5 Creative Ways to Enjoy the Wilderness
Families who live in or near wilderness areas already know the power these places have on health and creativity. Hiking in a seemingly endless forest is one of the great joys of living near a wilderness area. However, these hikes can start to lose their luster, especially for teens raised in the video game generation. There are some simple ways to take a regular hike and turn it into a game or at least add in enough of the exotic to make an old activity feel new again.
One of my favorite activities is mushroom hunting, morels in particular. Morels have a distinctive look that helps to avoid picking any dangerous mushrooms in their place, and the best time to hunt them is the spring making it an ideal time of the year to get out into nature. Turning a simple hike into a hunt for tasty, and valuable, treat can help re-engage the most reluctant young hiker in your family. This can be a challenging hunt, so if your children are pre-teen this might not be the best option. There are some great guides out there to teach you where to search and what to avoid like this one from Field and Stream. If your family doesn’t like mushrooms you can usually sell your finds at a local farmers market where you’ll find they can sell for around twenty dollars a pound.
Despite what it may sound like, shed hunting is not going out into the forest looking for abandoned shacks. Shed hunting is searching for the antlers shed annually by deer. Similar to morel hunting, this is another spring activity that is great for groups, big or small. This is a dog-friendly activity as well; your dog could be a great aid in finding antlers, and shed hunting provides a good form of exercise for pets, especially in the spring. Adding a purpose to your hikes can make them far more rewarding and turns them into a bit of a game for children. Unlike mushroom hunting this activity can be great even for the pre-teen members of your family. Like a good Easter Egg hunt everyone feels better when they’re finding something.
For the more technically minded families, geocaching is a great activity that can teach effective wilderness navigation and communication while masquerading as a modern day treasure hunt. This activity requires a bit more investment before you begin but is one of the most enjoyable for goal focused teens. A couple GPS trackers and radios for the teams is enough to start. Once you have the right equipment you can start your hunt.
There are two common ways to begin geocaching. First, you can join an existing group that has pre-hidden caches. The other option is to get enough people to make two teams, then have each team hide their cache and then begin the hunt. You can check out this great guide for Geocaching to help get you started.
Moving away from the goal hunting and into discovering new sites and sounds, we have cave exploration. This activity of course relies on you having access to a decent cave system to explore. Looking through cracks and crevices with a flashlight, surrounded by an air of mystery, exploring caves can be extremely entertaining. Some caves will even have an interesting historical context to them. If you are unable to access the history, or just not interested, you can make up your own stories even ghost stories or spy epics as you venture through various secret tunnels. Be sure to carry a flashlight or headlamp, and always travel in groups!
Climbing is one of those activities that almost anyone can enjoy, and it takes barely any preparation at all. Now, I don’t mean rock climbing with harnesses and ropes - but simply the sort of climbing we all enjoyed as children, involving boulders and trees. While you may not always be able to find a good set of boulders to scale, you are sure to find some trees that are easily climbable out in the wilderness. Climbing even a little above ground level gives you a great vantage point, and you might be surprised with the scenery you can enjoy from a higher perspective. Taking family photos when on a tree or a boulder is a fun way to document your climbing experience. A better workout and a new experience - what more can you and your family ask for?