Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hiking With Kids: SomeTips and the Santa Margarita River Trail

My kids love to hike. The boys can handle a 3 mile hike with ease. Even 4 miles doesn't phase them too much as long as there are some snacks involved.
Lilly can handle a hike too. She can easily do a mile, or a mile and a half. It is painfully slow, but she does it. After that, she prefers to be carried, and if she's tired, she might want to be carried sooner. But truly, her little legs can do it.

We began hiking in earnest when James was 3 and William was 1. I started with them at our local nature center on the 2 mile trail. When they polished that off, I knew they were ready for more. I regret that we didn't do more hiking with James when he was smaller. I am sure he would have been fine, we just weren't giving him enough credit. We didn't own a backpack carrier or an "off road" stroller, 2 things that would have made trails more accessible with a toddler. Now we do, but we don't always use them.

Hiking with kids is like anything else, you just have to show them how much fun it is, and they'll soon join right in. You have to help them build up their strength and stamina. You have to show them how to see things along the trail so it isn't just a boring walk. Even Lilly points out wild flowers now, or a bunny. The boys notice birds, plants, rocks, bugs and wildlife. They love the adventure, the bend in the road, the joy of new discoveries.

Hiking has become one of our favorite activities. Most hikes are a bit of a drive from where we live. It might seem like a lot of effort to drive somewhere and only hike 3 miles. Or, you could consider it a starting place. My plan is that we are working towards 5 miles, 8 miles, 10 miles and someday, overnighters on the trail.
And even on a short hike, there is so much to see. In my mind, hiking is a perfect family outing. Why?
It's active.
It's cheap.
It's outside.
Everyone can be together.
It's fun!

So now it's time to hit the trail! If you have a favorite hike, please share it with me. I keep track of hikes I'd like to try, both near and far.

Here's one we recently hiked near Fallbrook. It's the Santa Margarita River trail in DeLuz. The Santa Margarita river is worth seeing as it is the last wild river in southern California. And because the trail is right on the river, you can even do this trail in the summer heat. Just take off your shoes and jump in!
This trail is fairly rugged. Even an off road stroller would not work. Lilly and William needed help on some of the steep parts but otherwise they all managed just fine. The trail is out in the hills, and there are mountain lions. So we made the boys stick close to us and we took my dad along too. He was also helpful for toting Lilly!

It is a great trail--some parts are a bit eroded after all the winter rains.
Some parts are a lot eroded after the rains.
But the 'cliffs" made for an even more exciting hike for the boys.

There are lots of wildflowers in bloom.
Right next to the river there is a lot of moisture.
Perfect for moss. And succulents growing right out of the hills.
Hiking in the spring gives us a chance to see everything green and lush.
In a few months it will be burnt brown from the summer sun.
There weren't very many people on the trail.
We passed 5 other hikers.
Then we met up with our cousin Jack and his best bud, Timmy.
Can you tell whose related?
Hint: go by facial expression, not coloring.
We climbed down to the giant boulders by the water.
Lilly wouldn't stand for being left out.
The best part is always the exploring.
If they get to explore rocks and water, so much the better.
Farther up the river there is a beaver dam.
We didn't get to go that far because the sun was setting.
But Jack found evidence of the beavers' work.
What a cool treasure. I'm still jealous!
Some practical tips that will make your hikes more successful and fun.
1. Wear good shoes. Flip flops won't cut it. They should be closed toe at least, or fully enclosed so you aren't stopping to shake out pebbles the whole time. They should also have good grip, because kids love to climb.
2. Pack lots of snacks and water. You can't have too much. And this will make or break the hike. Trust me.
I even pack a special treat, like some chocolate, if I know the hike will be a longer one and they will need a little something to get them back to the car.
3. Dress in layers. It might start out cold, but you'll all get hot.
4. Teach your kids to identify poisonous plants. The boys point out poison oak and stinging nettles with ease now.
5. If your hike will take you into areas where there are rattlesnakes or mountain lions, tell your kids how to react. My boys aren't afraid of seeing these things. They are just prepared.

Now you're ready. It's the weekend, so get out there and enjoy a beautiful spring hike. Just be sure to tell me all about it.
On Monday, I'll share an Orange County hike with you.
Happy Trails!


Through My Eyes said...

I also LOVE hiking! I hiked a lot when I was younger, but not as a little kid. When I was there in California we would hike a lot over in Morro Bay, Los Osos or Montana De Oro (can't remember how to spell that :)
My Mom is one who loves the outdoors so she got us to love it also.
Thanks for sharing!

Marisa said...

Hi Greta! I've been a little MIA from the blog world lately, but have been wanting to stop by and tell you that your comment on my birth story post brought me to tears. I'm so terribly sorry for your loss, but am in awe of your strength and grace.

many blessings! :D

Lisa said...

that is a great trail, Greta. When your kids are a little bigger, Stonewall in Cuyamaca is a really awesome hike and ther is another, can't remember the name but there is a swimmin hole(deep), in the same area but down the road.

I'm sure you've been to the vernals on the santa rosa plataeu? If not, try to get up there before the heat. Tadpoles and frogs, snakes, birds and we almost always see coyotes.
Great pictures of you guys, specially the one with your dad!! He's so cute!! I really love your folks!
OOhh..Torrey Pines is another great place for when you are down here a few days.
Have a great weekend.
See ya at Easter!
Lisa T