Weekday Hiking: Squaw Peak Trail

We are continuing our summer hiking with local trips during the week.  We are lucky enough to live close to many different hiking trails, and are able to find some places that are not closed due to forest fires still.  There are huge fires burning to the south and west of us, but in the mountains just north of us there are still some places we haven’t explored, and others we would like to visit again.  This trail begins at the Rock Canyon Trailhead on the north side of Provo.  We hiked the beginning of this trail about a month ago as part of our “Best Hike Ever.”  We wanted to try again at a cooler time of day and see if we could reach Squaw Peak before it got too hot.

The beginning of the trail is a fairly gentle climb over a wide, well-used trail.  About 2 miles into the hike, a trail leaves to the north (left) with a rock that says Squaw Peak Trail marking the trail.

From here, the trail climbs fairly steeply for two miles to the top of Squaw Peak, where you can see all of Utah County spread out below like a map.  From other trip reports on the Internet, I was not sure how much exposure there would be on this hike, especially on the ridge before the summit.  I promised myself that if I felt that it was dangerous, I would turn around before we saw the end of the trail, especially since Shandy was not with us.  I think the “promise to bail” is an important factor in my bravery.  I state conditions under which I will turn around before I go, and then I am brave enough to start.  Rarely do the conditions come about that I have to turn around, but when they do, I already have my own permission to quit.  However, on this trail there is no exposure before the final summit, and the peak is wide enough that there did not seem to be any danger to sit there and eat our snack and enjoy the view.

Lulu loved looking from this place.  She said it looked like a really, really good map.

As we hiked back down the trail, the butterflies were out in full force.  At the water’s edge, Eden was able to lure several onto her hands, and two even kept her company down the trail a while.

We started from the car at 7:40 a.m., and with time spent snacking and checking things out along the way we were still back to the car before 12:00.  This was a great hike for kids who are strong hikers, and the view from the top was well worth seeing.  If you don’t think your kids could make it all the way, even a short distance along this trail is worth the trip.

Now . . . to find the next spot.  There are so many wild fires in Utah right now, our hiking plans have to be made around what is not burning and has not burnt.  Oh, for some rain! (But not on the days I want to be outdoors, right?)  Hope you are enjoying your week.  Do you sneak out for weekday hikes, or is that something you save only for the weekends?  Please leave me a comment below.

Say “Yes” to Mess

When we built our house seven years ago, one of the stipulations I put on moving was that we would have a giant sand pile for the kids.  Not a sand box, but a pile.  All my childhood, my nearby cousins had a huge sand pile with boulders in their backyard, and I was always jealous of the fun they could have in that sand pile–they made rivers, reservoirs and mountains, cities, towns and roads.  I wanted some of that same experience for my own kids.  We couldn’t bring in boulders, but we put an entire dump truck load of fine, clean sand in the back yard.

Several family members were astonished by the presence of sand in my backyard.  They were surprised that someone as picky about housekeeping as I am (or as they perceive me to be) would want a sand pile.  But I was adamant, and it has been a wonderful addition to my kids’ outdoor time.  Yes, they do have to be stopped at the back door and brushed off, and there probably is a half ton of sand under my living room carpet right now (the other half ton is still out there.)  But innumerable hours have been spent building and playing in the sand.

However, this summer I have hesitated to let my kids turn on the water faucet and play in the sand.  Yes, it was the mess factor.  I remember how much fun they have, and then the changing clothes and hosing off that is involved afterwards.  But today I just sucked it up and let them play in the sand with water.

They made cement.

They dug a pond.  (The technical name for this foamy stuff is “Indian soap.”  Don’t ask how we know.)

And they cleaned up after themselves!  Who knew that seven and nine is old enough to clean up after themselves!  Thank goodness I said yes to the mess.

Is it easy for you to say yes to mess?  What are the messy projects your kids are doing this summer?  Please leave me a comment.

One-on-One — Stealing “Dates” with Kids

I bet you can’t guess what we like to do in the summer time!  The big kids had piano lessons at the same time this week, so Max and I snuck out for an ice cream date all by ourselves.  Eden and I took a similar opportunity last week.  I love to spend some time just one-on-one with my kids.  They are such unique people, and growing up so fast!  Although I love watching them interact with each other, I love being with each of them individually even more.  The conversations we have are valuable, and the silences are priceless.

In our family, we call it a date, and Shandy and I each plan one specific time each month to take one of the kids out, but these stolen moments are nearly sweeter.  Do you plan or steal “alone time” with your kids?  What do you like to do during those times?  Please leave me a comment.

Puddling

Puddling is what butterflies do because they cannot live on nectar alone.  Although the nectar is lovely and sweet, they must have the salts and minerals from the earth or they will die.  That is why, often during the summer, you will see a few or even a flock of butterflies gathered around a muddy, swampy place.  They are drinking the minerals and salts that are brought to the surface of the earth by the water.

