Saturday, July 31, 2010

Raising kids outdoors

I spent a great deal of time outdoors when I was a kid.  When I was 5 or 6 years old, living in Texas, I used to go squirrel hunting with my dad in a pecan orchard that belonged to one of his friends.  While living in Germany, our family did a lot of volksmarches and other hikes through the countryside.  Many of the places we lived allowed me to walk out the door and straight into the woods.  It was a pretty terrific way to grow up, and to the extent that I'm able, I want to pass that on to my children.

In many ways, it turns out to be easier said than done.  But I'm getting used to the fact that hikes are always slower with two kids in tow, and they never last as long as I'd like.  A mile is a long way for a four-year-old.  And Colorado can be pretty hot in the summer, especially for a 9-month-old strapped in a baby conveyance apparatus.  So in general, I'm really proud of my kids for the way they're handling it.  Sometimes, I even think they're having fun.

In early July, we went to the Rabbit Mountain open space near Lyons and did a one-mile hike.  The terrain wasn't easy for little legs, but it was really pretty out there.  We got to identify some flora and saw lots of butterflies and bees.

Rabbit Mountain Open Space

Twice this month we went to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and walked around Lake Mary.  It's a very flat trail, about a mile long.  But at this time of year, the prairie landscape heats up quickly.  They have a great visitors' center with a museum which discusses wildlife, the Cold War, and the efforts to clean up the byproducts of the chemical weapons which were once manufactured at this facility.  They have an area set up for children to make paper crafts, which is a great way to cool off after a walk around the lake.

Craft area at the RMANWR

There is also an educational room with lots of animal skins, bones, and other things for kids to explore.

Bee tree at RMANWF

I believe that this Bee Tree allows them to locate their honey in O(log n) time.  The Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster has one just like it.  The bees enter and leave through the tubes running from the tree to the wall.

Today we went to Estes Park to go fishing.  We went to the Lake Estes Marina to rent rods and got everything else we needed there, including licenses.  There is a $5 fee to bring your vehicle into the recreation area, and it is possible to pay for that inside if you don't have cash to pay at the entrance.

Fishing at Estes Lake Marina

We didn't stay long and didn't catch anything.  The water was too choppy and it was after noon by the time we got there.  I had hoped to rent a kayak and take my daughter out on the lake, but time didn't allow for it.  My youngest started getting fussy and a storm was brewing to the west, so we packed up and called it a day.  But it was fun nonetheless, and I think we'll be purchasing our own gear to do some fishing closer to home.

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