The Art of Getting Kids Outdoors

My generation had an extensive range from home base.  We’d disappear for a day.  No helicopter parents, no cell phones.  If we crashed our bikes, we fixed them as best we could and limped home.  I took a nice header five miles from home (I still have the scar on my knee), used a t-shirt as a bandage, made it home, and from there to the emergency room. I got 8 stitches and a great story to tell my friends.

As the owner of a company which produces family camping tents, I am often asked, “When is the best time to start taking kids on outdoor excursions?”

My answer is always the same: on the way home from the hospital. We owe it to our kids to get them outside.  We owe them scratches and scrapes, summits and snakes, sunburns and sunsets.  We owe them an authentic life.

Practical Matters

Kids are not little adults.  Their needs are very different, and if you want to enjoy your time with kids, pay attention.  There are five things I tell people when they ask about taking kids camping:

o   They get cold faster.

o   They get hot faster.

o   They get hungry faster.

o   They get bored faster.

o   They want to be helpful.
They get cold faster.  It’s simple thermodynamics. Little bodies lose heat faster than big ones.  They get cold before you do, so don’t assume because you’re not cold that your little ones aren’t either.  The solution is easy.  Take more clothing than you think necessary.  Because their clothes are smaller, it’s no big deal, and after a certain age (around six for our kids) they started carrying a lot of their own clothes and gear.

The first line of defense is good outerwear.  Make sure it fits: boots, raingear, hats, gloves, etc.  The difference between a good raincoat and a poncho is not worth it, especially when you have a wet and tired and hungry five-year-old.

They get hot faster.  Keeping kids comfortable in the heat is just as important as keeping them warm. Again, you may not notice because you’re not hot. A red flushed complexion is a good sign things are toasty.  Make use of evaporative cooling.  A baseball cap dipped in water can cool them off quickly, and a wet bandana around the neck is helpful too.

It goes without saying that many adults forget to apply (or reapply) sunscreen.  If you forget, chances are it’s not even on your kid’s radar.  Make it a point to reapply every hour, even if it’s just a touch-up.

They get hungry faster.  That’s probably not exactly true, but it is a fact that kids will not tolerate hunger as well as an adult.  Count on feeding them snacks throughout the day as well as good sized portions at breakfast and dinner.  Keeping high-energy snacks handy is critical and can help avoid meltdowns.

They get bored faster.  This is especially true with passive activities when they’re younger, like sitting in a canoe while Mom and Dad do all the work.   While in camp, have lots of quick, easy and fun activities to keep kids engaged and to prevent boredom.  Finding cool bugs, or looking for different colored rocks are examples of simple, but engaging  activities for kids.  Coloring books, plain white notebooks and crayons and colored pencils are great.  Anything to stimulate their minds.

They want to be helpful.  Kids want to be part of the action, and there are lots of fun duties that will make them feel like they are little campers.  At four, a kid can collect twigs for tinder; at six, pump a water filter.  At eight, they can help start the fire, and at ten they can start the fire themselves.  At twelve they help with dinner; by fourteen they’re cooking dinner. Kids want to be useful.  Resist the temptation to do everything because it’s faster.

About Safety and Risk

Taking these axioms and applying them without an eye toward safety is foolhardy.  Clearly, you want to pay attention to safety, but realize that there is inherent risk in outdoor activities.  The key is to minimize risk through education.

If you are going more than a 9-1-1 call from help, you’ll want some training.  Wilderness First Aid (WFA) is a weekend course designed to give you a basic understanding of dealing with injuries and other mishaps that happen outside.  If you’re hard core, the Wilderness First Responder (WFR) is an eight-day comprehensive course that teaches you how to provide some pretty serious aid while waiting for the professionals.  If you’re an EMT, there is specialized training for you to fill in the gaps when it comes to wilderness.