Is puddling what we do when we go expose ourselves to the dirt and mess of nature?  Working in the garden, camping and eating outdoors, playing in the water outside, all of these involve an element of dirtiness — of less than clean-ness.  But our spirits are cleaned and renewed by this closeness to the dirt from which we are made.

If we are suffering from nature deficit disorder, a disorder which causes anxiety, stress, and a lack of purpose in our lives, perhaps we should consider the butterfly.  Find a puddle.  Play in the mud.

And maybe then we will be able to appreciate the nectar again.

How do you treat nature deficit disorder?  Please leave me a comment below.  Here’s hoping you find yourself a puddle today.

Summer Joys — U-pick Fruit

Do you take advantage of the local produce to get out in nature?  Can your kids identify the local orchards or fruit — cherry trees, apple trees and peach trees each have their own special look, you know.  Have the kids picked fruit and eaten it fresh off the tree?  Do they long for the joys of climbing a ladder?  That is one of the joys U-Pick farms can give to those of us without farms of our own.  We took a trip out to a U-Pick cherry orchard one evening last week.  In about half an hour, we picked 30 pounds of sweet cherries.  We can’t wait to freeze them and eat them (Shandy says they are like tiny slushies in your mouth!)

To find U-Pick operations or just neighbors with a loaded fruit tree, try your local classified ads.  Many people list in the on-line classifieds, and if you watch closely, you can get a great deal with very little effort.  This website also lists many places to pick your own fruits and vegetables.  It’s a great way to get in a little learning and a great snack.  Throw in a little family time and some good recipes, and you have the makings of a truly memorable evening.

Here are a few recipes we’re hoping to try with our haul. (We might have to go back at the end of the week!)

Cherry Custard Tart

Cherry Cream Cheese Brownies

Cherry Clafloutis (I make Pear Claflouti every autumn.  I’m looking forward to trying this one.)

And how about a Chocolate/Cherry Smoothie (I think I’m inventing my own recipe for this — if it turns out well, I will share it with you.)

Have a great day — find some fruit to pick!  If you have a favorite sweet cherry recipe, please leave me a link in the comments below.

A Quick Escape

We have been tied close to home for several weeks by commitments (marathon) and worship.  We were desperate for a quick escape that allowed us to leave the valley for a cool sleep in the mountains, but didn’t have time for a real hiking trip.  A quick camping trip seemed to be the perfect solution.

Car camping can be a very relaxing way for kids and parents to escape the demands of everyday life.  It is certainly a “softer” trip than backpacking:

  • You can take your chair, your book and your sleeping pad without carrying them on your back.
  • Food can be much heavier — soda, watermelon and canned goods are certainly not out of the question as they are when backpacking.
  • Hiking is optional.

We had decided to go this weekend, when statewide fire restrictions were put in place that allow no camp fires outside of permanent campgrounds.  As the kids say, the fire is half the fun.  Besides cooking marshmallows and hot dogs, campfires help you keep warm in the evening and get warm in the morning.  We tried to decide whether we should go at all, or just do a quick overnight backpack, since we always use our stove for that anyway.  Mom and Dad said they would go with us if we went car camping, so we packed up and headed out.  We were gone for barely twenty-four hours but it was such a break.

We camped near a spring, so the water was fresh and icy cold.

The kids built a dam across the (trickle) creek to keep the watermelon cold.

We went on a pre-breakfast hike to warm up since we couldn’t have a fire.

We slept in the cool and played in the water.  We ate watermelon.

Here’s wishing you just such a relaxing escape from the daily cares of your world!  Have a great day.

06.09.12 Utah Valley Marathon

It’s amazing that you don’t see in my face, “Wow, I just paid nearly $100 to do this to myself?”  I crossed the finish line in 4:24:something.  I didn’t win . . . but I was a winner.  I think that was the hardest thing I have ever done — nearly as hard as labor without a darling baby to show for it at the end.  I think I might like my marathons better spread out over a three day weekend . . .

Have a great weekend!

Kids in the Kitchen: Gold Nugget Soup

Max and Lulu wanted to do something fun the other day, so they looked at cookbooks.  After looking through one of the two kids cookbooks that we own several times enjoying all the dessert pictures, Max begged to have a cooking project of his own.  So we settled on Gold Nugget Soup.

As you can see, this was a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cook Book.  While I cannot unequivocally recommend this cookbook, because it uses lots of prepared items in its recipes, it was a good choice for Max because he could follow the steps easily and do nearly all of them himself.  I think one very important skill for young cooks to learning is to read and follow the directions carefully.  This book writes directions in a very step by step manner that is useful for kids.

He began by measuring the water into the pot.  He has finally learned to raise the liquid measure to eye level to see if it is really at the right amount.

He chopped the vegetables and opened the cans by himself (with a tiny bit of help with the can opener.)

One of the joys of being the youngest is that Mom lets you pour the milk by yourself. (And spill it all over the counter and floor and clean it up by yourself, too, but we didn’t take a picture of that one.)

