Monday, April 25, 2011

To Hike or Walk

Do these questions or thoughts enter your mind when you think of a “family hike?”
  • ·         How do I fit another activity into my over-scheduled family calendar?
  • ·         There are dangerous things in the woods.
  • ·         I don’t know where to go hiking. Where are the closest and best trails for my beginning family?
  • ·         I have never been on a hike before. How do I start?

     The word “hike” can be intimidating to parents. Some parents visualize scenes of skyscraper mountains, deep canyons and vast, never ending forests. Big scenes that can be a little scary. Some parents can’t visualize anything because they don’t have a point of reference or connection. Let’s break the word down and use the less intimidating word of “walk.” More parents can visualize this word – a walk down their neighborhood street (with or without the dog), in a neighborhood park, or along the beach. These are known, provide a point of reference, and create a connection. Now, think of a walk in the woods, along a stream, to a pond, in a wetland, or many other possible places.    
     A hike is synonymous with it takes a long time to do - an all day event. Whereas a walk means a shorter period of time – an hour. Add a family’s perceived notion that a hike is an all day event together with their overscheduled lives, this equals a barrier to hiking on a trail. Yes, families today are overscheduled but let’s dispose of the perceived notion that a hike lasts all day. Instead, insert the word walk and go for an hour long walk on a trail with your family. When does your family have an hour in its schedule? Where is the nearest trail to walk for an hour?

The nearest trail is one click away:

None of these sites or resources is geared to help families navigate which trails or “walks in the woods” are best for kids but below are some.

Don’t feel comfortable taking your family for a walk in the woods because danger lurks around the next tree or you have never taken a hike. Don’t fear, Washington DC and many major cities have organizations that guide families to explore and experience fun adventures on kid-friendly trails. These hikes provide opportunities for parents to feel comfortable in an unfamiliar activity in an unknown place and everyone can participate in unstructured play in a structured event. Check out this family hike opportunity.
Family Hiking 101: Exploration, Safety and Leave No Trace
Sunday, May 15, 2011
2:00 – 5:00 pm
Join two expert guides from Hiking Along and The North Face on a two mile circuit hike around the perimeter of Theodore Roosevelt Island. The trail is natural surface and raised walkways through two ecosystems, a deciduous forest and wetlands. The hike is great for children of all ages with fun natural playgrounds: rocks for climbing, water for skipping rocks, and the monument plaza for a game of hide and seek. While hiking, learn about hiking safety, Leave No Trace, and the plants and animals surrounding the trail. Enjoy an afternoon in the middle of the Potomac River engaging in the great outdoors! The cost is $15 per family. To register, email
    This spring, make it a family goal to venture outside of your familiar comfort zone and embark on a hike or a walk, if that word feels more comfortable. Seek out the extraordinary amount of resources available both on the web and with organizations whose mission it is to get more people, including families, outdoors. Hiking isn’t a scary word in your family? Then, step it up a notch and venture to adventure on a new level or outdoor activity. Happy trails!

Trail Discovery for Kids

April Highlighted Hike
Billy Goat Trail, Part C
Potomac, MD
Hike Information
ü  2.5 mile circuit hike.
ü  Take the Caderock exit off the Clara Barton Parkway. Follow the signs to the Park. Drive to the last parking lot where the trail head kiosk is located.
ü  The Billy Goat Trail follows the Potomac River up and down the steep river bank. The trail tread is both rocky and smooth. Hikers will climb rocks and cross streams. The last third of the hike is on the wide and flat C&O tow path.
ü  Follow the blue blazers, even when the trail strays in different directions, particularly at a large bridge crossing half way and at the end of the Billy Goat Trail when it makes a sharp turn to the left.
ü  This trail is NOT jogging stroller passable.
ü  There is one creek crossing without a bridge.
ü  Link to the trail map, look at the trail in the lower right corner labeled Caderock.
Age Appropriateness
ü  This hike is best for kids five years and older due to the hills and rocky terrain.
What is fun for kids?
ü  Seeing wildlife – snakes, fish, blue heron, ducks, geese, turtles in the canal, skinks (look in dead tree trunks), toads, box turtles, and deer along the trail.
ü  Vernal pools and frogs.
ü  Many varieties of wild flowers in April (e.g. Virginia blue bells, phlox, may apples and many more).
ü  Lots of rocks to climb. This is an area known for rock climbing.
ü  After the stream crossing, there is a big, flat rock on the river’s edge for a rest, snack or picnic lunch. This is also a great spot for playing in or next to the water.
ü  Watching kayakers on the river.
ü  Seeing a waterfall.
ü  This area of Great Falls and the Canal is very busy on the weekends. There is some difficulty finding a parking spot.
ü  Many different user paths off the trail. Follow the blue blazes.
ü  Trash free park – pack your garbage out.