. Mentally filing through my parenting toolbox, I grasped at the first likely solution. “We need you to be our official photographer,” I improvised. “Here’s the camera. Find some cool shots as we hike.” To my relief, he agreed, and although my photography assignment had initially been just a way to get him moving, it turned out that he captured many worthwhile pictures of our hike, including peacocks, deer, the quarry, and several enormous eucalyptus trees.

About a hundred yards into our hike, my 3-year-old announced that he was too tired to hike anymore. Feeling confident from my freshly won victory with his older brother, I looked around for something to keep him going. He’s just learning to identify letters, and I could see a sign up ahead on the trail. “We need you to find all the signs on the trail and read us the letters,” I told him. He took his responsibility seriously and zoomed ahead to the next trail marker, yelling, “Sign, ho!” He continued to scout out signs for the rest of our hike, magically becoming untired.

As if on cue, at the next sign, my 6-year-old began to whine. She’s a sucker for stories, so I promised to tell a story as long as she kept hiking. She hiked through my entire description of the Wizard of Oz, and I didn’t even have to engage any creativity. By the end of the story she had forgotten her complaints and struck up a conversation with one of our hiking companions to keep her going for the rest of the journey.

Towards the end of the hike, my baby started to complain. I was already carrying him on my back, he can’t work a camera, and he has yet to say his first word, let alone identify letters or understand stories. He’d eaten all the snacks, drunk all the water, and was already holding his pacifier. I couldn’t think of a single trick to induce happy compliance. Fortunately, I could almost see the parking lot, so I resolved to tolerate the crying for the last 5 minutes of our hike. Three out of four isn’t bad.

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