Forest Journal: Online resources help parents find just-right adventures
The most thankful moment of my life has stuck with me now for nearly 17 years of parenthood.
It wasn't the realization that my son, after diving into shallow water and fracturing a vertebra, would be perfectly OK - although that's a close second.
But it does have to do with this same son's first weeks of life, when my husband and I lived in an apartment on a quiet road in Hopkinton.
One chilly November day, I decided to shake the sleep-deprivation fog by taking Samuel out for a walk. I bundled him up in a fleece snowsuit and hoisted him into a front-carrier so he would stay warm against me as we walked.
We walked past maples and oaks to the end of the road and back under thick clouds, but when we neared our mailbox, the sun beamed through a gap. It was that golden, glowing sun of late afternoon, and it shone softly on my baby boy's upturned face as he slept.
No matter what happens in his life, I thought, he'll always have the blessing of this moment and the simple pleasure of warm sunlight on his face.
And so began a 17-year accumulation of outdoor experiences with my kids that quickly changed from peaceful to noisily joyful.
The memory of that first bliss came back recently when I was online and noticing some helpful blogs and forums for parents who share my resolve to get their kids outside, no matter how young or old those kids may be. My kids' first outings were simple walks near home, but when they got a bit older, we were always looking for new places to go.
The great thing about online blogs and forums is that these are personal accounts by people who have been to these places and can give detailed reports about what's there to see and do, how to get there, where to park and generally all the information you need to try it for yourself.
A particularly helpful one for parents is outdoorsbycracky.blogspot.com. Blogger Justin Chase shares gorgeous photos and reports of destinations he has explored with his two kids. His tagline is "Want to Get Outdoors in New England? Follow Me!" Some of the New Hampshire-based adventures are hiking to Lonesome Lake, paddling the Exeter River and exploring Great Bay.
What got my attention was his account of paddling through the Webster Wildlife and Natural Area in Kingston, which is an 85-acre Forest Society reservation that Chase calls a "hidden gem."
"Our 5-mile round trip paddling route traversed an unnamed river through super serene landscapes," Chase writes. "Never before have I seen so many water lilies, herons, and painted turtles in one place. We had an absolutely wonderful time together, and I recommend the trip to anyone living even remotely nearby."
He shows a map of the route and describes the canoe/kayak put-in spot, a New Hampshire Fish and Game car-top boat access on Powwow Pond.
I also like Outdoorsmom@hubpages.com, which gives parents the skinny on hikes that are both beautiful and kid-friendly. Mount Major in Alton, Arethusa Falls in Crawford Notch, and the trails of Pawtuckaway State Park are some of the top picks you'll find detailed here.
It's not all hiking, though. Camping and tubing along the Pemigewasset River in Campton is here, too, as a suggestion for a relatively easy-on-the-budget family adventure.
Another resource I've come to appreciate is hike-NH.com. This site offers the whole package - all you ever wanted to know about New Hampshire hiking. By clicking on the Trip Reports forum, you'll get recent reports from other hikers. It's quite easy to find posts by fellow parents who talk about kid-carriers, diaper changes along the trail and spots where 4-year-old hikers will get that triumphant, top-of-the-world feeling from reaching the summit on their own two feet.
Though not a blog or a forum, the Forest Society's "Guide to Our Lands" at forestsociety.org does provide detailed trip information, including maps and directions, for 35 of our forest reservations that are open to the public. It's organized by region, so anyone can find a special place to explore within a short drive.
Happy adventuring. Whether you choose to take your kids on a walk close to home, a trek up a mountain or a paddle through a wetland, may they come to cherish the simple gift of sunlight on their faces.
"Forest Journal" appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Brenda Charpentier is communications manager for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.