Monday, July 29, 2013

hiking Lazy Mountain with a toddler in tow

Distance: 2.5 miles one way, allow at least 4 hours roundtrip)                 Location: 4 miles east of Palmer

Difficulty: strenuous                  Elevation Gain: 3,000 feet                Best season: mid-May to September

Fees/permits: $3 per day for parking, $30 year round pass

from Palmer: take West Arctic Avenue/Old Glenn highway east away from town. Cross the Matanuska River bridge, then turn left on Clark-Wolverine Road. After about 0.7 miles turn right on Huntley Road and in another mile, bear right at a fork in the road and follow the road downhill about 0.2 miles to the trailhead parking lot. 

from Anchorage: take the Glenn Highway to Palmer and turn right on West Arctic Avenue/Old Glenn highway and follow the directions above. OR follow the Glenn Highway about 30 miles and then take the Old Glenn exit (watch for signs). Follow the Old Glenn highway about 9 miles, cross the Knik River Bridge, and continue on the Old Glenn about 6 more miles. Turn right on Clark Wolverine Road, then after about 0.7 miles turn right on Huntley Road and in another mile, bear right at a fork in the road and follow the road downhill about 0.2 miles to the trailhead parking lot. 

The Hike:
This is a beautiful hike. Upon arriving at the parking lot and trailhead, you are greeted by breathtaking views of the Matanuska Valley below, including both the Matanuska and Knik rivers and the Butte, which looks very small off in the distance. There are picnic tables and a fire pit, perfect for a pre or post-hike picnic. 

I was hiking alone with just Riggs and Tutka for company. Hiking with a toddler on any trail is far different than doing without a toddler. There is much more to plan for and to bring along on the trip to make for a safe and happy hike for both parent/caregiver and toddler.

For the Lazy Mountain trail specifically, there are a few things I think are essential to pack along for the trip:
1. Structured child carrier with an external frame - This is very important! A soft carrier like a sling or Ergo just would not cut it for this hike, in my opinion. The external frame keeps your hot toddler off of your hot back, helping a little bit with the sweat factor. It also allows you to load the child in the pack before putting it on, making it much easier to get them adjusted and comfortable for the trip, and you can set them down in it as well along the trail when taking breaks.

There is also a 5-point harness for safety, and in the backpack your toddler rides much higher up than in a soft carrier (like an Ergo) allowing for much better views and an ultimately happier trip (at least for Riggs - he has to be able to see to stay in a backpack carrier for very long). I also love how much storage there is in most child carriers, especially when hiking by myself because I have to carry Riggs and all the food/gear/water we will need for the hike. We have a hand-me down carrier that works very well, but if I start doing more long (4+ hour) hikes, I might invest in a newer model. My main reason for this is because many new models include stirrups for your toddler to rest their feet on while you hike, meaning their legs aren't just dangling there losing circulation - very important for spending long periods of time in the backpack.

2. Layers - your toddler will need a few layers of clothing for this hike, even on the hottest day. Many portions of the trail are bordered by thick vegetation, including stinging nettle and cow parsnip, that hang over and can brush your legs and arms while walking. Riggs liked holding his arms out to try and touch all the plants and trees that he could, and I made sure he wore long sleeves and long pants to protect his skin. It's also nice for sun protection, it's just that much less sunscreen you need to put on their skin. It was about 75 degrees and very sunny and still when we hiked up, and Riggs didn't over heat in his longsleeve shirt and overalls. I packed along a pair of shorts for when we were above the treeline and for the car ride home.

3. Water - this is a very strenuous hike and I would recommend bringing along water, a lot of water. Fill up water bottles or a bladder with how much you'll think you need, and then add even more. I had to pack enough for the dog too, so I was carrying a lot of weight in water on the way up. Even though Riggs was just riding along in the backpack, with the hot weather I knew he would want quite a bit of water when we stopped too.

I actually filled an entire gallon milk jug with water just for Tutka, as well as a large stainless steel water-bottle for myself and a small one for Riggs. I also packed an extra gallon jug of water and left it in the truck for when we were done with the hike. I was really glad I did too, because we used up every drop of water while hiking and were still thirsty for more when we got back to the parking lot.

