Monday, January 24, 2011

Get outside and explore!

There is a great group called the Anchorage Family Outdoor Network to help you get out and enjoy the outdoors with your little ones. Two amazing ladies organize the group and lead subgroups. Harmony leads Taiga Trekkers and Lia leads Skedaddle. These ladies inspire me to get out of the house with the little ones and I hope this interview inspires you to get some fresh air or better yet join in the fun!!

Please tell us a about your groups and what you offer.
Taiga Trekkers is a great group of active parents. We meet up most Thursdays at 10. We have also recently added a once a month family Trek to include working families and spouses. The group started out with hiking with just infants and toddler and we have evolved to bigger kids who want to trek on their own. We certainly aren't sprinting up the trails, we take our time and wait for each other to tend to our children's needs. Infants and toddlers are worn or pushed in strollers/sleds. The older kids hike at their own speed. We may not all travel the same average speed, but make sure that no one is ever alone, that there are always two adults together. This way we do not need to worry about keeping the entire pack together. With the cold temperatures in the winter and larger animals in the spring and summer, the buddy system is important for safety. It is also important to break and let the munchkins get out and enjoy nature themselves. I try to schedule a stroller/sled/pulk friendly event every other week.Eventually we will evolve into an all ages family hiking group when our older kiddos become too big for the strollers and carriers.

Setting off on trails we expect to find wonder and are not stressed if we don't get to the final destination. Safety and sanity always come first. We respectfully request that dogs do not come on our hikes.
Thanks to some wonderful sponsors we have some great gear for parents to test drive. Please check out our gear page for more info.

We are in the Alaskan wilderness and hiking ultimately is at your own risk. We trust that each adult will act according to what is in the best interest of their child and themselves.
Lia:  I co-lead the Anchorage Outdoor Family  Network with Harmony.  She is the major leader and I just try to put in activities when they arise!

My main group is Skedaddle, an all weather playgroup.  I feel strongly about kids needing to be out in nature with unstructured time.  We currently meet at playgrounds or nature sites around town, but if the needs of the group change, I am open!  I have only cancelled one skedaddle - on the icy road day when schools closed.  We had about 6 families when it  was right at zero and during the summer the numbers increase greatly!
Please tell us a little about your family.
I am a stay-at-home mama taking time away from being an elementary teacher. My husband is in construction. We have one child who is turning 2 in February and two K9 kids.
Lia:  I was born in Alaska and am so happy to be living here again.  I have two boys, one and two, born 15 months apart.  We try to get out as much as we can to ski, do orienteering, fish, hike, or just play in the yard.
What made you want to start your group?
: I love being outside, but am a big ninny about going out by myself. My over active imagination convinces me there is a bear or moose around every corner. From what I've heard there's never been a bear attack on a group larger than 4 - safety in numbers. I also wanted to meet new people with a similar desire to exercise and share the outdoors with our kids.
Lia: I wanted to get my kids into nature as much as possible.  I read Last Child in the Woods and was motivated to provide an easy way for other families to get out as well.

What kind of gear do I need for me and my little one(s)?

Harmony: If you are hiking with a cuddler or a cruiser you'll need a baby carrier as all the trails we do can be done with one. It doesn't matter which one you choose, moby, ergo, framepack as long as it is appropriate for your child's weight and age. Every other week we try to make sure we do a stroller/pulk friendly trail - these hikes work really well for parents of more then one child. The only other gear required is weather/temperature appropriate clothing. Jen Aist's book Babes in the Woods is a great resource for those parents who question if their dressing their kid for the cold. She also often puts on workshops in the Anchorage area.
Lia:You just need to dress for the weather!  A sled is nice in the winter!

When some people hear Alaska, hiking, bears, snow, etc it can get overwhelming and some will opt out. What can you say to encourage the parent who has never been hiking or played out in the rain, to get outside and enjoy nature.

: Like I said before safety in numbers is important. Most of the trails we schedule are ones I've done myself with my family, or suggestions from other parents who have done them. Spending time outside no matter the season or temps is very important in brain development and sets the stage for a life full of adventure. Making a routine of it early makes it so much easier when you hit the so called "terrible twos" and other challenging developmental stages. I currently have two moms writing pieces for me on how to hike successfully with two kiddos under 3 at the same time. We are always available for answering questions and try to post pertinent info and resources on the blog.
Lia: I often want to stay at home when I am trying to shove two screaming toddlers into their winter gear while the thermometer hangs in the single digits.  I just keep telling myself that it will get better.  Sometimes my kids get cold, wet or just want to go home after we get out of the car that morning.  I try to encourage them to stay, but sometimes we are the first to leave!  It always seems that the parents get cold and wet first, as the kids have fun splashing or sledding!

Lia, I understand you created a site that is gear approved by Alaskan moms. Can you tell me about that?  
Lia: I was frustrated trying to find a review of a carrier cover.  I found reviews saying it was great in the winter, but the reviewers were in Arizona and Tennessee.  I wrote to the company and they seemed interested in the idea of reviews done for our extreme conditions and lifestyles.  I get items from companies and try to match them with reviewers in the Crew.  They write a little review and I place it on the site.  I also have been putting reviews for items people already own and enjoy.  I want it to be a place that people can use to find gear useful for skedaddles or treks with the Taiga Trekkers.  Moms always know best!

  How do I become a member?
Joining the Anchorage Outdoor Family Network is the best place to join as you can RSVP there. We also have a blog The blog is more for sharing pictures with family members "Outside" and for getting info about resources as mentioned before... and every group must have a facebook page.
Lia: To join skedaddle, just show up and have fun!  The location is on the AOFN and skedaddle blog!  Come for ten minutes or two hours!

To join the Alaskan Mom Review Crew, follow this link and fill out the form!  You are top on the list if you review an item you already own and give the seal of Alaskan mom approval!
Thanks ladies!! Check out the sites and visit one of the meetups when you just need to get out of the house with the little ones!

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