Book Review: Before They’re Gone by Michael Lanza

Front Cover

If your summer has been like mine, and hiking isn’t happening with the frequency you’d hoped, you probably shouldn’t read this book.  It will create jealousy and sadness.  This great account of hiking with kids in America’s beautiful national parks will leave you desperate for a hike — TODAY!

In just one year, Mr. Lanza hiked with his 10 year old son and 8 year old daughter to locations in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier National Park, Joshua Tree National Monument, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Everglades, Glacier Bay in Alaska, Mount Rainier National Park and the Olympic coast.  This book, half climate-change warning, half hiking journal, speaks to a desire most people have– to share the things they love with the people they love.  Unfortunately, many of the things we love, including the national parks, are endangered by global climate change.  While Mr. Lanza speaks very definitely about the way climate change is and will effect some of the world’s most beautiful places, he also talks about the wonderful character growth kids experience with frequent exposure to natural places.

Although the places they visited were probably among the most beautiful and unique in the world, many share one problem in fitting in with my hiking plans:  too many people.  Hiking in a line to see Upper Yosemite Falls doesn’t sound like a way I want to spend a day.  In fact, we spent a recent holiday hiking with many other people, and while I am glad to see others out enjoying nature, I have a hard time enjoying my day with that much noise around.  The time for me to see those wonderful sights will have be a time when no one else is around (I think I’m going to be waiting a long time.)  In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy more pristine (if less beautiful) areas without the company of crowds.

My favorite parts of this book were his details about hiking with his children.  Hearing his children try to decide which was their favorite trip must have made him so happy.  I feel similarly when my kids are making top 10 lists of their favorite hikes.  In a world where so many kids have no exposure to nature and no love of the outdoors, hearing them express their feelings is delightful.  Of course, no one loves the exertion and effort of hiking all the time, and this is reflected in his children as well.  I laughed over his “potty break” to put a little distance between him and his (stationary) children so that he could calm down after listening to the kids complain and bicker.  And his advice about feeding them often is something we’ve put to use in the last couple hikes to good effect.

I hope you find this book and read it.  You’ll enjoy it.  Have you read any good hiking books lately?  Please leave me a comment.

3 Secrets to Backpacking with Kids

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  • No pressure.
  • Destination.
  • Motivation.

The three secrets to a great backpacking trip with kids are really no different than the secrets to a hike or even great daily living with kids.  Keeping these secrets in mind, you can plan a great trip with your family.

1.  No pressure.  Remember that hurrying takes the joy away from any project.  If your lives are too hectic to schedule in a backpacking trip, wait longer.  Pushing ahead to do something you really don’t have time for will only make everyone unhappy.  Sometimes work, school, or other commitments require the days you really wanted to spend in the back country.  Release them gracefully, and move on to planning at a time which is better for everyone.

Another place to ease up on the pressure is on the amount of ground you are able to cover.  When hiking by ourselves, my husband and I like to keep moving, but the kids enjoy time in camp to explore, build “houses” and relax.  Keeping our mileage goals realistic helps everyone to have a good time.

2.  Destination.  Destination is everything in a hike with kids.  They don’t want to head out for a certain number of miles, or until they feel tired (this could happen in the first 10 feet!)  A waterfall, a great place to climb on the rocks, a lake, or even a certain view, helps kids to keep going cheerfully.  Try to research your trail well enough to find that sort of a location for your kids to hike toward, and the payoff is happier kids.

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3.  Motivation.  Pack your motivation in your pack in the form of sweet and salty snacks to be consumed at set times along the trail.  Pack your motivation in your packs in the form of a special food or card game to be used at camp.  Boost motivation from the start by helping kids plan the destination and length of the trip.

Follow these secrets, and you too can have a great trip with your kids of any age.  Do you know another backpacking with kids secret?  Please leave me a comment.

Backpacking with Kids — Naturalist Basin, Uintas 2013

Our first backpacking trip of the season finally happened last weekend.  Although we had planned two other weekends earlier in the year, one was foiled by cold weather, and another by too busy schedule.  We were so excited to make this trip finally happen.

