Heading into the back country, to your favorite national park or recreation area?  Before you go, give your skills, gear and local intel a tune up.  You’ll want to play it safe when heading into the great outdoors with your family.  

Here are six ideas to consider: 

mountain lions

Learn about Mountain Lions

Mountain lion attacks on people are rare. Yet, recently, interactions have increased. Experts believe the shift is due, in part, to humans moving closer to lion habitat, an increase in deer populations (their prey), and more hikers, bikers and runners sharing trails with lions. 

If you venture into lion country,  experts recommend exploring in groups and making plenty of noise to avoid a surprise. Carry a walking stick and keep children close at all times.  Should an encounter occur, do not run.  Stay calm. Pick up any children and talk firmly as you slowly back away. Do everything you can to loom large, raising your arms,  opening a coat while not blocking a lion’s escape route. If the lion acts aggressively, fight back with rocks, sticks or what ever you can find without getting low or turning your back.  

http://www.mountainlion.org/

Snake smarts

Hiking, climbing and camping in many parts of the country mean a snake encounter is possible. Make sure kids know to steer clear of anything that resembles a snake. According to the University of Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, more than half of those bitten intentionally provoked the snake in some way. Stay on hiking trails and keep hands and feet away from wood and rock piles, deep grass or crevices. Carry a flashlight and wear shoes after dark. "Time is tissue," experts say. So if a bite does occur, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.

 Contact: azpoison.com.

 

Be bear aware

Your goal during a hiking, fishing or camping experience is to avoid getting up close and personal with a bear. So while making plans, inquire about recent bear activity at your intended destination. Research shows that bear spray is effective, so have yours at the ready and know how to use it. Travel in groups of three or more and sing, tell stories, or take turns shouting “Hey, bear!” to let wild creature know you are in the area. Hike during daylight hours, stay on trails and avoid berry patches and animal carcasses. Look for signs of bear activity including scat, tracks or overturned rocks. When camping, keep your tent and spaces clean and free of odors. (Remind the kids that stashing candy bars in  sleeping bags is not a good idea.) Don't sleep in clothes you cooked in. Be sure to hang food and trash away from sleeping areas or in bear-proof containers. 

Contact: NPS.gov/Yellgrizzlydiscoveryctr.org/education/bear-awareness-hiking-camping/

  

Don't let lightning strike

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 400 people are struck by lightning each year in the U.S. Teach the kids that "when thunder roars, go indoors." When planning an activity, have a safety plan and know where you will meet should a storm develop. Watch for darkening skies, flashes of lightning and shifting and strengthening wind patterns. If you hear thunder, even at a distance, it is time to move to a sturdy building or hard-topped metal vehicle with windows closed, advises NOAA. Stay away from tall, isolated trees, utility polls or open areas. Avoid wires and metal fencing. Wait for 30 minutes after the last thunderclap to move outside. If someone is struck by lightning, call 911 and get immediate medical attention. 

Contact: nws.noaa.gov/os/lightning/resources/lightning-safety.pdfweather.gov/nwr

Do the Stingray Shuffle

If you are headed to the beach, be sure the whole family practices the Stingray Shuffle before plunging into the sea. Stingrays bury themselves under a thin blanket of sand for protection. By shuffling into the water, you'll create a vibration and the creature will be alerted and will move off in a different direction. Stingrays are also most active at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., prime beach time, so ask the lifeguard or your resort's front desk about stingray activity before splashing into the surf. Should a sting occur, use hot water to clean the wound and seek medical attention. The Stingray City sandbar, home to the Southern Stingray, is a popular attraction in the Cayman Islands. 

Contact: caymanislands.ky/activities/attractions/stingraycity.aspx

Stay warm and dry

Whether you get caught in a downpour, lost on the trail, or stay in the boat too long, getting too cold and too wet is something to avoid. It is helpful to remember the acronym COLD to avoid hypothermia: Cover, Overexertion, Layers and Dry. It's especially important to keep heads, hands and feet covered. Avoid overexertion that will cause sweating. The combination of wet clothes and cold temperatures will cause the loss of body heat. Dressing in loose fitting layers, with silk, wool or polypropylene closest to the body, is best for retaining body heat. And of course, stay dry whenever possible and remove wet clothing at the earliest opportunity. Know that children (and older adults) chill more quickly and need one more layer in the same conditions. Shivering, the body's natural attempt to warm itself, is a first sign of hypothermia. Bright red, cold skin and a weak cry are the first signs of hypothermia in an infant. 

Published in Adventure

Who knew camping could be so comfortable?

