Saturday, August 25, 2012

Trail Discovery for Kids: Lake Artemesia

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August 2012 Highlighted Hike
Berwyn Heights, MD

Trail Description
ü  This 1.4 mile circuit hike on a hard surface trail is just across the railroad tracks from the University of Maryland in College Park.
ü  The trail circles the 38 acre Lake Artemesia with no elevation gain or loss.
ü  To find Lake Artemesia, use Interstate 495 and take Kenilworth Avenue south to Greenbelt Rd/Rt. 193. Turn right and drive three quarters of a mile. Turn right onto Branchville Rd. which goes under the railroad tracks and turns left and becomes Ballew Ave. Make a left into the parking lot just after the stop sign with Berwyn Rd. Follow the trail along Ballew Ave. to the gate of Lake Artemesia.
ü  The trail is stroller and bike friendly.
ü  See the trail map image to the right.

Age Appropriateness
This hike is appropriate for children of all ages but especially great for toddlers and preschoolers.

What is fun for kids?
ü  The park has two floating docks for fishing. Children younger than 16 do not have to possess a license.
ü  The park has seven gazebos, one raised above the lake, to seek shade, rest and watch wildlife. Many benches sit along the trail and throughout the park.
ü  Wildlife seen includes: Eastern Painted turtles, Snapping Turtles, Bullfrogs, Green Frogs, Great Blue Heron, Egret, Wood Ducks, and Mallards. The lake is a migratory ground for many birds.
ü  Watch the metro and trains travel by the western side of the lake.
ü  Beautiful water lilies that bloom in July. A few blooms were still alive in August.
ü  There are a few large open green spaces for a picnic or a game of tag.
ü  The Lake Artemesia Trail is part of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System providing miles of trails in Prince Georges and Montgomery counties. From the park, the Paint Branch, Indian Creek and Northeast Branch trails can be accessed.
ü  Lake Artemesia is metro accessible from the College Park station on the green line.

ü  Swimming, boating and ice skating are not allowed on the lake.
ü  A majority of the trail is exposed to the sun and lacks shade.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What I Learned About My Kids (and Myself)

Looking at Mt. Lafayette and Lincoln at Lonesome Lake

Greenleaf Hut
Engaging in the outdoors and testing my kid's physical (and mental) limits has allowed me to view deep into their personalities and how they experience life. In the last couple of years, I have taken them (ages 7 and 11) backpacking, hut hiking, kayaking, bike camping, rock scrambling and camping for long periods of time far away from home. Each time I push the difficulty level on the adventure meter.
     Before last week, they have hiked 8 miles in one day, carried a backpack on short distance backpacking trips and hiked over 1,000 feet in elevation on a short trail. I combined it altogether to hike two AMC huts in the White Mountains. I was confident they would rise to the challenge. The challenge for me was keeping my sometimes impatient nature in check and being the most positive, patient mommy when the going got tough (more on that later). Huge insights learned:
  • My son is internally motivated. He didn't need me, his sister or anyone else to get him up the mountain. He enjoyed the physically challenge. Often he said, "mom, this is fun." He had his moments on the second day when his little feet developed hot spots. I was grateful he communicated with me. We patched his feet a few different times and he was good to go never developing blisters. That would have definitely slowed him down. Often he was the lead encouraging us with his bouncy steps to maintain a presence behind him.
  • My daughter is externally motivated. However, garnering that motivation from her mother is not the key. Instead, I received the whines of, "I'm tired or I don't want to do this anymore." Her brother can sometimes provide that motivation through competition. However, her peers and friends are the best motivators. Stalling up the mountain and complaining was the name of the game on the first day. By coincidence, we ran into neighbors at the Lonesome Lake hut. The three girls, older than her, helped motivate her to hike the difficult trail to Greenleaf hut. Upon reaching the hut, she would normally have been done for the day but she decided to summit Mt. Lafayette with the girls. The reward was the beautiful view. The reward for me was her telling me with a smile that the view was beautiful. This meant it was well worth the physical effort.

