Sunday, March 31, 2013

Good Friday Hike

We had Friday off. What better way to fill it than taking a nice long hike? Boo has been agitating to hike “to the freeway” for months, and we haven’t had enough daylight or good weather at the same time. Friday… it looked good. Weather was sunny, warming up quickly after dawn, and it’s been dry enough most of the mud is walkable. 

Lee made calzones first thing in the morning, then wrapped them up in a towel to keep warm. I packed our big bags with what was to hand.

There were a number of trees across the trail to clamber over. Lots of hickory husks to collect. Plentiful benches for rests and snacks. We found a dead small mammal (mole?) that was very interesting. While most of the trail was dry enough, there were a couple places Boo almost lost her shoes.

Quick Rest

Lee heard squirrel sound, “Wow, guys look!” There was a hawk chasing a squirrel! It swooped and missed a few times, the squirrel ran even faster than they usually do, ran over a bump, hawk disappeared behind the bump, brief kurfluffle, and silence. Wow.

Boo was thrilled when we first could see the freeway. She was even more excited when we dropped down and saw the new tunnel under the freeway. We were expecting her to look into the tunnel and be done with it. But she really wanted to go through. OK then. She held Lee’s hand the whole way through, and almost lost her shoes in the mud at the far end. 

"Hurry Up!"

After the tunnel is a bridge, and that’s where the trail currently ends. So we ate our lunch. The calzones were still warm, and oh my gosh they were good. Oranges, raisins, and Sweet Tarts finished the meal. 

Lunch Calzone

As Lee and I put our packs back on, Boo was already halfway back to the tunnel. This time she bopped through without a hand. 

Going Alone

Funny thing about spring hikes. It’s sunny and warm, but there’s no leaves on the trees! Poor Boo was so desperate for shade she crawled under a bench at one stop, and eventually ended up wearing Lee’s hat. 


The trail had softened up during the day, and walking down the north sides of the hills was slippery slidey. Boo ended up falling a few times. 

Mud Skiing?

Another hiker passed us as Boo was flagging. She perked right up and started running. So another motivator for my kiddo is a friendly stranger. Who doesn’t mind getting their ear talked off…. 

We did four miles in about 4 hours. Boo was tuckered out, but after an hour of quiet time at home, she played outside and rode her bike until dinner, so we could have gotten another mile or two out of her with judicious breaks and feeding.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of spring hiking?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tuesday Trails

In addition to trying to get into condition for summer hikes (made harder by alternating sleet and mud), we  have added a weekly "observation hike". Every Tuesday afternoon, we head to a specific 1/2 mile trail and pay attention. The idea is to slow down, see how one place changes week to week, and use our senses as much as we can. Then we come home and write about it in journals.

We have a couple locations where we take a picture every week. For instance, here's the prairie.

Week 1:
Prairie - Week 1

Week 2:
Prairie - Week 2

Week 3:
Prairie Week 3

It's a lot harder to beg off because the weather isn't perfect, or we had a rough day at work. We're paying attention to the general sounds of birds, and we see a lot more animal tracks.

Once the weather starts being less wet, we're going to bring the journals with us. 

Observation Journal

All the Tuesday Trails pics

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dairy-Free, Kid Friendly Trail Mix

Trail mix is easy to buy at the store. Unless we want trail mix that all three of us will eat. Lee can’t eat dairy. I am allergic to apricots. I don’t care for peanuts much, and Boo doesn’t like nuts at all.

So we mix our own. 

It’s a complicated process of going to the store, buying a bag of everything we like, and dumping it together. Each bath we try a new protein thing in hopes Boo will like it (and knowing that kids’ tastes change as they get older and get more molars). 

We try to keep approximately even amounts of nuts/seeds and dried fruit. 

For sweet, we put in dairy-free chocolate chips. These make a sticky mess if it’s going to be warm or sunny. We have pondered vegan M&M-type candies for less mess when it’s warmer, but haven’t gotten around to actually trying them. 


Dried Fruit: raisins, craisins, blueberries, apples, strawberries, cherries.

Nuts and Seeds: walnuts, pecans, cashews, sunflowers, almonds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds. 

We will sometimes throw in pita chips or whatever crunchy chip/cracker thing catches our interest.