5. Snacks - Even thought we had already eaten lunch, I made us each an extra sandwich for bringing along on the hike. It is always important to bring along high-energy snacks when hiking, you are expending a lot of energy and it's important to stay fueled up so that you don't feel fatigued. It's also important to have extra food in case you get stranded or are unable to get back to your vehicle for some reason. It might seem like that would never happen, but it's always better to be prepared.

6. Trekking Poles - I did not grab my trekking poles for this hike (even though they were in the truck - oops) and I regretted it when I started to come back down the trail. With the extra weight of Riggs on my back, it would have been nice to have the trekking poles for support and to feel more secure about not falling on Riggs. I did slip a few times coming down, but each time I was able to catch myself. It's very dusty this time of year, which can be just as slick as when it's muddy, no matter what footwear you are wearing. I passed a few people on the way down and everyone had slipped at least once or twice.

7. Bear bell and bear spray - I had a bear bell on Riggs' pack and next time I'm going to attach one to Tutka as well. You can never be too bear aware, especially when hiking alone with a toddler. If Steve is with us, he always carries a firearm specifically for bear protection, but I feel more comfortable carrying bear spray if I'm by myself. I always carry the larger bottle, as I'd prefer to have the most protection possible. Also before you hike in bear country, I believe you should always review what to do during a close encounter with a bear (read all about being bear aware here).

In addition to the items I've highlighted, you also need the usual items required when doing anything with a toddler, like diaper changing supplies and maybe a spare set of clothes in your vehicle.

Even from the very beginning of this hike, there are beautiful views all along the way. The first half of the hike alternates between heavily wooded areas and open fields of vegetation. The shade the wooded areas offered was greatly appreciated by both me and Tutka.

As you gain elevation, the scenery just get more and more spectacular. I loved the fields of fireweed and how the two rivers glittered in the distance. So breathtaking! This is a very steep trail and most people will probably need to stop and take breaks along the way. There is less and less shade as you gain elevation, but at least there are endless views to enjoy as you catch your breath.

I have a strong aversion to any footwear other than sandals in the summertime - everything else is just so constricting and hot. So even when hiking I usually wear sandals, either my birkenstocks or chacos. Some people might think I'm crazy, but it works for me. I've never rolled my ankle or lost my footing because of sandals. I probably would have been better off wearing my chacos on this trail, at least for the trip back down, since they have a heel strap. But my feet were fine in the birks too, other than getting a little bit dirty. 

I do feel compelled to say that it would probably be best for safety to wear more supportive footwear like trail tennis shoes or hiking boots. Whatever works best for you.

We only made it up to the first picnic table, where we stopped to have our snack and to let Tutka have a break and get some water. Riggs also enjoyed exploring the area, and Tutka felt compelled to follow him where ever he went. Those two are such buds, it's so cute.

We headed back down from there due to needing to get home in time to make dinner for Steve. The remainder of the trail up to the top of Lazy Mountain is somewhat easier. You still have quite a bit to climb, but there's much better traction and the view distracts you from the pain, ha. Despite being very strenuous, this is a beautiful hike that I think is fun to tackle with a toddler in tow as long as you are fully prepared. As a final note, I like that there's cell phone reception the entire way up the hike. Not because I was texting while I was hiking, but because it made me feel more safe hiking by myself to be able to call for help incase Riggs or I got injured along the way.

Have you hike Lazy Mountain? If not you definitely should. Let me know if go how you like it or if you want to get together and make the trek.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

weekend fun and fresh fish

Saturday we drove to Cooper Landing to meet up with Steve's family for fishing and general merriment. It was a whirlwind of a trip for us, since Steve had to be back in time for work Monday. We so enjoyed spending some quality time with family that we don't get to see as much as we'd like to. Sunday we all went to the Kenai River for some fishing, and it was hot. Riggs went naked most of the afternoon. The guys were getting lots of fish so we stayed later than we'd planned and didn't end up leaving for home until about 9pm. It was one of those extremely fun and extremely exhausting trips and we're so glad we went.

