What I Learned Hiking Mam Tor with 2 kids

I had known this for a while, but hiking was a totally centering activity.

  • I think next time we take a trip like this we need to plan to put hiking on Day 1 or 2 instead of at the end of the trip.
  • I packed snacks from home. The bars held up. The coconut flakes in the reusable baggies did not (they got all soggy.) Should have left them in their container until the day of trip.
  • I was justified in carrying our hiking stuff all the way with us. Considering we took 4 people’s stuff in 2 suitcases and the equivalent of 1 carryon, the size of our gear was acutally pretty considerable. The hiking gear including carriers all got used.

Mam Tor was honestly, one of my favorite parts of our whole trip. This was the day for me that made the most sense with my kids. We were just doing what we always do. There wasn’t any fussing. We just explored. There were only our normal trail rules. We just walked up. Snacks were required at regular intervals.

Our circuit was about 5 miles. Though the route looked like you could easily shorten or lengthen it. There were steeper ascents and gentler descents, but we ended up on a “medium” route. More or Less. Note to Self: Always pack the wind breaker. It was a brutal 50MPH winds at the summit and Graham needed to ensconse himself in my coat. My friend was our companion on this hike. It felt great to share something that has made me so happy with her. I’m pretty sure that blurryness is the wind.

Graham made it all the way up the mountain, but insisted on being carried down. Warren “hiked” the very last parts. He was not interested in hiking today, just snuggling daddy. But once we were off the mountain he was much more interested in the flatter paths. He’s selective about terrain.

I have a picture of my late grandma making this same face, she would have loved this.

It was worth the drive to be here. I’m so glad we opted for the Peak District. We have so much left to see of the United Kingdom. I’m sure we’ll be back. The whole National Park Trust area was just amazingly beautiful and a lot of films have been shot there. Which is completely unsurprising. We drove right by the location of Westley being shoved down the hill by Buttercup in the Princess Bride. You could easily spend multiple days hiking those “paths.” It was more like the paths were friendly guidelines than actual paths. Only the ridgeline was paved. Still, beautiful and untamed.

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Travel Notes from Our Trip to England

I’ve been MIA due to an amazing opportunity to take my family to England. It was a really special trip for me. I was born in England and to be able to show some places to my family and to experience new things together was just…wow.

We had a brief day in London. We hit up the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. If you have children and are in London, don’t miss this. It’s free to get in and the kids had a great time. It was the perfect way for them to acclimate to the new time and place. I’ve been to a lot o playgrounds, but none of them were this cool. We were lucky enough to see both Kensington and Buckingham Palaces as well as the changing of the guard. Additionally, we rode both the underground and a double decker city bus. And capped it off with a high speed train ride to Cambridge.

Travel Notes from our Trip to England

Changing of the Guard led by Canadian Troops in honor of Canada’s 150th anniversary. Also, led for the first time ever by a woman,

We were able to stay with a friend in Cambridge and spent the first day wandering around. It poured (which was unusual for the season) and we went to the Fitzwilliam Museum. True to my sons’ styles, their favorite part was the puddles outside. I won cool mom by having remembered their “puddle stompers.”

Travel notes from our Trip to EnglandWe also drove out to Ispwich and Woodbridge which is where I was born. I did the driving on this one because I really wanted Elliot to be able to see the place and because he tends to navigate better than I do.

Travel notes from our trip to England

My first house

We had a punt! Highly recommended. Super touristy. But also, very fun.

Then it was up into the Peak District for Chatsworth and Castle Ashby de la Zusch. The kids loved both these places. I started calling them all hikes. “We’re going hiking at a castle,” I’d say. They got totally into it. The castle especially, they could easily run around and climb up stairs and touch everything and no one was bothered because it was a ruin. I love when history is touchable.

My favorite part was hiking Mam Tor, which will have to be it’s own post.