      Did the going-get-tough? Yes, from each child. I realized I had more patience for my son. Was I being fair? No, I concluded. Why was I being less patient with my daughter than my son? Upon reflection, I realized I want her to be TOUGH; be strong. Unlike her mama at her age. I have learned since then to be tough. I continue to learn everyday. There is a little voice of doubt in my head that creates fear and anxiety to remind me that maybe I can't do it. But I love proving it wrong!
      Each of these challenges in the outdoors allows me to work on my patience with my kids, in particular my daughter. I want them to learn about and explore their physical limits. I want to model for them that going beyond reaps rewards of greater self-confidence.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Finding Strength as an Environmental Hero: A Review of Teen Fiction

    Who doesn't like to root for an underdog? As I read Totem Magic, Going Mad, I cheered for Enrique and Connie to win against the evil witch doctor who kidnaps Connie's father, the leader of Green Force. Furthermore, I rooted for Enrique to discover the strength and courage within himself to fight against bullies; those in school and in the secretive Magic User community.
   John Griffith, a California environmental educator, wrote an engaging and creative book for teens. Connie and Enrique, otherwise known as Vulchy, are best friends in sixth grade whose families are part of the Magic User community. Each member of the community is a totem mage born with the gift to protect an animal threatened by extinction. Going MAD in the Magic Users community is a rite of passage. The community and the world's existence are threatened when Connie's dad is kidnapped by Kaktor, the evil witch doctor. Will Connie and Enrique save Connie's dad and the planet? The story has a surprising twist to keep the reader engaged to the end.
    The author had the best time creating and writing about the funny, unusual and sometimes grotesque cast of characters that Connie and Enrique run into along their quest. Both teens are forced to problem solve in unique ways to conquer physical and mental obstacles; each given a magical tool, sunglasses and flip flops, by the people's witch to aid them.
    Connie, a black girl, is a strong character who doesn't take crap from people, witches or monsters. Her strength throughout the journey helps Enrique to notice his own in spite of his fear. So when Vulchy vomited green puke on the vampire to escape death, I cheered with pride. In the end, its Vulchy becoming his totem mage that lifts his wings in ultimate self-confidence. Totem Magic, Going Mad is an engaging read for teens and adults that mirrors the complex themes of bullying and environmental degradation present in todays world.

Note: This book was published by Wheatmark and is available on Amazon. All proceeds from the book are donated to four environmental organizations.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Trail Discovery for Kids: Michaux State Forest, PA

Taking a rest next to the reservoir
July 2012 Highlighted Hike
Beaver Trail
Michaux State Forest, PA

Trail Description
ü  This 2.5 mile out-and-back hike is in Michaux State Forest north of Route 30 and 10 miles east of Chambersburg, PA.
ü  This natural surface trail hugs the reservoir with only one 75 foot climb away from the reservoir and then a gentle slope descending back.
ü  To find the Beaver trailhead, turn left onto Milesburn Road (dirt road) from Rt. 233. At the end of the reservoir, turn right onto Birch Run Road (dirt road). Follow it for less than a mile. Park along the road after the second bridge. Walk back over the bridge to stairs on the left of the road which descend the embankment where the Beaver trailhead sign is located.
ü  The hike is not jogging stroller friendly.
ü  Trail map. To help orient, look for Caledonia State Park in pink. The reservoir is north of it. The Beaver Trail is on the north side of the reservoir adjacent to Birch Run Road.

Age Appropriateness
This hike is appropriate for children five years or older.

What is fun for kids?
ü  Hiking along the reservoir. There are six different locations to access it and play; the largest being a mile down the trail.
ü  Blueberry bushes are abundant along both sides of the trail throughout the hike.
ü  In June, the Rhododendron bushes display huge flowers.
ü  Bring a kayak or canoe and enjoy the lake. The boat ramp is located on the south side of it off of Milesburn Road.
ü  Bushwhack, rock scramble and play in Knob Run. This is the stream that runs under the second bridge on Birch Run Road. Rocky Knob Trail runs along this stream.
ü  Camp along Hosack Run at the small campground at Caledonia State Park.

ü  There is no bathroom or trash cans; therefore, pack out your garbage. The closest bathroom is at Caledonia State Park.
Beware of the posted restrictions in the state forest.