Just a few minutes of cooking and Voila! Lunch provided by Max.

Gold Nugget Soup

From Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups water

2 cups frozen diced hash browns

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 stick celery, chopped

1 10 3/4 ounce can cheddar cheese or cheesy broccoli soup

1 16 ounce can creamed corn

1 1/2 cups diced ham

1 1/2 cups milk

Place water and hash browns and vegetables in a soup pot.  Put on stove and turn heat to medium high.  When boiling, turn to low and cook for 10 minutes.  Add soup, corn, milk and ham to the pot.  Cook on low 10 more minutes until hot.  Add salt and pepper as desired.

Again, not the most nutritious lunch ever made — certainly not all “real foods” — but great for a first soup for Max.

Hope you’re having a good weekend — I’m running my first ever marathon today!  I’ll let you know how it goes on Monday.

Free Summer School Bonus: Concerts in the Park

I have to admit, I love summer.  One of the things I love the most is combining two of my favorite activities:  listening to music and being outdoors.  In the small towns around us, nearly every town has a few free concerts in the park during the summer.  We love to go and listen, enjoying both the music and the spectating.  After all, at how many concerts in symphony hall would you see this?

Do you see those little darlings behind my two?  Even though the crowd at these outdoor concerts is not as quiet or interested as the audience at symphony hall, aren’t you glad they are outdoors enjoying the beautiful music?

This concert included real cannon fire during the 1812 Overture, and actors dressed up as storm troopers and other Star Wars characters during the Star Wars theme.  Besides enjoying themselves very much, the kids were able to observe the reactions of others to the music that was being played.

One thing that our family gains from these concerts is the idea that someday, perhaps they will be part of an orchestra like this one.  In one of the books I read recently, the author defined amateur by its meaning of “lover of . . .” something.  He said that the amateur could be proficient at something and do it to bring joy to his life, not just “for pay” which is what being a professional really means.  I hope that my children will be amateurs in that sense of the word, and as such might be able to enjoy their music performing in various local settings.  Few musicians have the skill or the luck to be one of the very few professional concert musicians in this country.  But they can look for ways to give joy to others and themselves performing in other settings.

Have you searched for these type of concerts near you?  Do you use these as part of your summer learning?  Please leave me a comment below.

Make This Hike Your Best Ever

After nearly every outing, one of my kids says, “I think this was the best hike ever!”  On one recent short day hike, that was simply because, about 3/4 of a mile up a very hot trail, we found this wonderful drinking fountain.  We had packed water, but the drinking fountain stole the show.

What makes a hike the best ever?  Here are 6 things you can think about to make this hike the best ever.

  • Start at the right time of day.  For our family, early morning is best.  We are all early risers, and sometimes we are even on by the trail by 6:30 or 7:00 a.m.  We love the cool, the sound of the birds, and we really love breakfast on the trail.  For your family, afternoon or evening might be the time when your energy flows.  For us, if we are hiking in the early afternoon, it takes a lot longer to get going and happy on the trail.  So, I try to hike on days when we can go in the morning.
  • Bring plenty of water (or maybe something yummy, like Gatorade.)  It can get hot, and if it is hot enough, even “scary” without water.  Kids should never have to ration water on a hike.  That is a good way to ruin them for a long time about hiking.  Bring enough to bring some home.  We like to pack a bottle of Gatorade to share on a long hike.  It is a good pick-me-up if the going gets tough on the way back to the car.  On one backpacking trip, I even packed some canned ice teas in the top of my backpack to chill in the creek where we were camping.  Everyone enjoyed those teas very much (and I enjoyed getting the 5 pounds out of my pack!) that evening.
  • Plan a special food.  As I said earlier, we like breakfast on the trail.  I have a special coffee cake recipe (coming soon to you!) that I love to make a day or two before the hike, wrap individual slices in foil, and take along with a bottle of cold milk and some fruit to watch the sunrise.  We have some favorite meal recipes, and we almost always slip in a candy bar or some other “junk” to carry us the last few miles.  You could try Pitas and Hummus, Veggie Sandwiches, or Picnic Chicken on your next hike!
  • Take time to enjoy the trail you are on.  Although we like to cover the miles, there is no point in going hiking if your don’t enjoy the view.  Take time to watch the lizards, butterflies and flowers.  Right now, everyone except Max in our family has their own camera.  That slows us down but lets us know what each person is interested in, so that we can stop and enjoy it.
  • Turn around or stop at the right time.  Sometimes you don’t get to the end of the trail — and that’s okay.  Set a time limit or a whine limit, and turn around.  Time enjoyed in the outdoors builds memories that can be repeated and expanded upon.
Here’s hoping you get out on you best ever hike soon!  Do you have any other “essentials” for hiking?  Please leave me a comment below!

Other posts about hiking you might like:

Getting Started

Dreaming about Hiking

Spring Preparations for Hiking