Some folks still question my sanity for taking my kids into wilderness areas.  My response is that I minimize risk through planning, education and keeping my wits about me.  I also tell them that the risks of not taking my kids to the rivers and woods are far higher than if I take them.  Risk cannot be eliminated, but it can be managed.  Only a foolish person faces the wilderness with a

pocket knife, a piece of twine, and a can-do attitude.  A wise person educates themself, teaches others, and shares their knowledge and love of the outdoors generously and graciously.  After all, we all had a mentor who taught us our skills.  It is only right that we pass them on to the next generation.

 

Celestial Navigator by PahaQue May 2014

There are few things more enjoyable during a night in camp than staring at the night sky.  Now you can be a celestial expert and dazzle your camp mates with your night sky knowledge.  There’s lots going in this May so grab your telescope and your tent and get out there!imagesnewmoon

  • May 10 – Saturn at Opposition. The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons. A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see Saturn’s rings and a few of its brightest moons.
  • May 10 – Astronomy Day Part 1. Astronomy Day is an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public and various astronomy enthusiasts, groups and professionals. The theme of Astronomy Day is “Bringing Astronomy to the People,” and on this day astronomy and stargazing clubs and other organizations around the world will plan special events. You can find out about special local events by contacting your local astronomy club or planetarium. 
  • May 14 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 19:16 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance. This moon has also been known as the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon.
  • May 24 – Possible Meteor Storm. In the early morning hours of Saturday, May 24, the Earth will pass through the debris field left behind by a small comet known as P/209 LINEAR. Astronomers are predicting that this interaction may result in a brief but intense burst of meteor activity that could range from dozens to hundreds of meteors per hour. Nothing is certain, but many mathematical models are predicting that this could be the most intense meteor shower in more than a decade.
  • May 28 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 18:40 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

PahaQue May Photo Contest 2014

Share your favorite camping photo with your PahaQue tent on our page, and you will be entered to win a brand new PahaQue Single Hammock!  Your choice of color (navy/light blue, or green/khaki).

1.  Enter as many times as you would like.
2.  Entries must be posted to the PahaQue Wilderness Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/PahaQueWilderness
3.  This contest is not administered by Facebook.
4.  Contest ends Friday June 6 at which time we will announce three winners on our Facebook page.
5.  All inquiries should be directed to happytrails@pahaque.com

Official Photo Contest Rules:

The entries have already started coming in – so please send us your best photos and enter to win a brand new Bear Creek 200 Tent!  (a $300 value!).  Here’s the deal:

Contest Rules:

  1.  Photo must be taken from inside a camping tent, looking out at your subject or view.  (The make, model or type of tent used will not be considered when judging the photo entries.  However photos using our products may be used in future promotional material with the owners consent)
  2. Photos must in .jpg digital format, and must be larger than 1, but not larger than 5 MB
  3. Limit three photos per contestant
  4. Photos must be submitted to happytrails@pahaque.comno later than 10/25/11
  5. When submitting your photo via email, you must include your name, address and contact phone number to be entered.  We respect your privacy and will not share your contact information with anyone.
  6. The contest winner will be announced on our Facebookpage on Tuesday, Nov 1, 2011. 
  7. The contest winner will recieve a brand new PahaQue Bear Creek 2-Person Backpacking Tent ($300 value)
  8. One runner-up will recieve a brand new PahaQue Shadow Mountain Cabana ($90 value)

ENTRY DEADLINE IS 10/25/11 

Go camping and take some photos, or dig out your best shots from the last camping trip and send them in!  You never know – you may just win a new tent!

It’s Photo Contest Time Again

I have been mulling around the idea of another photo contest for some time now, but just can’t seem to come up with a unique idea. I want something that incorporates an outdoor, camping theme, with……what? That’s where I get stuck.

I dont want to do another sunset theme, or another pretty camp scene. Those are all good themes, and we’ve had some great contests in the past with those themes, but that’s the point… We’ve already used those themes, so what can we do that’s different?

One idea I had is a contest of photos taken of nature, from inside your PahaQue tent. But then someone pointed out that not everyone may have a PahaQue tent, which had never occurred to me. But still, not a bad idea, regardless of what kind of tent is used.

