As you prepare to head for the trails safety is the first thing to consider and it’s best to make a consistent practice of a few key concepts. First, always let a responsible person know what your plans are. Let them know who is going, where you are going and when you will return. Should you not return on time it is this person that contacts 911. Pack a trail kit with you; always. The “10 essentials” is your baseline to start with (See side bar.) Always pack a snack, water and an emergency shelter (such as a heavy duty trash bag.) You will find how little room it takes in your pack. A good book to review is “Build the Perfect Survival Kit” by John McCann. Retailers REI and Cabela’s have fine check lists online too.
A map, compass or GPS always goes with you on the trail. Children are quick to learn how a GPS works and find it “cool.” Navigation can be great show and tell time. June Fleming’s book “Staying Found” is a fine resource for land navigation and has great ideas to orient your child in the campground or back country. Demonstrating your ability to navigate builds your child’s confidence in you and truly breaks you out from your friends; most adults don’t have a clue. Land navigation classes are available through COCC’s Community Learning Department (www. noncredit.cocc.edu, 541 383 7270) and Outdoor Quest (www.outdoorquest.biz, 541 280 0573.)
Let’s leave the electronics in the car and off the trail. Each trip can be a learning experience. Have a simple goal and keep it achievable for the youngest in the group. Ask who can spot an eagle first or what fish can we find in the stream? Field guides are a big help here.
We are the stewards of our woodlands and it’s up to us to develop the respect and share the responsibility. Young people quickly recognize poor woodland behavior amongst others; you set the example. Demonstrate your own respect by picking up litter and staying on the marked trail; “leave no trace” has become the rule in outdoor travel.
Fun on the trail creates special memories for everyone in the family. It’s inexpensive and easy. With little effort it can be rewarding and safe. You will interact with your child on a new level.