Mam Tor

Somethings about this trip were so very close to the heart. I’ve been finding it difficult to put words to the swirling vortex of emotions that I experienced. For me, England has always had a calming sort of effect. It makes me feel grounded in a way that few other places do. The speed of travel, the diction, the tea, the wobbly sidwalks. Each achors me and calls me, home. I’ve spent so little time in this place that my body and mind yearn to return to.

Usually when coming home from a trip I’m a bit relieved to be home. When I came home from England I felt like I’d left somethings behind.

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What I Learned from our First Backpacking Trip

On the first weekend in May, we packed up everything we’d need for one night and walked into the woods. Backpacking, for me, it’s the tip of the iceberg. I needed this trip to be a wild success.What I learned from my First Backpacking Trip-Heidi Schertz (image of a dad and his son hiking along a trail, dad has a backpack)

Eventually, I plan to convince my family to hike the Appalachian Trail with me. I viewed this trip as a gateway. If it went well, then I could find a way to gradually work us up to a 2,000 mile trek. If it spiraled into the pits of despair, I’d have to either abandon my AT hopes or go solo. (I haven’t hiked solo, ever. It’s a personal goal to work on.)

The trip went well. Surprisingly well. My kids did great! The total walking mileage to the site was just under 3 miles. Graham wasn’t feeling well, so I alternated carrying Warren and Graham the whole time in our Onya. Elliot had the bulk of all our stuff. I carried my sister’s ultralight backpacking gear that we borrowed for the occassion.

Things I learned from my first backpacking trip- Walking Towards Less by Heidi Schertz (Image of little boy in a wool coverall and red rain boots walking alond a dirt path)Part of the reason for our success is that we went with 3 other families. There were so many kids to play with. And so many hammocks to swing from. Because we were traveling with so many families, we didn’t need to carry a stove. I dehydrated all the dinners (Unstuffed Peppers with Quinoa from Another Fork in the Trail) and another family brought breakfast.

Things We Loved

  • Our Friends had a Jet Boil Sumo that easily heated up enough water for our meals to rehydrate
  • The total distance was about right for the first trip
  • Our tent was the about the right size-we could bring our packs inside
  • Hammock for hanging out in was worth the weight
  • Our kids loved this little mini animal tracks book

Things I’d Do Differently

  • Double Sleeping Pad- We had a lot of shift around in the night and many of us ended up on the ground
  • Warren needs a different sleeping solution- Warren kept crawling out of his sleeping bag and ended up sleeping inside my bag. There is not enough room in there for both of us. It was a bit chilly
  • Perhaps a Quilt would better suit us.
  • Not go when Graham has an ear infection (whoops) so that he’d walk more/ carry his water
  • I need a different pack
  • I did a great job of packing the kids extra layers. Myself, not so much. Elliot, not at all.
  • I’d like to try this again with just our family and see how it goes

Overall, I’m super pleased. We didn’t buy anything extra for this trip. We only borrowed equipment from my mom and sister. This was a great idea for us. We needed to get a taste to see if this is something we wanted to spend money on. There’s nothing worse than buying a whole bunch of gear and then hating the activity. Also, it gave us a good reference point for when we do go shopping.

Everyone had a good time. Which was the most important element here. I’m not sure why I’m constantly surprised, but my kids really love camping. We are planning to do more camping and backpacking trips next summer.

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Yellowstone Lake State Park

Young boy standing next to lake and a yellowstone

grandma and 2 grandsoms sitting by lake fishingWe headed west to Yellowstone Lake State Park recently. It was a last minute trip for us that really worked out well. Elliot had a lot of car work to do. I’ve found that the best way to handle those types of days is to go out hiking with the boys. Since this was going to be a longer project, camping seemed to be the perfect fit.

Nana and Grandpa Tod had already planned to go camping, so we hopped on board and headed west! To Yellowstone! Ha! There were a lot of yellow stones surrounding the lake, so the advertising was accurate.