Another idea was photos of how camping makes you feel, trying to show in a picture the emotions you feel when you are outdoors and away from it all. Hmm, maybe thats two photo contests we could have….

Anyway, I need your help. We’ll call this a ‘pre-contest’ – send me your suggestions for a cool photo-contest theme, and if we use your idea we will send you a $50 off coupon for any PahaQue product.

The Grand Prize for the photo contest will be a brand new PahaQue Bear Creek 200 2-Person Backpacking Tent. Thats a free $300 tent to our contest winner.

Any ideas?

2010 Sunset photo contest winner T. Ianarelli won a free PahaQue Shadow Mountain Cabana!

It’s been awhile

since I lasted posted anything, so I thought I would take a moment to share what is new at PahaQue these days.  Let me start by asking if you’ve ever had one of those days were you start work, look up at the clock, and it’s already 5pm and time to go home?  (In our case it’s usually closer to 7pm….)  That is pretty much how is has been around here since around mid-April. 

Ever since returning from our Spring Desert Guided Tour in April, its been foot on the gas and take no prisoners!  I have always said that in this business we are the same as farmers – business is seasonal, and total dependant upon the weather.  And as everyone knows, it has been a crazy, and oftentimes scary year around the country.  But despite facing hurdles just as every business does – especially these days – we have been quite busy and it has been an exciting year for us.

Working in partnership with Green Supply in Vandalia, Missouri, we have eliminated the inventory issues that plagued us over the past few years, we have expanded our product line to now include mid-price family models, and super-lightweight backpacking tents, and we have totally revamped our website to include the most current photos, specs, dealer listings and more!    

We are excited about the upcoming September issue of Camping Life Magazine which will feature a story about our Spring Guided Tour and the joys of backcountry desert camping.  We look forward to this trip each year with much anticipation, and we hope you will consider joining us next year.  This year we had folks from as far away as Michigan, Las Vegas, Tucson and Phoenix join us, and we all had a great time exploring old mines and mining roads, hiking on the desert and enjoying the awesome sunsets and desert night sky.  We will be announcing our plans for next years trip over the next few months.

We are currently preparing for the annual Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City, where the entire outdoor industry comes together to buy and sell, and show off the new products that will appear on the shelves in 2012.  It should be an exciting show.  The industry overall has been down the past few years, but 2011 has been a year of improvement and growth so the mood should be positive at the show as we all look towards 2012.  We really enjoy the face time with our dealers, and the chance to meet new folks and see what new innovative products are being developed.

Here at PahaQue, we are proud that our products continue to be well-liked by our customers and dealers alike, and that through hard work and dedication we have ‘weathered the storm’ that has affected so many of us over the past few years.  We have never had to sacrifice quality or our reputation, and can say that we are as dedicated as ever to providing you with the very best camping tents and shelters, and to stand behind our products with rock-solid customer service. 

If you haven’t already checked out our YouTube page, you can do so by clicking the link on our home page.  You will find helpful set-up videos, demonstration videos, and even a few attempts at humor.  Also check out our Facebook page – if you become a “Fan” you will receive occasional sales offers, contest notices, gear giveaways and more.  Visit our home page www.pahaque.com for these and other helpful links, as well as a complete look at what is new at PahaQue this year!

So until next springs Desert Camping Tour, I will have to settle for 2 and 3 nighters in the local deserts and mountains, where even a brief trip is a welcome break from our busy in-season schedule.  And when we’re not camping, we’ll be making hay!

Hope to see you around the campfire sometime soon!

Arizona Backcountry Trip Wrap-Up

Whenever we guide a group of campers into the backcountry on one of our guided trips, its always good thing if we never have to touch the first-aid kit.  Not knowing what the skill and experience level of our guests may be, there is always that chance that someone could get hurt.  Especially on the desert, where pretty much everything from rocks, to cactus, to rattlesnakes, are going to put a hurt on if you encounter them in the wrong way.  This was a good trip.  I dont recall using even a band-aid this time around!