We went into the Naturalist Basin area of the Uintas, starting up the Highline trail just past Mirror Lake.  This was the first year Lucy carried a backpacking pack with her sleeping bag and clothes in it.  She weighs about 80 pounds, and we gave her 10 pounds to carry — a good start, we thought.  She did so fabulous, we couldn’t even believe it.  No complaining at all.  In fact, the view we had of Lulu and Max for most of the trip was just their backs as they led us along the trail.

lulu and max leading the way

We made sure of the more important things . . . Max was well stocked with sugary treats.

max with nerdsWe woke up on Saturday morning with a little buck patrolling our camp site.

two point buck in campWe also spotted this beautiful bird, who was not shy at all, but showed off to get his picture taken.  We think he is a pine grosbeak.

unidentified red headed birdThe wild flowers were fabulous this year.  We climbed to high meadows in the basin and enjoyed the view before having a quick snowball fight in July.

view from blue lake

The only problem we encountered at all was the mosquitos — huge as horses and swarming to carry us off alive at our second campsite, we scurried for home early in the morning because movement was the only was to avoid them.  A good time was had by all, and after a quick wipe-off and change of clothes at the car, we were ready to buy our “reward” hamburgers in Park City.

Have you been backpacking this summer?  Where is your favorite spot to go with kids?  Please leave me a comment.

Eden’s Concerto

This year, Eden prepared and performed the first movement of Ravel’s Concerto en Sol for several contests and performances.  I  finally figured out how to show you her wonderful work.  She is accompanied by her excellent teacher, Juliet Preston.

Last Day of School 2013

Last Thursday was our last day of “school.”  I put it in quotation marks because we continue doing school during the summer, we just don’t call it school.  During the summer, we do a math lesson or two each week to keep our hand in, and reading never stops in our house.  Truly, I don’t know how parents whose  children don’t like to read survive the summer.  During the hottest days of the year, my kids end up hiding out in the basement reading book after book.  But since this is just the beginning of the summer, we had to celebrate by spending the last of our last day of school camping.

We made aircraft carriers out of bark and floated them in the stream running through our campsite.

max and boatLulu and Max made “houses” complete with broom cupboard.

lulu's houseWe picked the best place for the tent, with shade . . .

tentand a view.

benny creekEarly the next morning, we ran (Lulu and Max are in the middle of a couch to 5k program.)

lulu runningAnd then we hiked  . . .

nebo from loafer trail

and did a little  cow anatomy.

cow bonesWe sat in camp and read.  Eden brought along a little last minute school work.

brett reading eden working in campIt’s a hard life, but somebody has to do it.

max

Here’s hoping your summer is starting out just as challenging!  How did you wrap up school for the year?  Please leave me a comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

Brett’s First 5k Race

Running is really becoming a family addiction.  I ran my second marathon on May 4th, and last weekend, Brett ran his first 5k race.  He has been training hard, and he cooked down the road!

Brett after race Bretts timeNext race stop for us is a half marathon, with Brett and I doing the relay (he’ll run the bottom half, and I’ll stick with him,)  and Shandy and Eden probably leaving me in the dust!  Running is such a wonderful way to clear the mind and make your body healthy.  I am glad it’s becoming a family activity.

Do you run races?  Do you run with your family?  Leave me a comment below.

Another Great Family Hike near Escalante: The Box (Pine Creek)

On our family hiking trip to Escalante this year, we did 3 great hikes, but I can’t really recommend all of them to you.  We spent one very long day crossing the Boulder Mail Trail, including freezing in the chest deep water of Death Hollow.  I won’t recommend that one as a great family hike — it was HUGE!  But another hike, this one only about 10 miles up the Hells Backbone road outside of Escalante, I can recommend unreservedly for your family.  This easy hike up a beautiful drainage crosses a little creek through a Ponderosa forest, and could definitely done by any level of hiker.

sun coming up in the box the box -- looking upThere are two ways to hike “The Box,” which is what the Pine Creek drainage is called.  A really wonderful way to enjoy this whole trail would be to be dropped off at the top Upper Box Access point, about 19 miles from Escalante, where Pine Creek crosses the Hell’s Backbone road.  Follow the stream about 9 miles down and be picked up by a shuttle car at the Lower Box trailhead, only 10 miles up the Hell’s Backbone road.  We did not do this because after our monster hike on Thursday, we weren’t sure how much of a hike we wanted on Saturday.  Turns out, we could easily have done this as a through hike.  Instead, we hiked about 5 miles up from the Lower trailhead, then turned around and headed back to our  car.  It was a great hike, although we regretted not seeing the whole trail.

