Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Toddler Hiking, v. 2.5

Not much different from doing a
rock "problem" - he's figuring it out
Hank is crazy.  It's that simple.  He is a bustling, busy, outgoing 35" tall blazing star in our otherwise.. .....mehhh.... ....universe.  He is not, in other words, the type of little boy who walks calmly down a prescribed woodland path and will safely duck out of the way of oncoming bikes, runners, park rangers on bikes, or dog walkers.  Regardless, Hank loves to spend time outside.  Just like his Daddy, he will stand and stare out of a glass door, looking at everything happening outside.

But we've made many attempts at "toddler hiking" which have resulted in everything from Hank being hit by an oncoming (toddler's) bike, Hank getting in the river in his non-river clothes, and Hank playing in poison ivy.  In short, it has not gone well.

This presents a serious challenge.  Over the last 10 months or so, we've spent a lot of time at our local nature center's Natural Play Space.  It's about a quarter acre of rocks, stumps, and logs, safely fenced in (mostly).  The place also has several miles of trails through meadows and woods, which Hank appreciates, but can't stay on for more than a few minutes, which means he's off in the ever-present poison ivy.  What makes us keep trying?  Good luck bottling this up inside the walls of a house:
No, the headgear's not the game.  The game is running
blindly into furniture as fast as you can. The basket is
just the uniform for the game. 

So.....outside it is! Now the good people over at blogs like Family Wilds and Backcountry Parenting have like, no problem, ever, getting their small kids to do awesome things like ice climbing and rescuing baby dolphins (okay, I'm exaggerating), so despite their occasional encouragement, I've decided to go my own way on this.

I had to find Hank a place where he could go explore at his own pace, without us legitimately worrying about him getting run over, drowning, breaking a leg, or getting enveloped by poisonous plants or stinging insects.  A tall order anywhere along the I-95 corridor.

But a run down city reservoir in our area, closed for 100 years now, was recently turned over to the County for a little better shot at managing the property.   Much of the wooded property is denuded because the city never bothered to regulate dogs or motorbikes (or heroin users, although their impact on soil stability is less well documented) on the 300-some acres of property.  It's been open for six months now, so I figured I'd take Hank down there.  Maybe he'd be able to have his own space and explore the outdoors his way, and not mine.  Here's how it went:
Very interested in getting to the top - we don't have a lot of hills in our area

More problem solving.  This time, climbing a wall of roots.  I was so proud that he simply wanted to figure it out!

Not afraid.  Glad Mommy wasn't here for this.  Long way down.

This trail was tough.  Hank could hear the gurgling stream 120' below us,
and desperately wanted to fall/bounce down the 45 degree incline to go see it. 

Learning to duck under branches instead of pushing through them, as he tends to do in our back yard

Trying to find a quick ride down the hill
I don't know what the next steps are, or what I might be doing wrong or right, or what the correct answer to "NO Daddy! It's NOT dangewous!" might possibly be.  But spring is here, and maybe by the time the leaves are back off the trees, Blond Ambition II might be interested in staying on a path for more than 30 seconds.  If not, we'll keep going outside anyway.


e.m.b. said...

Hank has a way-cool raccoon hat!!! And I think that toddlers and dogs serve a very important and great role in remind us all that life is something to be exuberant about. :)

Kirk Mantay said...

Hank loves "Wacoon hat." And "exuberant and humble" pretty much describes it :)

cofisher said...

You gotta love kids that age as they explore their new world.

Kirk Mantay said...

I really do love it. I may not say this forever, but for now at least, I like watching him do things differently than I would. He's a quick study.

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