Monday, February 23, 2009

Organized Groups

With four children, I'm getting tons of experience with various organized groups which are focused on outdoor related activities.  These groups include Boy Scouts, Indian Princess and Indian Guides.  This is a great way to learn about camping, hiking and backpacking in a controlled setting.

If you are looking to get your children to spend quality time outdoors, these groups are fantastic for the outdoor newbies and those learning.  Your children will enjoy spending time with friends on campouts and you will have the opportunity to learn from other adults who may have some valuable experience.  

The Boy Scouts is probably the most structured of all the parent/child outdoor-related organizations, due to the longevity and the history of the BSA (Boy Scouts of America).  This group focuses on teaching the boys to respect one another, respect the outdoors and obey the Boy Scout code.  These are all excellent qualities.  The campouts with the Boy Scouts are great for the scouts, but offer limited opportunities for the parents to spend quality time with their children.  I know that is not the intent of the Boy Scout campouts, but it is a personal struggle for me.  I attend about every campout with my son's troop, but I spend most of the time with the other adults and I get very little time hiking or exploring with my son.  So, for those starting off, expect to learn from the other parents at Boy Scout campouts, but also expect to not see your son a whole lot over the weekend.  That being said, the BSA is a great organization for maturing boys into young men.  I highly recommend it for the boys.

The Indian Guides/Princesses is something I've been a part of for the past 3 years.  There are typically two factions of IG/IP.  One, is a part of the YMCA/YWCA and I believe, now, is called Adventure Guides or something like that.  I'm part of an independent group, still referred to as Indian Guides and Princesses.  Indian Guides is for the Dads and Sons and Indian Princesses is for the Dads and Daughters.  These organizations are a lot less formal and structured than the BSA.  However, the focus of these groups is more on the quality time with the Dads and children.  I really like the opportunities for me to spend time with my children in the outdoors.  The children still have plenty of chances to play with their friends, and do some group activities, but it is still about the Dads and the kids.  When entering an IG/IP group, just ensure that the group you are joining has similar ethics as you and that the Dads will instill proper outdoor etiquette that you would like your sons or daughters to have, as your sons and daughters will be exposed to others behaviors.

I have mentioned only the groups that I've been a part of, however, there are other groups as well such as the Girl Scouts, which focus on Moms and Daughters.  Since I'm not a Mom or a Daughter, I can't comment on those groups.  As for the BSA and IG/IP, I enjoy both, my kids enjoy both, but just understand there are some distinct differences.  They both have excellent learning opportunities for both the children and the parents.  Use these opportunities to learn, but take the time to spend time outside these groups practicing what you've learned and experience the quality time with your kids outdoors.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Getting Started

Growing up, I was not raised a camper.  I can remember going camping exactly 1 time as a child.  I was maybe 6 to 8 years old.  My family went to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, TX... in the middle of the summer... when it's about 100 degrees in Texas.  Being a young child and not needing water or shade, I played with my sisters until I suffered a heat stroke.  As you can imagine, this pretty much put a damper on the whole trip, and any future trips as well.  Beyond that, most of my time spent outdoors as a child was running from soccer game to soccer game or playing a round of golf with my Dad and/or Grandfather or possibly spending a weekend on the boat.

My wife's family, on the other hand, spent about every weekend camping and traveling around the country.  She and her siblings, for the most part, all had an appreciation for the outdoors.  They all had stories of places they had been and of the old truck camper they had growing up.  My wife had the knowledge and experience of telling fireside stories, making s'mores and foil dinners.  I had none.

About 6 or so years after we were married, we had 2 children, a boy who was 2 and a girl who was 6 months.  My wife thought it would be great if we started camping as a family.  I was all up for it.  We went to Wal-Mart, found us the biggest cabin tent we could find and decided to give it a try.  We chose a campsite really close to home, which I highly recommend as you get your feet wet.

Camping close to home proved to be a good choice, as we inevitably forgot critical items, such as charcoal, food, and a few other necessities.  My son took right to it.  He really enjoyed the tent, running around outside, fishing, throwing rocks and all the other things a young boy does outside.  As usual, he had no problems falling asleep, which is often difficult for people on their first time sleeping outside.  My daughter (all 6 months of her), on the other hand, was having fun as well, albeit at 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the morning.  We tried everything to get her to go to sleep, but she was having none of it.  She was going to enjoy the outdoors to the fullest.  Finally, we allowed her to just play in the corner with the wet wipes container, where she laughed and giggled until morning.  It was at that moment that my wife insisted we get a camper.

Since that time, we have moved from the giant tent into smaller, more portable tents, and even purchased that pop-up tent trailer.  We have camped over a hundred times, at least.  We have gotten much better about packing.  We have doubled the number of children to 4 (ages 12, 10, 6 and almost 4), and have accumulated multitudes of gear.  Most importantly, we are all hooked on the outdoors and enjoying hiking, biking, and camping together as a family.  With the daily run of school, work, athletics and other extra-curricular activities, camping is a great way to get away and spend quality time together at a slower pace.  We try and get out as a family at least once a month during the warmer months. 

Over the coming days, weeks and months, I will be posting some of my tips, tricks, gear lists, pictures, places to go, etc.  I have invited a few friends and family to do the same.  I look forward to seeing you outdoors sometime.

Canyon Man

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Family and outdoors

I've been looking for a good spot to start sharing my thoughts on family outdoors activities that I've been a part of, as well as some trips I've taken with just the guys.  My main focus will be on activities with my family members, but as I travel around the globe, I am afforded the opportunity to take an occasional side trip.  I am always in search of a place to come back to with the family.

Canyon Man is my Indian Princess/Indian Guide name, given to me by my Daughter.  It was given to me shortly after a backpacking trip to the Escalante/Grand Staircase area in Utah and Arizona.  I apologize to anyone who has the same trail name.

My family and I spend a great deal of time outdoors.  When we first got started about 10 years ago, I didn't know a whole lot about camping, hiking, backpacking, etc.  I've learned a lot since then.  I think there are probably a lot of people out there who would like to get involved in outdoors activities with their families, but aren't sure of how, or what's appropriate for children at what ages, what gear is needed and not needed, etc.  I will occasionally throw in an impromptu gear review, if I feel it is appropriate.  

I've compiled a life list, which continues to grow.  I'd like to share my stories as I cross things off the list.  I hope you'll come back again and visit.

Canyon Man