Caution: Pine Needles May be Sharper than They Appear

Our 11-month old son bounced happily in his pack as we hiked along the Bluff. I have spent countless hours biking the trails off of Spokane’s South Hill over the years, but hiking them with an extra 25 pounds of squirming, babbling baby strapped to my chest is a relatively new and surprisingly pleasant experience. My buddy Kyle and his nearly 1-year old son are cruising along the trail in front of me, and being two dudes with babies walking around in the woods we get plenty of looks and smiles along the way. One lady seems downright shocked to see us, proclaiming loudly that we are the best dads ever. Kyle and I chuckle because we can’t imagine anything we would rather be doing with our kids on a pleasant spring day.

After walking for 2 or 3 miles, we were all ready for a break. Snacks and drinks down the hatch, we let the kids crawl around on the blanket of pine needles, sticks, buttercups and grasses on a bluff above Latah Creek. Robbins chirped, a hawk floated above us and a few hikers and mountain bikers passed by as we lounged along the trail. The little guys were stoked to be out of their packs and free to roam around on hands and knees. And it wasn’t until it was time to start hiking again that I saw the little red dots on my son’s feet and knees. He showed no pain and didn’t seem to notice the pine-needle pricks that dotted his soft skin like a rash, but I knew his mother would.

In some ways, being a parent who gets their kid outside as much as possible is easy. You just load them up with all the stuff they might need for the day and go. It may take more planning, a larger backpack and more awareness of things like creek-side cliffs, sun exposure, choking hazards like pinecones and rocks and, evidently, even sharp natural objects like pine needles, but it doesn’t need to be overly complicated.

For the past two years OTM has published a Family Winter Sports Guide in the fall, and we are excited to add a Spring/Summer Family Outdoors Guide to the mix as part of the April issue. There is no complete guidebook to outdoor parenting, but we included plenty of tips, ideas and inspiration to hopefully make getting kids outside fun and a little easier. Don’t have kids? Pass a copy on to other parents you know who might appreciate it. Modern kids and families face plenty of challenges, and while nature isn’t a panacea, learning to love the outdoors at a young age may be some of the best medicine we can pass on to future generations. //

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