lulu crossing pine creek crossing at the boxStream crossings begin right away from the lower trailhead, and in the 5 miles we hiked, we crossed the stream 20 times. (And 20 more on the way back down.)  Many of the crossing were “rock hoppers,” and could be done without getting your feet wet (if you are coordinated–which I am not.)  There were trees across many spots as well, but all of us ended up with wet feet.  Eden grabbed a little tree to steady herself on her next-to-last stream crossing and it slowly lowered her into the stream, getting her whole side and back wet!  If only we had known in advance to turn on the video . . .

pine creekThere are many wonderful campsites along this trail, making it ideal for an easy, light (no need to carry water) overnight trip as well.

We completed our trip to The Box by driving the rest of the Hell’s Backbone road.  Of course, we had to take a picture at the Hell’s Backbone bridge, a narrow span between very steep drop-offs (Death Hollow and Sand Creek drainages.)

all of us at hells backbone

I highly recommend this trail to you and your family.  Have you started your hiking season yet?  How is spring progressing where you are?  Please leave me a comment below.

Navajo Knobs 2013

Early in March, we hiked Navajo Knobs in Capitol Reef again.  Since I’ve told you about this great hike before, I won’t write all about it again.  Instead, we let Brett be in charge of the camera, and I want to share this great picture.

picture from top of Navajo Knobs

Just showing the forever you can see from the top!

Some more hiking posts soon to come, and a little about how we wind up our homeschool year.  Hope to see you again soon!

Choosing your “Cup of Tea” — Freedom for Homeschoolers

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often say “it’s just not my cup of tea.”  When I make this statement, I am asserting my right to choose for myself what I consider fun and useful in my life.  So while a 20-mile training run is my cup of tea, going to a wedding shower is not.  Yes, the cup of tea I choose is different than that of most people of my age, sex and social position.

Do we allow the same freedom to our children?  Do we allow them to choose their own “cup of tea?”  Two books that have really reinforced that question for me lately are Guerilla Learning by Amy Silver and Grace Llewellyn and The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn.  These two books that focus on kid-powered learning,  based on choice and interest by the child, are both change and guilt inspiring.  How can we as parents give our children power over their own learning, while still fulfilling our roles as parents?

  • Really listen to our children’s interests and desires.  By being alert to what makes them excited, we can direct them toward activities that expand their horizons and help them reach their goals.
  • Find opportunities in the community to expose them to new ideas.  Being on the constant lookout for new opportunities for your children is one of the best ways parents can help their children know what is interesting to them.  How can a person be interested in astronomy if he’s never looked at the stars?  How can a person follow a passion for music without hearing a wide variety of music?  Investigate opportunities for your children to try new ideas and activities in your community, at local museums, at the library or amongst adult interest groups.
  • Allow plenty of free time for exploration.  Don’t fill every moment of your children’s time.  Allow them the space to  find what really interests them.

One of the most difficult things advocated by these books is for the parent to support their children’s interest whether or not that is one of the parent’s interests or the parent feels that this interest is valuable.  For example, it is much easier for me to support an interest in classical or bluegrass music than rock music.  Although this is true, I need to allow my child to pursue his own interest.  (Easier said than done.)

I highly recommend reading these books – Guerilla Learning is directed to parents, while Teenage Liberation Handbook is directed entirely to teens.  Each of these will give you great ideas for expanding your child’s freedom as a homeschooler.

What have you read lately which has guided your schooling decisions?  Do you believe in letting your children choose completely, or do you try to strike a balance between child-led and parent-led schooling?  Please leave me a comment below.

Quiet Blog = Finished Quilt

Only two years in the making . . . but remember correlation does not equal causation.

finished quilt closeup finished quilt

It’s machine pieced, extensively hand quilted, and the first of its kind made exclusively for me . . . by me.  And now maybe I’ll be seeing a little bit more of YOU!

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