Simple Activities for Hiking with Kids Vol. 1

3 Things: Simple Activities to do w...

3 Things is a simple series on Happy Trails Wild Tales to inspire and motivate outdoor play for all ages. Stay tuned every week as we explore 3 ...

May Reflections & Explorers Log

Playing catch up.. May 2015 Reflect...

Hi y’all! I’m treating myself and my friends to monthly reflections, this year. These are meant to help me keep track and make sense of things. ...

When one mile turns into two.. two into four

When one mile turns into two.. two ...

It was a hot and sweaty day for a hike at Piedmont NWR. We were able to track a deer and spotted two of them, in addition to a myriad of lizards and...

Let me tell you about the best gifts ever. Father's Day

Let me tell you about the best gift...

See my awesome Stanley vacuum bottle & that mug? Grab a cup of coffee, and listen carefully about the best gifts ever. My dad. What ca...

Travel & Adventure

Let me tell you about the best gifts ever. Father's Day

Let me tell you about the best gifts ever.. it’s not what you think.

See my awesome Stanley vacuum bottle & that mug? Grab a cup of coffee, and listen carefully about the best gifts ever. My dad. What can I say? He exemplifies many of the things I appreciate and admire in a person. He's showe...

Great Georgia Father's Day Giveaway

Enter to win a Georgia State Parks ParkPass for Father’s Day

[caption id="attachment_870495" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Father's Day Giveaway in honor of David Cook 1957-2011[/caption] The Third Annual Great Georgia Father's Day Giveaway is sponsored entirely by awesome companies and organizat...

3 Things: Simple Activities to do while Hiking with Kids #1

Simple Activities for Hiking with Kids Vol. 1

3 Things is a simple series on Happy Trails Wild Tales to inspire and motivate outdoor play for all ages. Stay tuned every week as we explore 3 more things.

My oldest son at 13 years old, teeters on the edge of being a naturalist and a high-tech geek. I consider this an awesome combination that will serve him well in a future that will rely on our advanced technology to help explore and protect our planet. However, maintaining this delicate balance with a peaceful and positive parenting attitude requires a lot of patience and creativity. These simple activities have proven themselves excellent motivators to get (and keep) kids interested in the trail.

Touch Texture Scavenger Hunt

A twist on the traditional scavenger hunt is to find items according to texture. This activity will get you and the kids in touch with nature! This printable graphic is 3.5×5, perfect for carrying along on your next nature walk. Click the image below to print the fullsize scavenger hunt cardBe sure you can identify poison ivy, posion oak, and poison sumac to avoid including them in your finds!

Touch Texture Scavenger Hunt

Please do not include this image on another website. Link to this page, instead.

Easy to find Animal Tracks

Raccoon Tracks

Animal tracks (and other signs of animals) are actually quite easy to spot, if you know what you’re looking for and where to look. One of the best places for beginners to find tracks is the sandy or muddy banks of a body of water. Kids absolutely love to see signs of wildlife. So, print out this handy field guide and start practicing! Click the image below to print the fullsize version.

Finding Animal Tracks with Kids

Finding Animal Tracks with Kids


Magnify the tiniest plants

Take a magnifying glass along on your hikes and get down on your hands and knees to explore the tiny world. You’ll be surprised at how fascinating the tiny world becomes when its magnified for better viewing. What begins as taking a closer look at a plant leads to discovering an entire micro-world complete with insect inhabitants and other wonders.

Thirsty little ant.

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on

Playing catch up.. May 2015 Reflections & Explorers Log

May Reflections & Explorers Log
Hi y’all! I’m treating myself and my friends to monthly reflections, this year. These are meant to help me keep track and make sense of things. I am one of those creative types that flourish in clutter and chaos. I’m also the first to admit that my way is no way to keep any sort of order.

Our May reflection is courtesy of the Georgia Go Fish Education Center. 
The sooner I fall behind, the more time I have to catch up. ~Author Unknown

Some of you may know that I’m doing this school thing where I learn stuff in the hopes that one day I’ll be smart. The end of May into June proved to be a challenging time for balancing my explorations and work with my oldest son’s entry into the teenage years (#13). My biggest achievement this month has to be earning my Wilderness and Backcountry First Aid Certification. I am very happy knowing what I can do for others in the case of an emergency on the trail or at camp. Now, it’s halfway through June and I’m playing catch up with the blog. :) 

May 3: Fishing at Sweetwater Creek State Park

Georgia fishing! #gastateparks #gofishga #exploregeorgia #happy #outdoorfamilies

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on

May 6: Hike with friends at Leone Hall Price Park

May 11: Bought the most expensive pair of pants I’ve ever owned at REI. They cost $70 and they are army green! Insanity.