Dried fruit can get expensive, so we try to buy things in season and dry our own. This is difficult, as we tend to devour fresh fruit even when we could have sworn we had more than we could eat…

What do you like in trail mix? What don't you eat?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Maplewood State Park, Northern MN

August 20-21, 2012

So we abandoned the kid with Lee’s parents and went off to Maplewood State Park for ~24 hours. 

The Summer Trails map has contour lines, which made for good practice for me (Lee is a fabulous navigator. Me, not so much.) 

The ranger asked if we wanted a long or short hike to camp, and when we did not surprise her by asking for long, she parked us about a mile from the Cow Lake site we’d reserved. So we took a few minutes to plot the best route from car to campsite, which ended up being about 5.5 miles. Much better. 

Navigation Check

First we walked around Beers Lake. Some of the sumac was starting to turn red. I really miss that about MN. Much of the trail was dual use horse and hike. So we had to watch our step, which was occasionally annoying. I reminded myself that this way both groups got more trail, which was much better. It obviously wasn’t heavily used by horses, either. 

The day couldn’t have been nicer. The lakes were bright blue mirrors. I saw several dozen frogs. Lee saw none. She claims I was making them up. 

The trail wound through forest and grasslands, with some rolling hills. We had to walk along dirt park roads, but even those skirted the lakes. The first day we saw no traffic, and the second day we saw the same ranger truck three times. 

Road View

All the lakes had a ring of dead trees sticking up around the edges. We learned later that the water levels have been rising in the area for the past few decades. 

We stopped for lunch on a shady rise overlooking a prairie area.  It was beautiful. As we were finishing up, I heard voices and horses. I’ve been told by riders that horses are freaked out by backpacks, so I was glad we already had our packs off. I shouted a hello and waved so we didn’t surprise them. The horses stopped. “Hi, can you just chat with us for a while? He’s really skittish.” … So I talk about the weather, because what else can I come up with on short notice to discuss with a stranger I can’t even see? And yup, that is a skittish horse! It took a while for it to even start moving up the hill again, and was barely on the trail as they went past. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Nature-Full Hike

Saturday, March 2, 2013.

The Plan had been a morning hike for all three of us. Lee got a migraine, so Boo and I got to the park at lunch time. We ambushed S, a favorite naturalist, for a picnic on the floor, and Boo asked if she would join us on our hike. “Well, I need to work. But I can hike with you a little bit.” Picnic was cleaned up, and it was arranged. 

Just outside the door, Boo picked up a stick and handed it to S. “What kind of stick it is? I think maple. See how the twigs come out across from each other?”

Leafless Twig ID

Slightly farther out, we came across a melted oval just next to the path. S told me it looked like a deer bed, and I called Boo back to ask what she thought. She didn’t know, but after looking for what could have made it melt, she decided it was a deer sleeping there. Why a deer? From the size. I then pointed out the deer prints and scat around the area. 

Deer Bed

We’d barely started walking when we saw a fallen wasp next in the snow. S poked carefully with a stick, though she assured me that she’s never seen wasps around the nest in the summer, and any there would be lethargic from the cold. That reassured me as Boo ripped into it with her hands. “What would wasps do to us?” S explained how stings hurt. Not more than being bitten by the snake, but still not fun. (I love how she just demystified being bitten by a snake into something that happens if you handle snakes enough. Not fun, but not a huge deal.)

Wasp Nest

Boo was running ahead, and S and I were commenting on how we don’t usually see so many interesting things on such a short hike, when Boo shouted back, “I found scat!!!” And so she had. Not deer or rabbit. Not coyote. Not turkey. We poked it apart with a stick and noticed there was some fur, it folded around on itself quite a bit, and there was a long string folded over on one end. Still no idea. Took a picture and made a mental note to check a field guide. After consulting 2 guides, our tentative ID is some sort of weasel.


At the end of the Prairie Path is a mown grassy area. Somebody had made some snowmen. We discussed why their stick eyes had melted long furrows into the faces. Then Boo tackled the smaller one to the ground. 

Snowperson Wrestling

Then S had to leave us to go back to work. Boo and I decided it was snack time. I saw three benches from where we were standing. “Boo, where is a good place to eat our snack?” She looked around, deep in thought. “Right here by the side of the path.” And so we did.

Snowy Snacktime

 How was your weekend?