Yellowstone Lake State Park The camping itself was great. You can tell that this is the second season of camping with the boys. They understood to keep away from the fire and there was a lot less direction that was needed. They were comfortable sleeping in the tent. I didn’t need to remind them to take their shoes off to enter the tent. It was a dramatically different experience from last year. They were also less anxious about Elliot being gone. It helped to have Nana and Grandpa there are familiar faces. Auntie Kate also rounded out our party and it was fun to spend time as a family.

The campground was nice. Most spots were nicely secluded from the road. A few were walk-ins or semi-private. There was a group of sites (81,83, and 87) that would have been perfect for a family reunion. I wouldn’t recommend the group sites themselves. Very close to the road, little to no tree cover meant your group wouldn’t have any privacy, and far from the showers.

We did several hikes and spent most of our time fishing. Graham and Warren both caught their very first fish with Nana! They were both Bluegills. It was quite impressive for their first time fishing. The hiking was lovely. A lot of different terrain from what we are used to. The southwest part of Wisconsin was unglaciated so it has rolling hills that we don’t usually get to see over by Milwaukee.

Yellowstone Lake State ParkWe used almost every piece of gear that I brought. The weather couldn’t make up it’s mind. We had rain, wind, hot and cold. The only thing I forgot was the kid toilet. We were at site 88, which wasn’t too far from the showers and flush toilets, but it was a bit too far for Graham. Ah well! Next time. The only thing we over packed was diapers-and I’m totally okay with that.

Pros: Gorgeous Lake. Nice variety of hiking (and skiing in winter trails. Most sites very secluded. Hot showers. Even when full the campground didn’t seem too noisy and most trails were still uncrowded. No cell service at all.

Cons: Drive to the campground is pretty but mostly on two lane roads that you really do need to pay attention to. Seemed to be pretty busy (we went Memorial Day weekend, so I’m not sure if that was vacation busy or if that’s the way it always is)

What you need to know: I’d totally go back. 2 hours from MKE is a completely reasonable drive especially for how secluded you ended up feeling.

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Lessons from the 52 Hike Challenge

I’m such a dork. I love these types of posts. Knowing what I liked and would do differently is as important to me as the activity.

  1. When I planned hikes I was more likely to complete them, anticipate them, and feel excited about the challenge
  2. The months where I assumed that hikes would just “happen” were the months that I struggled the most to get out the door and made excuses for myself
  3. I need to plan to hike during the holidays. Carving out time for myself to relax and be restored is more important during the holidays, not less. I need to remember to schedule down time for myself
  4. When I felt crappy hiking really helped get me out of the funk. Even if I initially didn’t want to go. I was always happier for having done the hike. (This is also how I feel about running but I can’t seem to make that a habit, yet)
  5. The idea that I could give up and walk away floated through my brain towards the end of the challenge. After all, we had done a lot of hiking this year. I’m glad that I continued to make hiking for me a priority.
  6. Balancing kid hikes and adult hikes is important and I should probably plan them out more. Maybe one of each a week?
  7. The kids and I both need to get out of the house on a daily basis. Somedays that looks a lot like goofing off in our yard. Making a concentrated effort to go somewhere daily doesn’t seem reasonable right now, but every other day might be doable.
  8. I still need and want to do a completely solo hike. Mostly to prove that I can. It seems a bit silly that I’m having to make that much of a plan for it.
  9. And I don’t finish these lists very well
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Riveredge Nature Center

Little boy in a yellow rain suit with red rainboots sitting on a rockRiveredge Nature Center has to be one of my favorite places I’ve discovered since moving back to Wisconsin. The atmosphere here is simply welcoming and heartfelt. The staff makes you feel welcome and the facilities are gorgeous.

They have a great nature preschool with lots of kids activities. There’s a preschool library with sensory bin, different activities for the seasons, and a hideout in a “tree” upstairs. Then you go outside for their natural play area. Additionally, they have a grouping of rocks that are purposefully strewn for kids to climb and play on. It’s truly a remarkable place where both adult and child pursuits have been considered and melded together. We have yet to walk all the trails, which means there is a lot to explore still!