Our campsite was ideal – just far enough back in the mountains to be hidden away and provide a feeling of complete isolation.  It was flat enough for everyone to park their trailers and set their tents on level desert pavement, as it is called.  We had a spectacular view of the mountains, and the evening sunsets were everything I had hoped they would be.  On the desert the sunsets are almost always spectacular, and this trip was no disappointment. 

A few highlights from the trip:

Probably the moment everyone will remember the most is when a 6′ Western Diamondback rattlesnake wandered into camp and right between the legs of Mary, one of our guests. 

Rattler in Camp

Good thing he wasnt hungry I guess.  If it had been up to me, it would have been dinner and a hatband, but ultimately we agreed to just move him a few hundred yards from camp.  He must’ve read my mind because he stayed away the rest of the trip!

Another highlight were the 4WD trail-rides that we took on the old mining roads, winding our way up, over and around the mountains to view some great old ghost gold mines, the old stone cabins of 19th century French miners, and a beautiful looking Big Horn Sheep was watched us pass by from a ridge high above the road.

Saturday nights Potluck dinner was fantastic, with everyone providing delicious food prepared in camp.  My favorite was the dutch-oven stew with biscuits cooked right on top of the stew.  We also had brats, salad, even pies, all served in camp right around sunset.  It was a perfect way to cap off a great trip.

My favorite memory is always the smiles and great comments we recieve from our guest.  Our goal is to design backcountry trips that are unique and unlike the regular camping rally’s in crowded campgrounds.  We want to show our guests how vast the west really is, how much open land there is to explore, and how much history there is to discover by simply getting off the beaten path.

One comment from a guest who came from Michigan really stuck with me.  He said that, to him, the trip was “like one of life’s little nuggets, that if you don’t bend over to pick it up, you’ll never know what you missed.”  Thats what I’m talking about.  I love the outdoors, I love the desert, and I love sharing my passion for history with our guests, with the hope of adding a new dimension to their experience.

Desert weather is always unpredictable, with heat and wind being just a part of the experience.  This time the temperature jumped from the lo-80’s of the previous week, to

ca. 1900 Mining Ruins

the mid-90’s for the 4 days we were there, and then of course dropping back down into the lo-80’s on the day we left.  But no one seemed to mind the daytime heat too much – we kept busy during the days and that really helped.  But the evenings – they were spectacular!  Perfect temps, light gentle breezes, and no moon which made for some really great star-gazing.  Being that far out the night sky is usually brilliant, and the Milky Way was like a streak of white across the sky.

We really couldnt have asked for better weather or nicer folks this time.  It is always great to meet, and get to know new folks on every trip, and after sharing such an experience folks seem to develop a special bond.  Thanks to all our guests who joined in and help make the experience enjoyable for everyone.  Sharing all of this with you is the little nugget that I pick up on every trip we take.

If you would like to read more about our backcountry trip, watch the August and September issues of Camping Life Magazine.  We were privledged to have one of their writers along on this trip, and he has written a story about it that will appear in the publication very soon.

Twenty Five Years Too Late

Gila Trail Stage Stop ca. 1880's

It was sometime during the summer of 1986 that the idea of exploring old west ghost towns first entered my mind.  I was visiting the store of a friend who sold old west and other historical memorabilia.  It was like a museum with everything for sale, although I never could afford to buy the kind of things he sold in those days. 

As we were talking about our common interests in history and the outdoors, he mentioned that occasionally he would take a trip over to Arizona or Nevada to explore and photograph ghost towns.  I was instantly intrigued, it had never really occurred to me that there may still be old, abandoned towns that hark back to the pioneer days.  How fascinating, I thought.  He showed me a photo album full of images of various abandoned towns and I knew I was going ghost town hunting.