May 11: Kids To Parks Day on Explore Georgia

 

May 13: Visited the Go Fish Education Center in Perry, Georgia: Read about it on Explore Georgia

May 16: Took Buddy Bison camping

From his camp #buddyBison says Good morning #KidsToParks #outdoorfamilies

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on

May 17: Earned my Wilderness & Backcountry First Aid Certification

Wilderness & Backcountry First Aid

Wilderness & Backcountry First Aid

May 21: Took a ride to explore beaches and campgrounds near Lake Allatoona. Check it out on Explore Georgia

Camping at Lake Allatoona

Camping at Lake Allatoona

May 22: Hit the Mountain Bike Trails at Allatoona Creek

Mountain biking on this gorgeous day. “I made that hill! I finally made that hill! ” -J Bear #GeorgiaBikes #mtb

A photo posted by Candy Cook (@happytrailtales) on

May 24: At REI again, $$$$

May 29: My oldest son turned 13, making me the mom of a teenager!

I'm the mom of a teenager! #13 Birthday Party

I’m the mom of a teenager! #13 Birthday Party

 

When one mile turns into two.. two into four

When one mile turns into two.. two into four
It was a hot and sweaty day for a hike at Piedmont NWR. We were able to track a deer and spotted two of them, in addition to a myriad of lizards and birds. I misunderstood the map and headed down a short trail without our hydration pack. I usually carry the larger Camelbak, but I probably should have packed James’ smaller Teton Sports Oasis pack.

Anyway, I left my pack in the car to do a one mile hike that turned out to be two miles and could have been better than four. Not a huge deal, but water and snacks help a lot when you’re hiking with kids and it’s almost 90 degrees in the humid south, even if it is just a couple miles.

It’s a lesson learned time and again. I think I’m good to go. I’m feelin’ good, strong, confident. I think I have everything I need to tackle life’s challenges and one mile turns into two, two miles into four.. and before I know it, I’m five years older, sweating buckets, puffing up hills, and running on empty against the wind (Do you see what I did there? I’m sorry if you don’t get it).

James & I on the Red & White Trails of Sweetwater Creek State Park

J Bear & me chillin’  on the Red & White Trails of Sweetwater Creek State Park

Of course, we made it the two miles without our precious water, it’s not really that far. But, that pack is more than water and food for my crew. It’s all my first aid supplies including medicines, my knife, my rain gear. It’s everything I should have with me on any hike of any trail; not just for my own crew, but for anyone else I run into that left their pack behind. That’s how this life goes. Be prepared.

Now go Enter to win your own Teton Hydration Pack (Giveaway until June 17, I think LOL)

 

Let me tell you about the best gifts ever.. it’s not what you think.

Let me tell you about the best gifts ever.  Father's Day

See my awesome Stanley vacuum bottle & that mug? Grab a cup of coffee, and listen carefully about the best gifts ever.

My dad. What can I say? He exemplifies many of the things I appreciate and admire in a person. He’s showed me the importance of being dependable, reliable, strong, resilient and the rewards of perseverance, dedication, and determination. I really don’t think I can live up to the example he’s given me, in many of these qualities. But, the memories I have of him showing me exactly how to do this thing called life, are gifts I have opened and reopened many times over the years.

Let me tell you about the best gifts ever. Fathers DayI don’t think I’ve ever properly thanked him. But, as a parent to my own boys who happen to be entering their teenage years, I get my thanks every day I watch them tackle life’s big obstacles. I can only hope that my father has found a thank you witnessing my struggles, triumphs, and maybe glimpsing the foundation that he helped build for me. Thanks, Dad, for all those years you dedicated to us despite the doldrums, the disrespect, the challenges, the pain.

I have learned more about fatherhood in the past four years, since my husband died, than I ever realized before. Raising my boys without their father has been an intimidating challenge that has deepened my understanding of what it means to be a Dad. My father’s and my husband’s presence have given me everything I ever wanted out of this life. However short or long our time together, doesn’t matter. I’m content with it. That time will remain among my most treasured life experiences that I can only hope to bestow upon others who walk this planet. But, my husband’s absence gives me something as well.. a valuable gift that I’m honored to receive and could never repay. A clear understanding of what it means to be alive on planet earth. It’s best summed up in my husband’s own words, with a little addition made by me. “This life comes and goes like rain on a summer day. Unconditional love and freedom are the only assets worth keeping. Keep them close and you live without regret.

Father's Day Let me tell you about the best gifts ever

David Cook 1957-2011

In the four years since my husband’s passing, I have simultaneously used this gift wisely and squandered it away… frivolously. I realize this I can no longer exist on planet earth without correcting my mistake, because he gave his life for me to hold this precious gift.  I will plead with you all to give yourself a gift: say that emboldened quote to yourself everyday and try to understand it before someone pays for you to have it with their life. Breathe it. Practice it. Be it.

This was supposed to be a light-hearted post about my adventures with my Dad, and a great gift for father’s day.. the Stanley vaccuum bottle & mug which I still think is an excellent gift. But, I can’t do anything right… that’s not who I am, it’s not the real me. However, let us end this post with its original intention.. to honor Fathers and the indestructible foundations they’ve helped us to build with their blood, sweat, years and tears – yes, tears.