Inside a silo painted with a mural 4 kidsThe kids love it when we come here. This time we brought friends. I got to break out all the rain suits I own and 4 kiddos played happily in the cold, mud and wind. It’s so wonderful when, with the right gear, we can facilitate enjoyment of weather that isn’t “quite” perfect.

We walked the Vernal Pond Trail. It was so much fun to see how the ponds are full now and will vanish in the summer. Graham walked the whole trail, loving to be with his buddies. Warren walked about half. He’s been very cuddly lately, so it was a real pleasure to see his desire to walk.

Pros: amazing kids programs and play area, lots of trail options, wild, bathrooms available year round

Cons: 40 min drive from Milwaukee

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Sunshine On My Shoulders

Independence Grove in Libertyville, IL. 3 miles of a unshaded gravel path. As Kate said, “Not exactly what I planned.”

All around though it was a great walk. The path was quite extensive and beautiful. It had two loop options. We took the shorter loop to avoid the bikes on the top loop. Neither path had any shade to speak of. The top loop connects up to the Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway- which could make a nice backpacking trip.

There was a great kids playground with ‘cave’ and climbing wall. I was pretty impressed. It worked pretty well for a wide range of kids.

Pros: Long trail with lots of detours over the lake. Awesome kids playground by the pavilion

Cons: While this park is free to Lake County residents you have to pay $10 to park if you don’t live in Lake County. There isn’t a sticker you can buy so you’ll have to pay each time. Lack of shade in the summer is a concern. High traffic area- so if solitude is what you are looking for, this isn’t the place for you. This is a great residential park but definitely isn’t a wilderness.

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Jacobus Park

two boys climbing over a water duct

Let’s be adventurous

Mini Pinecones Toddler in red & white striped hat standing in front of a dry stream bed

Narrow Trail with an umbrella stroller at the bottom

An incline that I perhaps shouldn’t have taken the umbrella stroller down

The HikeitBaby30 is underway again. So we’re mileage focused. We started adult paced and quickly devolved back to kid exploration and then back to adult paced. I guess this isn’t much of a “hike” as most think about them. But the kids got down and dirty with rocks, sticks, and streams. It also required a lot of physical negotiation with the stroller and the path/not path.

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52 Hikes

It was narrow. It was close. It wasn’t exactly what I had planned. But it’s completed. I had planned to make my last hike of the 52 hike challenge a completely solo hike. Going solo anywhere is a bit of a challenge for me, so I thought it would dovetail nicely with this challenge. Then we ended up going to my in-laws for the last weekend. 

The hike was Grant Woods Forest Preserve, which was very lovely. I guess you could say it was solo since Elliot carried Warren and Graham walked the whole time. The woods were lovely. It has been so nice to share our passion with our family. Encouraging others to be more active and enjoy nature is so much fun. Considering how much we have benefitted from this lifestyle, we want to include our family in that as well.

I’m going to continue to post about hikes and we have an upcoming backpacking trip that I need to document. Plus, what I’ve learned! Can’t wait.

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Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

Of all the things I’ve learned from the 52 hike challenge, one that sticks with me the most is that the weather doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be a good hike. Unlike our last trip to Schlitz Nature Center (with driving rain), this trip was sunny albeit a little cold.

Toddler Walking along Lake Michigan

Warren walking along Lake Michigan

We brought along some friends and ended up walking 3 miles! One of my favorite parts of Schlitz is Lake Access! The pebble beaches often amaze me with the variety of rocks. Quartz, Marble, Granite, Sandstone- it’s a veritable treasure. Each rock is so smooth and heavy. The sensory input is just awesome.

4 year old boy in red rain suit standing in Lake Michigan

Graham deciding to wade in

We’ve also taken to exploring the ponds to look for snails. Finding the empty snails shells is easy. It’s being patient and observant to find the ones stuck to the bottom that’s’ much harder.

Little boy holding a snail shell beside a pond

Snails Shells

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