Jump forward to 1990.  After a few years of locating, exploring and camping in some of the more accessible ghost towns, a friend and I are starting to search a little deeper into the backcountry for the more hidden, and less vandalized sites.  There really are some amazing sites out there if you are willing to push your skills, and your vehicle beyond your comfort zone.  I’ve repaired many flat tires, and hiked out for assistance on more than one occasion.  For me that is half the fun.  I enjoy the challenge and the risk.  As with most things, being prepared is the key.

While passing through the remote mountain town of Crown King, AZ., nestled atop the Bradshaw Mountains west of the Verde River, we stopped to talk with a Forest Ranger who was parked next to the General Store.  He looked like a veteran, someone who might know this range and some of its history.  We talked about mining, railroads, ghost towns and history.  He had been a ranger in the Crown King district for over 40 years.  I think he could tell we were genuinely interested in the history of these sites, and not just artifact collectors or worse, vandals.

After awhile he just kinda shook his head and said “sorry fellas, but I think you’re 25 years too late to find what you’re looking for.”  He then proceeded to tell us a story about how in 1976 they caught two vandals using their truck winch to pull down the top story of the old hotel in the ghost town of Oro Belle, just to see how strong their winch was.  At that time there were no laws against such actions, and so there was nothing they could do.

So what time and weather hadn’t destroyed. people had.  But still I thought, there had to be something left to show what had happened in these pioneer boom towns.  So we persisted in looking anyhow, and oftentimes were rewarded with more than we expected.

Most of whats left are the scars on the land from the mining and railroads that brought these towns into existence in the first place.  Usually some “jackass” prospector (miners who carried their gear on a donkey and walked the hills in search of gold) would locate a placer deposit or a vein of gold, silver, lead, copper or a combination thereof.  If the claim proved valuable, it didn’t talk long before the rush was on.  Soon the hills were crawling with prospectors.  Next came the promoters, hopefully the investors, and before anyone knew it they had a booming town growing up around the mines.  When the mine deliveries became large enough, some enterprising railroad promoter would build a line to the mines or mill, and then the boom was really on.

But as often was the case, as soon as the veins pinched out, or the mines flooded, or the value of gold or silver dropped, the mines shut down, and the town slowly died.  Oftentimes in the desert, where milled wood was scarce, buildings would be dismantled, and re-built in the next boom town.  Once the buildings were gone, all that was left were the glory holes, railroad grades, and eroding adobe buildings and foundations.  But there is more.  Find the old trash dumps, and you can find wonderful old lead-glass bottles that have turned aqua or blue over the years.  Broken tools, dishes, even old boots.  All garbage to be sure, but an interesting glimpse at the life and times of that area.   Find the old cemetery – every old town had one, oftentimes referred to Boot Hill – and you find a very human connection to the struggles of life on the frontier. 

Nevada Pioneer Grave

When you see the grave of a little girl who only lived for 1 month, you realize how difficult life really was back then, in that very spot.

Arizona Infant Grave

Nowadays there isn’t much left to see of the really old pioneer towns.  But they are still there, or at least the scars still are.  And when you do stumble across some reminder of the old days, the pioneer days, and if you can imagine in your minds-eye the events that may have occurred there, you can, for a moment, leave the modern world behind and feel the silence telling a story of a time gone by.

In Need of Camping

We are excited about our upcoming guided trip to Arizona at the end of March, so far we have over 30 folks registered and are sure to have more before we depart. But lately its been nose-to-the-grindstone getting through the slow season, and ramping up for spring.

So far the winter has been pretty mild here in San Diego, so theres no need to wait another 5 weeks to get out and camp. So its gonna be one of those spur of the moment things, throw the gear in the truck and head out to a favorite backcountry spot were there is no noise and no people.

Its the only way we know to develop new and useful gear. Designing camping gear in the boardroom just doesnt cut it. And besides, every trip is a gear testing trip, which sure keeps the ideas coming.   And it gives us a great excuse to camp as often as possible!

What’s yours?

Hope everyone has a good, outdoors weekend!