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home : activities : sports & outdoors April 30, 2016

7/17/2014 6:42:00 AM
Summertime in the Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forest
Submitted by Robin DeMario

School is out, the weather is great, kids are full of energy, and parents are wondering what to do with all that energy. Why not take a hike, a bike ride, have a picnic, or camp in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest?

There are over 5,700 miles of trails, 137 highly developed campgrounds and 8,200 miles of roads to travel in the forest all offering a wide array of recreation opportunities.

Before heading to the woods, ask the older kids to do a bit of research about the area they will be visiting. Ask them to map out how to get to the chosen spot, find out if any passes/permits are needed or if any restrictions are in effect, what hazards they might encounter (such as bees, wasps, snakes, high water, etc.), what plants and animals they might see, and what safety items they should carry with them (hint--check out the 10 essentials list).

Once the research has been completed, it's time to head to the woods. Before leaving home make sure someone knows where you are going and when you will be returning. Fill out a trip itinerary form.

Don't be afraid to get dirty. Wear good walking shoes, no flip-flops, and comfortable clothing including a hat. Sunscreen and mosquito repellent are must haves.

Kids love games. Why not try one of the following games or suggestions when recreating with kids in the woods.

1. Woods scavenger hunts. Create a list of items to hunt for while visiting the forest. There are a variety of lists available on the internet or use the list on page 3 as a quick start.

2. For kids who know their ABCs, look for items with names that begin with each letter of the alphabet--A for acorn, B for bee, C for creek...all the way through the letter Z.

3. Do you hear what I hear? Try walking quietly or stop and listen for one minute. What sounds do you hear?

4. Encourage children to touch nature-rough tree bark, smooth or bumpy rocks, scratchy leaves, soft feathers, pointy pinecones.

5. Look up, down and all around. Look for animal signs-tracks, scat, piles of dissected pine cones, holes in the ground or in the trees. Play the game, "I Spy with My Little Eye" to encourage everyone to look around.

6. Encourage children to "pack it in, pack it out." Not only can kids pack out their own trash, they can bring along some trash bags and rubber gloves and take time to clean up the woods. Award points or pennies for each item placed in the trash bag.

Don't forget to pack a picnic lunch or snack. Pack unusual food items that will remind children of the fun they had in the woods. Even everyday food items can become exotic and fun when given new names. For example, raisins on peanut butter on celery = ants on a log, nuts = chipmunk crunchies, grapes = monster frog eggs, peanut butter and jelly sandwich = Bigfoot bait, and water = jungle juice. Ask the kids to make up their own names, then laugh at their creative suggestions.

Enjoy the forest, have fun, but always be respectful of the woods and creatures that live there. For more information go to the forest web site at www.fs.usda.gov/okawen or contact the nearest national forest office.

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