Youth Empowerment!

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Max starts kindergarten in the fall, so we went to a new-parents meeting to learn about what to expect and what he should be able to do.  As a public school teacher, I understand how assertiveness is huge, at any age.  Competing for attention and resources, the child empowered with manners, self-esteem, and innovation, gets much farther than the meek child or the child prone to misbehaving to get what (s)he wants.


We’ve been empowering Max by practicing manners, communicating with safe adults who can help him, and refining his skills to do all sorts of things, in the hopes that he won’t feel like just part of the crowd when he begins school in six months.  Part of this requires that we get him out in crowds of peers and expose him to challenges.  Stroller Hikes has been great for this – Max has been hiking every week since before he was born, and he now hikes up to two hours on foot.  This weekend, for the Stroller Hikes Shopping Party Fundraiser at Sports Basement (see party details below), we’ll empower him to pick out his own new shoes with minimal assistance from us! 


Max inspired us to begin Toddler Treks over a year ago, and inspired us to begin Backpacking Bambinos this year, which challenges kids to hike, as training for a day-long or overnight backpacking trip. 


Our first long Backpacking Bambinos is a Friday-overnight trip on March 25th/26th at the Hiker’s Hut (with electricity and plumbing!), 1.5 miles into Sam McDonald County Park near La Honda.  The second event will be at Eagle’s Aerie Backpacking Camp (traditional tent), 3.8 miles into Sunol, on April 16th/17th( see Kevin’s record of his hike to the same place at for some inspiration).  E-mail to claim a spot today at either event – space is limited.


Max’s first backpacking trip was about 3.5 years ago at the same Sunol sight, when he was just walking.  Just like his sister, he relaxes outdoors, and the sights and sounds of rocks, the rushing waterfalls in Sunol wilderness, and the lush wildflowers of the spring were delightful to him.  He enjoyed helping to set the tent up in the misty rain (3.5 years ago was much wetter than this La Nina weather we’re having), then exploring local rock outcroppings to find salamanders (we found five).  Our tea, soup, and oatmeal never tasted as good as it did at our campsite.  We enjoyed seeing cows and deer grazing on the hills, finding flocks of turkeys, following turtles and fish by the creek, and pulling drops of dew off of wildflowers and sorrel.  Dad enjoyed the chance to try to capture the majestic old oaks amongst the rolling grasses, with his camera.  I enjoyed lying in the grass and watching the clouds roll by.


We’re really excited to get outside with Max again for an overnighter.  It’s a treat to watch him invent games, away from his iTouch, dad’s computer, and his usual pile of Legos, books, and trucks.  He practices innovation, as he assigns sticks, rocks, and leaves new roles, and invites others to play.  He’s also becoming a budding naturalist, always finding new flora or fauna to identify, stopping at tracks or scat to see what they can tell him.  And his responsibility shows, when he notes the presence of poison oak, with a warning tone.  Now that Max can cook and clean, it’ll be fun for us to help him tend our ultrasimplistic house in the wild.  And Max is an excellent big brother – it’ll be neat for us to help him share the wonders of overnight backpacking with his sister – it’s her second trip backpacking, but the first to this park.


You are all welcome to join us for our training hikes, as well as these weekend outings.  Day-trippers and overnighters are welcome.  Please  e-mail Debbie at to indicate interest in coming; there is a small fee for overnighters ($10 per person at the Hiker’s Hut, $6 per adult at Sunol) and we will want to discuss food collaboration.  Day-trip or overnight events will also be planned for May 14th, July 23rd, and August 20th, perhaps at Castle Rock/Saratoga Gap, Rancho del Oso, Point Reyes, or Henry Coe – we’ll let you know as reservations are made and we get a feel for what weather may be like this summer.


We hope that Stroller Hikes enables you to empower your children.  You can let them “loose” in the wild and watch them show their true colors, away from modern distractions or agendas.  I’m always amazed what Max can do by his own volition – I expect he’ll be able to hike all the way into both places, even if we take lots of breaks and play lots of games along the way.


-Debbie, little Max, and wee Holly

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