On the way to the Kenai Sunday we spotted this 'small' brown bear at Quartz Creek near the cabin we were staying at. We sat and watched him (her?) for quite a while and Riggs pointed and growled quite a bit. So beautiful yet so deadly. Bears and Moose are animals I love to see - from a distance.

 fishing & family
doesn't get much better

it took 5 hours to make a 3 hour trip
we were so tired and so ready to be home
when we rolled in at 2:30am
but we did get to see this beautiful sunset

when we woke up there was breakfast
then processing the fish
it feels so good to have that fresh, nourishing meat
in our freezer.
I'm thankful.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

what I'm loving these days

We have been so busy getting outside and enjoying this unusually warm summer lately that I haven't been as motivated as usual to blog. When I am inside, there are meals to prepare, dishes to wash, laundry to fold, and a boy who wants his mama to read him book after book after book. All so much more important than blogging. But I miss this space too and am crossing my fingers for a rainy day that might allow me to catch up.

For now, I thought I'd share some of the things I've been loving lately. First are those pictures of Riggs at the river. I take so many pictures of that boy, and I still can't get enough. I've really been loving my 365 project lately - it's so fun to get lost in the archives and tear up seeing so clearly how fast he changes.

And then there's this song by Ray LaMontagne. I love all of his music, but this one is my most favorite. It gives me chills every single time I hear it.

I've also been enjoying this series by Joanna Goddard. I'm especially intrigued the piece about Norway and after reading it am even more ardent in my wish that the US would make supporting 'the family' a much higher priority.

And in the evenings, when Riggs is asleep and the house is quiet and the dishes are done, I've been sneaking in some quality time with tumblr. My tumblr blog is a calming space where I gather and sometimes share images and words that speak to my heart. If you have a tumblr please share the link so I can follow along.

       What have you been loving lately?

Monday, July 22, 2013

we're tired but we love our kid

I'm still recovering from a long and fun but exhausting weekend with family in Cooper Landing, so I don't have much to say. But I had to stop in to share these funny pictures of Riggs with my old Cabbage Patch doll piggy bank. I thought he might like putting the pennies in the bank, one-by-one...which he did. But he really really really liked the biggy pank itself. I had a good laugh over how much he loved that old thing. He is such a funny, sweet boy and we love him so much!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

camping trip to Hidden Lake

Saturday we woke up a little early and piled into the truck headed for the Kenai Peninsula to go camping with my family. We drove about three and a half hours from Butte, to Anchorage, to Cooper Landing, to the Skilak Lake Road, finally arriving at Hidden Lake Campground around 9:45am. Cinnamon rolls in my parents camper tasted perfect and brought back a flood of memories from all our camping trips over the years. I was so glad to be there, squeezed into the little dinette, chatting with my mom, while my little sis iced the hot rolls and my dad read quietly on the couch. 

After we got our tent set up, we all went to Kenai for my dad's Geocaching event. Riggs followed my dad around calling out "gampa!" and eating all his baked beans. We took a little walk to look out over the Kenai River, where my adventurous boy kept getting so close to the edge, making me hold my breath and keep a very close eye on him.

Our little family left the event early and cozied up in the tent for a little afternoon siesta. My goodness it was hot, but it felt good to just lay in the heat and alternately stare out the window at the sky or watch Riggs play. Once he tired of playing with his cars, he read and cuddled with daddy. Seeing them together makes my heart melt, or maybe it was the heat? 

When 'gampa', 'mah-ma', and 'bek' got back, it was time for dinner around the campfire. I stayed close to the fire and smoke to keep the mosquitoes at bay, despite the heat. I also kept my sweatshirt on, hood-up and I think that helped a bit too. Riggs didn't seemed bothered at all, and played around the campsite, with his car and his ball. After dinner, there was the remote control car. Riggs was so intrigued by this, and had the best time chasing it around as grandpa drove it. 

Soon it was bedtime, and we were happy to find that the tent had cooled down enough for us to want to snuggle into our sleeping bags and get cozy. There was reading before bed, and then there was a little playing, and then there was sleep. I just love watching Riggs while he sleeps, I miss that so much from when he was in bed with us. But I don't think he misses it very much, because he really needed his own space and did not want to be snuggled up next to me for very long. Poor mama.

In the morning there were more cinnamon rolls, and talking, and laughter, and a walk down to the lake. Then we packed up and headed home. A lovely summer weekend spent with family, my favorite.