Thanks, Dad, for everything.

Best Father's Day Gifts Ever

Here we go….

Let me tell you about the best Father's Day Gifts

Me, first time fishing

My first camping trip was with my father. He was always taking us to try new things like adventuring outdoors. I’m grateful for his commitment to being the best dad he could be because  I don’t think he had the best example to follow. That’s a hard thing to do. I know, because I rely on the lessons I learned through my dad all the time. He must have a supermom to make up for it. I remember that camping trip like it was yesterday. My brother and I both caught our first fish. We played around the campfire and had eggs on toast for breakfast. It sealed the deal on camping for me! As a 35 yr old woman, I’m camping, hiking, fishing, mountain biking with my boys near constantly – with or without a partner’s help. I owe that to my parents and the fiery streak of independence and power they instilled in me. I’m grateful, especially for my Dad… who bore the brunt of the grunt work that made it all possible.

I’m no stranger to that work. Even on the most thrilling road trip adventure, it must be done. Making camp, breaking camp, driving for hours on end in unfamiliar territory, carrying the load for three people on the trail, catering to all the unexpected needs of two children on the road. Fortunately, I discovered an item that made things a little easier and I use it all the time, now. Are you ready for it?

Best Father's Day Gift Ever Stanley Vacuum Bottle

Stanley Vacuum Bottle & Stanley Vacuum Mug

 

A  Stanley vacuum bottle full of hot coffee. It seems so simple that it’s entirely plausible that I’m just trying to sell something. But, I’m not. I’m a horrible salesperson. I’m really just letting you in on a little secret. Having that hot coffee, whenever I need it, makes things easier. My sons have poured hot coffee for me hightailin’ it down the interstate on a 2,000 mile round trip camping adventure. When I camped Shenandoah, last October, the frigid winds chilled me to the bone as I struggled to break camp alone – having told the boys to sit this one out in the car. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about coffee that frosty morning, because the stuff in my bottle was still warm enough to be called hot coffee.

Stanley Vacuum Mug makes great father's day giftI rediscovered this little secret hidden away in my memory from when I bought a Stanley bottle for my husband. He religiously headed out the door every morning at 5AM to bust his butt and earn our living. When he complained about something, it did not go unnoticed by me… even something as minor as disliking the coffee at work. I got him that bottle and he took his own hot coffee from home, everyday. Now, I’m the one who doesn’t head out without it.

I was given a brand new Stanley vaccum bottle, as well as a large Stanley vacuum mug (yeehaw!) to test out for this post.  I’m very pleased with my experience using the large Stanley vacuum bottle on my recent trip to Fort Mountain State Park to investigate the backcountry campsites along the 8-mile Gahuti Trail. It’s June. But, I still had a hot cup of coffee waiting for me in my air-conditioned  car for the ride home, because after day hiking in the hot sun you better bet it felt like November driving down I-75.  It can keep drinks cold, too. If I ever get off the coffee, maybe I’ll fill it up with some southern sweet tea – like my son. You can grab your own Stanley Vacuum Bottle, Mug or Flask for the adventure Dad in your life on the Eddie Bauer website. (Even if he is your mom)

Do yourself a favor, don’t forget that quote. Today’s post is sponsored by Stanley Brand, but my love for their adventurer gifts is all my own!

Enter to win a Georgia State Parks ParkPass for Father’s Day

Great Georgia Father's Day Giveaway

Father’s Day Giveaway in honor of David Cook 1957-2011

The Third Annual Great Georgia Father’s Day Giveaway is sponsored entirely by awesome companies and organizations dedicated to getting outside and exploring, together. We’re giving away $200 in prizes for Father’s Day in honor of David Cook (1957-2011). Learn more & enter to win other prizes!

Friends of Georgia State Parks Annual ParkPass

Crooked River State Park

Crooked River State Park

As residents of Georgia, our State Parks have served our adventurous spirits well. We’ve explored nature, history, and our home by visiting many of the sites in our parks system. These parks have given us so much its impossible to repay. The Annual ParkPass is a great value for families like ours, that want to get outside and play! We’re lucky, in Georgia, because there are so many different landscapes to visit. Whether you’re heading to the beach, escaping to the mountains, climbing canyons, or kayaking the wetlands there’s a Georgia State Park waiting for you. I recently wrote about the amazing value of being a ParkPass holder. Check it out!

Things to do outdoors in Georgia June 2015 Sweetwater Creek

Sweetwater Creek State Park

I cannot express enough thanks to Friends of Georgia State Parks for sponsoring an annual ParkPass to this Father’s Day Giveaway that means so much to my family. Thank you, Friends!! I will be supporting you for years to come. 

You can enter by commenting the state park you love to explore with Dad and tweeting a message to your followers using the rafflecopter form, below. Enter everyday! Winner will be notified within 24 hours of drawing and has 24 hours to claim their prize. Prize will ship from Happy Trails Wild Tales Headquarters in Georgia. Don’t forget to enter the other drawings. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway