New River Gorge with Kids

climbing in new river gorge bubba city

C climbing to her dad

New River Gorge Climbing Trip

We finally made our way back to the New River Gorge in West Virginia for a weekend of climbing.  It has been years (pre kids) since we had been to this area as it seemed to be a bit less kid friendly than other areas that we had been to.  Our app was showing predictions of snow on Friday night – and it wasn’t far off.  The drive took us eons, especially in the Appalachians with the travel trailer.  We finally arrived at the campsite ( at 1:30 in the morning.

We parked the travel trailer and worked on getting the heater working.  My son crawled into the full size bed under my down comforter, snuggling with my husband. . . Now, I’m not bitter or anything but it was a cold night sleeping under kid-sized blankets and snuggling with my daughter who doesn’t like to be under said blankets.

Bubba City, Sandstonia

For our first day at the New, we decided to try out Sandstonia in Bubba City.  The hike in was relatively moderate with a rocky trail on the descent for the kids.  It took us about a half hour to navigate the trail with both kids hiking in on their own steam.  The hike would have been significantly more of a challenge with a three year old, as the rocky nature of the descent made me wish they had their helmets on a few times and my four and a half year old had to go down a few of the more prominent boulders “bum first”.  The landing area and “play area” at the base of the routes was big enough for the kids to have room to play without being in the way.  There were a good number of moderate routes to warm up on and then we climbed a 10c called Kinestica that was a great fun route with a roof that required a high foot pressed out to send.


R climbing part of a 5.7 at Sandstonia

The kids wanted a turn to climb so we set up a top rope on a 5.7 slightly farther along the wall.  Both gave it a go before the weather started to turn cold for the day.  Given the hike out was uphill, (and it was the week before daylight savings) it was set to get dark around 5, so we opted to start our hike back out.

Bubba City, Beer Wall

On day two we opted to give Beer Wall a try. We had wanted to come back to the New with kids, but remembered this approach and counted it out until the kids were big enough to navigate the ladder and rope descents.  This approach is slightly shorter and less robust than Sandstonia except for the area near the final approach. . . There are two rope ladder sections and one real ladder area.  With one younger child and and two or more adults, it would be manageable but with two kids, my opinion is that they need to be able to navigate a ladder without difficulty.  It wasn’t nerve racking, but we gave each child a spot to make sure that they didn’t miss a step, dismount too far, and/or slide down the rope too quickly.

Once down to the climbing, the area was great for kids. . . with two major caveats.  Beer Wall gets pretty crowded on most weekends. This happened to be a slow weekend (probably the last of the season) and there weren’t many people out.  There is also a chimney area that has a great cave and play area  for older kid playing.  This is a hazard for younger kids as they can fit into cracks and crevices that adults can’t get into to “rescue” them. It also goes way back, which is a problem if your child doesn’t pay attention to any limits you set.  The cave is great fun, with that BIG warning. Also, there’s a bolted chimney above and if someone is climbing, that cave is definitely off limits to kids as it’s clearly in the landing zone below the climber.  The landing area for the rest of Beer Wall wasn’t terribly kid friendly or large, particularly given that it is usually more crowded. We enjoyed the climb, but were limited on time and once done with St. Pauli Girl (a 10c with a thin start and what they call a roof crux, but it seemed more like a crack crux than a roof, in my opinion) we hiked out.

Next trip to the New River Gorge

On our next trip to the new, we are thinking of trying out the Summersville Lake area.  We’ve been cautious of it thus far because of the obvious water hazard with kids.  Still, it seems like we are almost there with regard to being able to navigate the more challenging areas with the kids, and it may be worth a try.  We would love to try out the new AAC campground, but with the trailer, it’s not in the cards (no rv’s/trailers allowed).  We are also looking forward to taking the kids somewhere on the water, if we can find a more moderate area for kayaking.  All in all, warmer weather and/or spring time can’t come soon enough as there are lots of routes and areas for us to revisit now that the kids are able to navigate more difficult terrain.

warm and reading in the travel trailer

R reading in the travel trailer

The travel trailer was a huge win again, as the temperatures were such that it was not kid friendly (not in my opinion).  It was definitely below freezing out side, and warming up, even inside, was a challenge.  Dinner and dessert in the trailer was relaxing and cost effective, as we made fish tacos and ate ice cream. The filthy kids were a cleaning disaster and a warm shower was a wonderful feature.  Even morning was fun, with a heater in the trailer that allowed me to make coffee without freezing!  We would definitely not have been able to travel so late in the season without the travel trailer.  Alas, we’ve now winterized and it will be resting until spring.

Hiking in a Creek

water hikeHave you ever started out on a day hike with children only to have it turn into something completely different that what you planned?  Ha. Of course you have.

Many of our adventures start out as one thing (“I want to climb X route” or “sleep at X campground”. . . “I want to relax in a tube on the water”, or “I want to sleep in the sand”) and end up as something completely different (“The route had a group staked out on it for the day” or “I couldn’t find the campground in the dark”, “the tube had a hole”, or “it rained”).

With kids, the ability to adapt your planned adventure is a required skill.  Adaptability and flexibility are a key component to successful outdooring (yes, I’m using that as a word).

This past weekend,  I wanted to go for a hike at Tucquan Glen with the kids (a place we’ve hiked before).  While I planned for a hike, there was a part of me that remembered the kid’s excitement at the water.  The trail follows the water on either side of a creek that feeds into the Susquehanna River.  It’s a mile out and back, and the trail is both rocky and shaded.  The kids greatly enjoy the obstacles and the terrain.  I enjoy that we can turn around at any point, cross the creek when we want, and/or sit down for lunch with the beautiful (small) waterfalls as our scenery.

Day Hike Packing for Creek Wading

On this day, I brought water shoes for the kids (actually, C wore her Keen sandals, the water shoes were for R who outgrew his Keen’s).  We also packed lunch, snacks, lots of water, and water guns for playing in the creek.  Their attire included a bathing suit, though I brought dry alternatives.   While my plan was to hike to the river, I was prepared for some water fun.  We even brought the dog.

Day Pack Packing list

  • Water shoes
  • Bathing suit
  • Dry Clothes
  • Towels (pack towels recommended)
  • Picnic blanket (my one luxury)
  • Lunch Food
  • Water
  • Snack Food
  • Water Guns
  • Water bag for electronics
  • Life vest (not packed, but might be needed for future creek hikes)

tucquan glen water Hike Turns into Wade

As you might expect, things didn’t go as planned.  The kids took one look at the creek and switched into “water mode”.  Water shoes went on, shorts came off, and in they went.  The hike turned into a wade, with me dodging water gun shots and making sure kids didn’t lose their footing when they stumbled upon slick rock.

Since I was hiking around, I realized there were a few things I hadn’t considered.

Dangers of Creek Wading: Central PA Version

1.  Know depth of creek bed and strength of current

Obviously, wading in a creek with a strong current is dangerous.  This creek had a mild current, but keeping C in arm’s length was important, as she didn’t have on a life vest and any slip on wet rocks could be problematic.   The water was shallow, though did go up to my knees occasionally (and that’s her belly button height).  Knowing to look for the occasional deep spot was a requirement.

2. Have a plan for exiting the creek bed.

Another thing that I hadn’t considered (because I know the trail) but that I would certainly pay attention to for an unknown trail would be keeping an exit open and/or knowing how far up the sides of the creek bed the trail is.  Sometimes you can scramble up a bank, but knowing there the openings are and how to get back to a trail is a factor to consider if you are unfamiliar with the area. Tucquan has paths on both sides of the creek, and you can get up out of the creek bed at any time.

3.  Keep an eye out for Beaver Dams

Beavers can be dangerous, and they prefer creeks for building their habitat.  Beavers can be violent when threatened and are actually quite vicious in a fight.  Avoid confrontation, and walk away from both the Dam and the Beaver.  Beaver Dams are, in the long run (from what I read) beneficial to water quality but in the intermediate vicinity (drinking from a creek near a beaver dam) it can cause a few less than pleasant side effects including tularemia and giardia.  Since beavers defecate in the water, avoid drinking water near beaver dams.   More information from the experts here.

4.  Don’t drink the water

In addition to beaver dams, there are natural and human contaminants in the water that may or may not cause illness.  It’s safest to teach your kids not to drink the water, and instead pack it in for your day hike.  If you want to drink the water, make sure you are testing and/or purifying before making your decision.  Kids should be taught to follow this rule without fail, as creek waters are in danger of pollutants from farm run off, beaver dams, and other potential sources that could cause sickness.

5.  Animal Hazards

There are a few venomous snakes that can be found in PA Creeks, the copperhead being the most common in Central PA.  Check out which snakes are venomous in your area.  The PA Herps site is a great resource for PA, and you can search for those spotted by county.  Outside of Pennsylvania, you have your own set of creek dangers. . . Feel free to add them in the comments at the bottom of the page, and I’ll provide more information here.

tucquan glen kidsOur hike turned into a wade, with the kids walking, splashing, and laughing.  It was a great modification to our planned hike.  We only went a quarter of our planned distance (wading takes longer than hiking), and we loved every second!



Climbing Gym Etiquette With Kids

Tips for taking kids to the climbing gym.

There are few things more troublesome than going to a new place and not knowing the spoken and unspoken rules.  Add to the uncertainty the presence of children, and it can be quite intimidating to enter into unknown territory.   For those new to indoor climbing and/or new to indoor climbing with kids, here are a few tips for bringing your kids to the gym.

Those that know me will laugh at the irony. . . My children (and therefore I) have been guilty of breaking many of these.  Therefore, the best, most important rule, is the first one.

Climbing Gym Etiquette

1.  Know when to cut your losses.

When you walk into the gym and it is packed with people. . . this is not the time to bring your young children and still hope to get in a climb yourself.  There is no safe place for them to play and unless they are stationary (please tell me how you do this!) they are risk of being landed on and/or in the way with every step they take.   Solution: Make the decision as to which adult will be climbing.  The kids, of course, are welcome to toprope.  The parents will need to make sure that there is one responsible adult in charge of corralling the kids while the other adult/adults partake in the climbing.  Nothing good can come of unsupervised kids running or milling around a crowded gym.  I know. I know.  It hurts to give up.  Sometimes that is your best option.

2.  Know the climbing gym’s rules.

Some gyms have rules as to what is age appropriate for bouldering.  For example, some bouldering walls restrict children under the age of 12 from bouldering even with their parent’s permission/supervision.    Others allow kids of all ages to climb but do not want them in certain areas.

3.  Identify the risks.  

What areas are dangerous or unsupervised?  Where might your child find themselves in a situation that isn’t optimal?  Just because the gym allows your child to wander onto the top of the (insert dangerous area here: bouldering wall, overlook, topout, etc.,) doesn’t mean that it is safe.

4.  Watch your child.

When they are climbing. . .where ever they are climbing.  They always need a padded landing and a good spot (some will argue that bad spotting is worse than no spotting, so give a proper spot).  Just because you know to move the crash pad under the climber doesn’t mean that they do.  Knowing how to land is also a great skill to teach your child. Supervise.  Climbing gyms are not a “free play” area that is safe no matter what you do or how you act.   Teach children to use crash pads and ask for a spot.  Staff members are generally not babysitters.  They are not responsible for teaching/watching/correcting your child.

5.  Keep food and juice off the carpet/flooring.

This is usually (but not always) a gym rule.  You know your kids better than the college-aged gym staff.  As such, you know that the applesauce will spill no matter what you do to stop it.  Eat in areas that have easily cleaned flooring.  Allow children to drink only water on the gym floor.  This will go exceedingly far to making friends with gym staff.

6.  Keep crying/yelling/whining to a minimum.

Yes, this one is funny. You, more than the next guy, know exactly how annoying and distracting it is to climb with a child who is screaming, a parent who is yelling, and/or a family who is at the end of their rope.  If you have lost control and know that it is going to be awhile before you get it back. . . see point number one.  The person who is leading a hard route or trying to have a relaxing trip to the gym is not going to appreciate your child’s misbehaving any more than you do.  While it’s a free country and you are welcome to stay and torture everyone with your tired/cranky/notgoingtolisten child, it’s best to cut your losses.  Take a step outside, see if you can distract and redirect.  If that doesn’t work, live to fight another day.  Everyone will be appreciative, especially your child.  Not to mention the dad or mom who left their kids at home so that they could have an hour of peaceful climbing.

Some First Time Climbing Gym Tips:

Watch where you (and your child) walk.

Do not walk directly under climbers on any wall anywhere.

Walk behind the climber and the belayer (when at all possible).

Do not step on rope.

Always remember to look up (some gyms have roof climbing above the middle of the gym, it never hurts to know who might be up there).

Do not climb barefoot.

Do not touch anyone else’s gear. Do not allow your children to do so.

Don’t be those parents.

You don’t want to be those parents. . . the ones that the staff and other members of the gym groan at when you walk in.  I know, sometimes it is unavoidable.  Kids aren’t always cooperative and sometimes you just want to climb.  Keep these tips in mind and try your best to know when you have passed “cute” and “entertaining” and moved into the territory of “annoying” and “dangerous”.

What tips aren’t listed?  What advice would you offer?

The Mount Rushmore Dilemma

Mount Rushmore Junior Rangers

Mt. Rushmore Junior Rangers

Visiting Mount Rushmore with Kids

Our summer trip to Wyoming and South Dakota was amazing.  We combined climbing with family time, history, geography, science and more.  When we planned the trip, climbing was the main focus, but hitting some of the National Parks and National Monuments were also a must.  Mount Rushmore is one of those locations that combines both.  There are amazing climbing opportunities in the shadow of the National Monument.  There are also a number of tourist destinations to explore with the kids including the Mt. Rushmore Alpine Slide, gold mines, zip lines, and more.  We opted for the following itinerary:

Day 1. Climb at Rushmore

Day 2. Climb at Rushmore

Day 3. Visit Mt. Rushmore and Alpine Slide

Day 4. Alpine Slide, climb, explore the Needles

Day 5. Day trip to Spearfish for Climbing

On our off days from climbing, we visited Mt. Rushmore. The kids enjoyed the family time and their experience with the Junior Ranger program.  It’s an amazing program that is offered at many National Parks and National Monuments.  I love that the kids can learn about why the monument was built and how it came about, the fact that some people were (are) against the monument etc.  Still, it’s a bit like teaching them the edited version of the Civil War, Thanksgiving, the discovery of America by Columbus. . . there’s a room full of bias and an major bit of fact “clean up” so that kids get some of the details without the ugly pieces that are difficult to explain and comprehend at a young age.

Moonstone Mount Rushmore

Small figure summiting the top of Moonstone in Mount Rushmore.

The Problem with Mount Rushmore

So here we come to the rub about Mt. Rushmore.  I believe that Mt. Rushmore is an amazing feat of artistry/skill to accomplish.  That being said, I also think that it is extremely sad that they ruined a bunch of perfectly good rocks (that I would have loved to have climbed) in order to do so.  And that doesn’t even begin to hit on the issues with the Black Hills, Native Americans, and the ownership of the land, not to mention broken treaties and/or the state of poverty on reservations that are only 70 miles from Mt. Rushmore.

I want to teach my kids that just because some people find nothing wrong with the monument, not everyone agrees.  I want to share with them that the important thing is the land, nature, the trees and the rocks. . . the preservation of a beautiful area that we’ll want to share with their kids some day.  Instead, we took pictures in front of the monument, found out who the artist was, identified the great men whose likeness is on the face, and then took off to ride the alpine slide.

I look at that moment as a missed opportunity, where I only briefly touched on the sadness I feel that the rock was damaged to make the sculpture.

My kids are 4 and 6.  I am committed that the next time we come west to explore, we will stop at a reservation or visit a Native American supported historic site.  I want them to learn about both sides of our history.  In the end, it is important for me to share our whole history so that they can understand the importance of valuing nature, and the land – not just the pretty version.

Let me be clear, I greatly support the national park system, national forests, and national monuments as a whole. I even understand that this may have been a wonderful economic boon to an area that otherwise would be void of much tourist industry. The complexities are endless and beyond my comprehension, let alone that of a 4 or 6 year old.

I thought that they were too young to understand the Massacre at Wounded Knee (or Battle at Wounded Knee as it is sometimes called), so we didn’t visit there.  Perhaps in another few years we can go to that haunting land and discuss the history of the US with the ugly parts front and center. . .

For now, I guess I’ll let my kids admire the faces of our leaders carved into rock without the tainted history that goes along with it.


Wild Iris Wyoming Climbing, Trip Report

Wild Iris As you know from previous posts, we purchased an RV for our summer travels.  In mid June, we took that show on the road for a two week trip across country, from Pennsylvania to Wyoming. The trip took around 48 hours, with one overnight rest, and a brief stint in Cheyenne with a flat tire.  Our original goal was to stop at the Sierra Trading Post store, but by the time our flat tire issues were resolved, the store was unfortunately closed.

Wild Iris vs. Tensleep or Sinks Canyon

In our trip planning process, we spoke with friends who have climbed in Wyoming extensively.  Their advice for a kid friendly sport climbing area was to start at Wild Iris.  Other (somewhat close) crags include Sinks Canyon and Tensleep – both of which have exceptional climbing options, but both have a harder approach.  In addition, Sinks Canyon is known to be less of a summertime destination, with hotter temps and a higher likelihood of rattlesnakes so we started with Wild Iris and decided that we would try Sinks if we had time.  Turned out that Wild Iris kept us quite busy!

We camped at Twin Pines Campground, a nice family run campground a few miles south of Lander, Wyoming.  Twin Pines wasn’t a climber’s hang out (though they did have tent and rv options), but they had great bathroom facilities (with lots of hot water) and it was the closest campground (that we knew of) to the Wild Iris climbing.  Wild Iris itself had rustic camping options (and an outdoor/open pit toilet) with no running water. The campsites at Wild Iris were extremely nice for those interested in the more rustic and cliff side camping option.  Wild Iris has a few options for climbing walls/areas.  For the most recent list of climbs, access, and area information, we used the Lander Wyoming climbing guide, Lander Rock Climbs.  If you are looking for the Lander climber hang out, look no further than the Lander Bar/Gannett Grill – a local bar/grill with relaxing outdoor seating and some great home brews from the Lander Brewing Company.

OK Corral at Wild Iris

We started with the most accessible part of the Wild Iris crags – the OK Corral area.  The OK Corral is a short walk from the truck and offered a large number of moderate climbs in a dense area.  The approach was a short hike and the base of the climbs were mostly child friendly (though toddlers would likely need some off belay supervision given the uneven rock and the potential for a short roll down the somewhat uneven terrain).  Our kids were excited to find makeshift shelters for playing, and after a quick stability check and snake check they were free to hang out inside the makeshift shelters that were found within every cluster of routes.  

Our day one adventures introduced us to the vertical limestone walls of Wild Iris at the Blooming Rose Wall. We warmed up on a “eh” 5.9 called “Iron Horse with a twisted heart” and then went up a nice 10b called “Stacked Deck”.  The climbs had some great lines and nice solid holds, though it took some getting used to the limestone as it was a bit less textured and a bit more polished than we were used to.  We set up a toprope for the kids inside of a crack, (“Phat Phinger Phrenzy”) but the odd stemming left our four year old struggling to reach, so she didn’t make it too far up.

After a packed lunch, and a small detour while we helped search for a missing 11 year old (she was located after a few hours, so all’s well) – we hopped on Red Rider – a super classic 5.10a.   Big holds whenever you wanted made the climb a fun one, up an arete and with pretty vertical climbing.

On day two, we hit OK Corral again, this time for a run up “Claim Jumper” (10c three star)after the 5.9 warm up on the arete to the right (“Annie Get your drill”.  Claim Jumper had a lieback flake that Ryan made quick work of, but I couldn’t get the hang of pushing off the wall to the right, and leaning left. By this time the kids had had enough of the climbing, forts, and playing outdoor imaginary games – and the windy weather was a bit much for us all so we headed back to home base.

NOTE: the Wild Iris area tends to be a good 5-10 degrees cooler than Lander.  Bring extra clothes because the temperature varies greatly based on the wind.

Wild Iris for kids

There wasn’t much in the under 5.8 range for kids to climb on, and given that ours are 4 and 6, that limited their options for getting on the wall at Ok Corral.  The forts, though, made the area an exciting adventure.  The short approaches made it accessible, and the shade gave them relief on the sunnier days.  While rattlesnakes are reported to be seen in the area, we didn’t see any, though we did see a deer or caribou on our hike one day.

All in all, OK Corral would work for kids of all ages, though some landing areas would require more supervision than others.  I’d say that 3 plus would have no problems, as long as you do a snake check first and they aren’t prone to wandering off.





Sad News, 12 year old Tito Traversa

Supertopo blogIn tragic news, 12 year old climbing prodigy Tito Traversa has died while climbing.

There will be many reports and Monday morning quarterbacks discussing the tragedy, and placing blame.

This is not one of those posts.   You can read more about the accident and the cause here.  I’m glad to see that the climbing community is coming together to recognize and mourn this young boy rather than place blame and/or point fingers.  (Read the comments).  It says something that we value his life and don’t want to add more burden to his family with “I told you so’s” and “should haves.”

Instead, I just want to take a moment to say that we all have those times that we didn’t check gear/place gear/check knots etc.  Most of us don’t fall to our deaths and have another chance to remind ourselves that people count on us, love us, want us to be safe.   We all need to be more careful, more aware, and more cognizant of what we are doing, and what we are asking or allowing our children to do.

If I have had moments of inattention (at 36), then I can darn well be certain that had I been climbing at age 12, I too might have climbed that gear without checking.  We can all be more diligent about checking one another, each and every time we go out.

I just purchased climbing helmets for my two little crag monkeys for our recent climbing trip to Wyoming.  Should they be wearing them at all times?  Probably.  Did they?  No.  It was hot. We forgot.  And so forth.

Hindsight is all knowing.

What will you do on your next climbing trip to make yourself, your partner, and your family safer?  I’m going out to buy another rope.  Our current rope would probably last for another climbing trip, but we also know a new rope will not show the signs of wear that appear on our current rope.   I might have chanced it.  And you all could have Monday morning quarterbacked my fall.

Instead, I will think of Tito and his family as I use this tragedy as a reminder to be more aware.


Camping With Kids at Assateague

Horses on Assateague IslandThis past weekend was a first for our family.

So. . . we took a non climbing camping trip!  It was a weekend camping trip only a few hours from home and I am happy to say that the trip was a huge success.

Assateague Island State Park Camping

We drove 4 hours to the Maryland State Park on Assateague Island.  Assateague is known for both a state park and national park (Assateague National Park) hosting hundreds of wild horses, beachfront camping, and unparalleled undeveloped East Coast Seashore wilderness.

Camping is available at both the Maryland State Park and the National Park. Reservations are recommended (and hard to come by for peak season which is from May until September).  The State park campgrounds have a bit more on the amenities including hot water showers, clean bathrooms, and running water toilets.  The NPS facilities are more rustic and sufficient for those that aren’t picky about running water and indoor warm water showers.

Beachfront Camping on the East Coast

Beachfront camping on the East Coast is hard to come by.  When camping at Assateague, our site happened to be right up against the dunes, and only a quick walk over the dune path to get to the beach.  The National park also boasts ocean front campsites but you will want to look at the campsite map to find the appropriate site.  Bayside campsites are, as you would image “Bayside” rather than ocean front.

We lucked out with the weather – 70’s during the day and sunny. Evenings were a bit cooler with heavy jackets and a warm fire being needed for comfort.  Temps were probably in the 40’s at night.

At this time of the year, the camping was lovely with limited bugs and no humidity – my understanding is that the heat can get oppressive and the Assateague mosquitos and flies are quite aggressive and non responsive to bug spray.  As things heat up, the bugs become an issue.  With regard to sea gulls and other wild animals, we had limited interaction.  We did see some deer in addition to the wild horses.  Bird watchers will likely see a large variety of sea and East Coast birds.

A quick warning: Where we stayed, the water had a particularly rough shore break as the ground changes depth quickly and the waves break hard and shallow in the water.  While I’m sure that the summers account for this and folks are aware for swimming purposes, if you have difficulty swimming or young children, you will want to take particular care with the shore break.

Beach Front CampingNational Park Camping, Assateague Permits and More

Assateague State Park and National Park border one another and you can walk from State to National without much effort.  Not sure how they patrol the state to national beaches, but I’m sure they must during the summer at there is a National Park Pass required to go onto National Park land.  The pass is valid for both Assateague and Chincoteague Island – Chincoteague is the Virgina side of the island and is host to only commercial campgrounds, though there are more summer housing rentals on that side of the island.  For $15, you can have a day pass, or $30 gets you the annual.

You can stop at the visitor center before you get over the Verrazzano Bridge.  We didn’t stop there but we did hear that there was a nature center with a number of hands on displays for the kids.  Pets are allowed in certain campsites and locations in both the state and national park but, as with all National Parks, they must be on a leash.

Firewood can not be brought from out of state, but is available within the county and can be purchased on your drive in – there are a number of stores that have it for sale and we recommend purchasing outside of the park as what we bought within the park was a bit greener than what we used from outside of the park (within the county).

Over Sand Vehicle DrivingDriving on the Beach

Assateague has miles of sand open for driving with an Over Sand Vehicle Permit.  The permits vary in price based on usage but we bought an annual pass for $90 to drive further down the beach.  Additional campsites are available in the backcountry that you can hike and/or drive to using your OSV permit.

The OSV permit has some caveats that you should be aware of.

1.  Only 145 vehicles are allowed in the NPS OSV area at one time.  That number fills up quickly during the summer and the limit was 3/4 full on our trip in April by the end of the day – I would imagine it is a difficult task to get in within the limit during the summer months.

2.  Requirements include a specific type of shovel, piece of wood or steel, tow straps, and tire pressure gauge as you must lower tire pressure to 15 and have the tools to get pulled out of sand should you get stuck.

For more info on the OSV, visit the NPS Assateague information page.

Going on a pony huntFinding the Assateague Horses

Finding the horses is a complete luck fest. . . They can be walking on the road, on the beach, in the campsite area, or in the parking lot.  . . Or you can go through the trails stumbling over pile after pile of warm horse manure with no horse in sight for hours.  It’s just hit or miss, but you are bound to see a few.  We made an adventure of following the horse trails through the woods a bit only to realize that we were probably making too much noise to surprise anyone.  It was a fun time, and the kids certainly enjoyed checking the horse scat to see how fresh it was an how “hot on the trail” we were.

So are the horses at Assateague horses, or ponies?  Well, you’ll see signs for both across the island.  We spoke with a local who said that they are ponies because of their size. . . they aren’t over a certain number of “hands” so they are considered ponies not horses.  So there you go.

The running of the horses occurs during the month of July when the horses swim from the mainland back to the island.  It’s likely not to be missed, but since we don’t do crowds, we opted to visit in a less popular month.


Things to do at Assateague Park

1. Watch the sunrise from your campsite

2. Hike along the beach and look for shells and horses.

3. Drive on the beach.  Stop for a picnic. Go on a pony hunt.

4.  Kayak or Canoe around the bay

5. Bring a paddle board (not sure if they had rentals)

6. Dig in the sand. Build Sand Castles

7. Visit the Nature Center

8. Hike on one of three nature trails; dunes, forest or marsh.

9.  Bike around the park with the kids.

bike ride on assateague islandBetween marshmallow roasting, hot dogs for dinner, digging holes in the sand, driving on the beach, going on a pony hunt, picnics, walks, and bike rides, we managed to fit a lot of activity into a short weekend – even if we didn’t go climbing even once!


Out of Control Kids (Or Judgmental Spectators)

Facebook Mom of the year

I recently heard from a friend that our kids used to be known as the kids at the climbing gym that were going to get hurt.

I was shocked.  I know that they run around a bit, but we teach them not to run on mats (only play on the bouldering mats where folks aren’t climbing) and stay away from anyone belaying/on rope.  I admit, I had a few moments of “Oh, no – we are bad parents. We are those parents. We shouldn’t take our kids to the gym anymore.”  I take pride in the fact that we primarily boulder when the kids are around.  And that one of us is usually crawling on the floor playing monster with them while the other one climbs.  We bring food and crayons, movies and electronic devices, we encourage them to climb, and we entertain.  What else could we do?

Stay home? Not take our kids to the gym?  Teach them to sit still and not move while we climb at the gym?

Then I remembered a Facebook post I saw the other day (left, from a friend of mine)  I’m not sure that it applies 100% to this situation, but I believe that there are some similarities.

See original post and the mom replies.

Facebook Mom of the year responses

What do you think?  Do we have a problem? Or is the problem judgmental non parents, parents of non mobile children, parents with only one child, parents with children that happen to be a little more quiet and reserved than ours?  I honestly am not sure that we can do anything differently.  We do the best we can to teach them the rules of the road for climbing, and we watch them diligently to make sure that we prevent any non-listening moments.

Am I naive to think that those judging us just haven’t been there yet?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this one as I’m almost afraid to take them to the gym in fear of being seen as “those parents” who can’t (or won’t) control their children. My kids are now ages 4 and 5 – so active, but still young. . .

Here are my initial thoughts for alternatives and improvement.  I’m not extremely excited about #2 or #5.

1.  It’s a choice between playing (physically) or self entertaining.  Should I encourage self entertainment as option 1 and option 2 to be climbing?  If yes, then they shouldn’t be running in the gym at all.  Is that realistic and/or should that be an expectation.

2.  If I am ok with electronics in the gym, an ipad/ipod would settle them down.  Is this the direction to go?

3.  Food. Food.  Food.

4. Climbing.  They should climb. . . it is after all a climbing gym.  If they don’t want to climb, see option 1 and 2.

5. Stop taking them to the gym for a while.  Get a babysitter

What would you do? Which is the lesser of two evils? Out of control kids, couch potatoes?



Kids Ski and Snowboard Purchase Options

C at 23 months

Skiing and Snowboarding With Kids

Teaching our kids to ski and snowboard is one of the things we believe is a “must do”.  Manners, integrity, a healthy lifestyle, a love of the outdoors – those are some of the key values we work to teach our kids.  Skiing/snowboarding falls within both healthy lifestyle and love of the outdoors.  It is also a great way to combine these values with family time – as kids and adults can do this activity together from quite a young age.

Mid Atlantic Skiing, Not Exactly A Mecca

Admittedly, (considering that we live in Pennsylvania) we aren’t located in US Skiing Mecca (out west, of course), but we are lucky enough to have opportunities for skiing a few months each year within a one hour drive – and pretty great skiing only a long day drive away (New Hampshire/Vermont/Maine). It’s not Colorado Powder, but it ‘s pretty darn great, especially if you hit it during a big snowfall.

We prepare for our winter mountain sports time for months in advance, as we take a week long trip to New England on a ski in/ski out resort vacation each year.  The kids look forward to this as soon as summer ends and school begins.  The preparations include evaluating our ski equipment needs (snowboards, boots, bindings, skis, poles) and our clothing/warm weather gear needs.  You would think this would be easier each year – as we get the hang of it.  As adults, we don’t need new gear each year.  The kids are a totally different story.

Stocking Up on Equipment for Skiing

I’ve mentioned ski swaps for getting kid’s ski/snowboard equipment – this year it was a total win!  We grabbed a great snowboard for Ryder (with bindings) at a great price.  The bindings are top of the line youth Burton Bindings and the board is in great condition (not a scratch on the bottom or side).  We’re still looking for snowboard boots, but we’re excited for the find.  I always keep an eye out at the ski swaps for the boots, but buying online is also a great source when you know what you are looking for. Evo happens to be running a sale at the moment, click here to check it out – ->evo | Winter Clearance – Huge Markdowns!

Other online shopping resources abound, but I often find my best winter coat/gear purchases at the local consignment stores. I found a child’s Patagonia snow suit last year – barely worn!  You have to know the right time of the year to hit the stores, and you also need to have an idea of what store has the best winter gear selection.  This varies by location so you’ll need to do a bit of homework.  I’ve gotten winter boots, jackets, and snow pants in our local consignment store.  The money isn’t the primary issue, we want the high performance gear and don’t want to be buying new each year (since they outgrow it so quickly).  It’s important that the kids are warm and wearing quality performance gear when they might be spending the day outside in sub-freezing temperatures.  I’d rather buy used Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, Outdoor Research (that new would be $200 or more for a kids outfit) than new non-performance clothing.  Yes, I’m a outdoor clothing brand snob, you found me out! I’m just unwilling to spend  the money year after year on new kids clothing that will only last one season.

Disclosure: the Evo link is an affiliate program link, if you buy something from Evo after clicking that link, I get rewarded.  I shop there myself (just bought a new pair of skis this season), and would link to them anyway (their customer service is awesome), but just wanted you to know! 




World Wide Day of Play #Playoutdoors

World Wide Day of PlayOctober 6th was the 9th official Worldwide Day of Play, hosted by Nickelodeon.  I found out about this through a great post on Facebook by the National Parks Foundation (left).  The annual “Day of Play” is exciting and wonderful for raising awareness, but it makes me sad that we have to raise awareness  for kids playing outdoors.  What other outdoor events and special days should we be promoting?  Here are the top things we do regularly for outdoor play.

1.  Swim.  In the summer, we spend as many afternoons and evenings at the pool as work will allow.

2. Bike/scooter to school.  Ryder calls this “exercise”.  I call it getting some fresh air.  Either way, we live far enough to take the bus but close enough that we can walk if we want to.

3. Play at the park. Ride a bike or play on the playground.

4. Walk in the rain, with rain gear on.

5.  Play soccer/baseball outside at the bus stop. Go a few minutes early.

6. Dance.  This one is inside so I’m not sure that it counts. But I love that my kids will dance to music.  And I’ve trained them with some pretty spastic dance moves, so it is great exercise.


Our usual weekend adventures:

1. Climbing. We take the kids outdoor climbing (which usually includes hiking, playing in the dirt, bug catching, and picnicking) on a somewhat regular basis.

2. Skiing/Snowboarding.  When it’s too cold for outdoor climbing (snow on the ground), we take the kids skiing.

3. Canoeing, kayaking, tubing, hiking. . .these are one-offs that we do on the occasional day “off”.


What are your favorite outdoor times? Where do you go, what do you do?  Any other “daily” outdoor ideas?