Modern campers are eager to reconnect with nature, spend more time with family and friends and explore new territory.

If you are inclined to camp with the kids, here are five ideas to consider.

1. Get in to the back country. 

For the purest connection to nature, make your way off the beaten path. Hike, paddle or float into a pristine location where your family can learn or hone wilderness skills. Choose a destination suitable for the ages and abilities of your crew. Encourage each person to take responsibility for the adventure, whether that be early research, carrying a small pack, collecting kindling or serving as master storyteller around the fire.

Contact: backcountry.comnps.gov

2. Connect at the campground. 

KOA, the world’s largest system of open-to-the-public family campgrounds, has evolved since its inception in 1962. Choose your camping style and destination from among 485 locations in North America and access tent sites, RV hookups, cabins, playgrounds and a range of recreational facilities. Then, let the fun begin.

Contact: koa.com

3. Go glamping. 

If staking a tent is not your idea of fun, glamping, or glamorous camping, might be for you. The walls may be canvas, but the experience is anything but ordinary. High-thread-count bedding, luxury furnishings, fine dining and uncommon outings often led by top-notch guides define the experience in locales around the world.

Contact: glamping.com

4. Sleep in a yurt. 

Snooze to the sound of the tumbling Trinity River as it winds its way past the resort near Big Flat, Calif. The 30-foot Pacific Yurt is set amid the Trinity Wilderness Area where bird-watching, fishing, hiking and canoeing await. Enjoy road and mountain biking or check out local music festivals. Learn about the organic coffee grown on-site and enjoy a fresh cup as the morning sun warms the day.

Contact: strawhouseresorts.com

5. There’s no place like home. 

Family camping can help stir a deep and lifelong interest in the natural world. Therefore, early, positive experiences matter. Discuss the details and set clear expectations. For the youngest set, consider an overnight in the backyard or nearby park. That way, if the weather or unforeseen forces create a kink in your plans, warm and dry shelter is nearby.

Published in Sleep

Who knew camping could be so comfortable?

Modern campers are eager to reconnect with nature, spend more time with family and friends and explore new territory.

If you are inclined to camp, here are five ideas to consider.

Published in Family Travel Blog

 RV Fun at Death Valley and Furnace Creek Resort

Does your family travel in an RV?

Visitors to Death Valley National Park now have options thanks to the Furnace Creek Ranch.

The Fiddler’s Campground offers 35 RV sites (but no hook-ups). Located at The Ranch, the Furnace Creek RV Park offers 26 full-hookup RV sites and can accommodate RVs up to 50 feet.

Guests enjoy swimming in the nearby spring fed pool, laundry and shower facilities, complimentary wireless internet and easy access to restaurants.

For those who like to spend time on the links, the Furnace Creek Golf Course is directly adjacent to the Campground. As the lowest elevation course in North America, it’s one for your bucket list.

Both sites provide the perfect jumping off place to enjoy Death Valley National Park and the extraordinary night sky.

Published in National Parks

Spending time outside matters. 

This revelation, underscored in a  study by the Girl Scout Research Institute ("More Than S'mores"), doesn't surprise me. 

Outside matters for kids FamilyTravel.com

The report suggests that girls who spend time outside regularly surpass their peers who spend less time in fresh air in environmental stewardship, they readily seek more challenges and are better problem-solvers. 

Other findings include:

Spending time outdoors in nature is different from playing or learning inside.

Here’s how . . .

Outdoor spaces support physical play. Unlike most indoor environments, the outdoors offers open space where children are able to be messy, make noise, and move in more physically intense ways.

This allows them to develop their movement capability and confidence—both of which create foundations for physically active lifestyles and general health (Little & Wyver, 2008; SPARC, 2009).

Time in nature promotes attention restoration.

Spending time in nature (even just a walk in a park) has been shown to improve concentration and creative reasoning among children and adults, including those with attention deficits (Atchley, Strayer, & Atchley, 2012; Taylor & Kuo, 2009; Berman, Jonides, & Kaplan, 2008).

Nature provides novelty and challenge, which enhance leadership.

Outdoor experiences often place girls in new physical, psychological, and social situations that motivate curiosity and foster a sense of discovery. Authentic challenges in nature (think . . . starting a fire in the rain or negotiating a set of whitewater rapids) require girls to become more self-aware and to cooper- ate, communicate, and solve problems more effectively (Rickinson et al., 2004).

For me and for my children, outdoor experiences have always been healthy, enriching and expansive in every way.

Our favorite family vacations have included river rafting, hiking, fly fishing, and camping. 

What role does outside activity play in your family?

Published in Family Travel Blog