Walls closing in? Enjoying the outdoors—even a simple stroll through a local park—can help beat back the social-distancing blues while creating meaningful memories. Amy Grisak—writer, photographer and hiker mom—offers simple tips for getting closer to nature.
Find your perfect trail
Planning the trip is half the fun. For hikes close to home, contact your city parks and recreation department for a list of local trails. When you’re ready to expand your outings, look at state parks by either contacting your state parks agency or checking on stateparks.org. For recreation on federal land, recreation.gov is an invaluable source. Apps such as the Hiking Project (www.rei.com) or All Trails (alltrails.com) provide information about distance and terrain to help with planning. Carrying a paper map is wise and provides a terrific opportunity to involve the kids in finding the path.
Dress appropriately, including the right hat for sunny or chilly weather. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Always take plenty of water and the kids’ favorite snacks—even if they aren’t the healthiest kind—and carry an extra layer of clothing in case of inclement weather, including a lightweight rain poncho. Rangers know best. To see what they take, go to www.nps.gov/articles/10essentials.htm.
Build camp with comfort in mind
A rock under your tent feels like the Princess and the Pea. Look for a flat, stone-and-root-free area at least 200 feet from a water source. Place a tarp underneath your tent to reduce the amount of moisture seeping through the floor, and situate your fire ring 40 to 50 feet from your tent to keep sparks from singeing fabric. On the inside, sleeping pads are great, especially for parents’ joints, but you can also spread out a quilt or two below the sleeping bags for a softer base. For a few more tips, check out https://koa.com/blog/expert-tips-for-making-tent-camping-more-comfortable.
Make campfire s’mores special
Just sitting around the campfire is relaxing, but playing games and eating fun treats takes it up a notch. S’mores are a longtime favorite, and some outdoor culinary artists mix it up by using home-baked chocolate chip cookies or Oreos, or sprinkling a pinch of cinnamon on the warm and gooey marshmallow for a Mexican twist. The Scouts have terrific ideas for s’more twists at www.boyslife.org/hobbies-projects/funstuff/143664/10-tasty-smores-variations-that-every-scout-should-try.
Enjoy trail games
For camp memories, take your favorite board games or make up your own. Bird bingo sharpens birding skills on the trail or in camp. Make a simple tic-tac-toe board using sticks, stones and pinecones for the playing pieces. When it’s dark, push a stick in the ground for a glow-stick ring toss using glow-stick bracelets for a challenge or necklaces for younger kids. For more ideas, explore www.childhood101.com/family-camping-games.