Environment & Nature

Adopt a Bird: Helping the International Bird Rescue Save More

Adopt a Bird: Helping the International Bird Rescue Save More

One of the many things I'm trying to teach my children is to take a moment to be quiet and observe their surroundings when we are outdoors.  They have discovered the wonderful world of birds.  The International Bird Rescue is a dedicated organization that helps saves birds and one way you can help is by adopting a bird. 

Cleaning Up Limantour Beach ~ National Trails Day

From the mountains to the oceans, there's something I usually see on the trail that I really don't like...trash.  Everything in nature is interconnected so when someone leaves a piece of trash in the California Sierra Mountains at some point rain, creeks and rivers will sweep it to the ocean.  We have made it a habit to pick up trash when we are hiking, so on National Trails Day we decided to volunteer for a beach clean up!

National Trails Day was founded by the American Hiking Society in the late 1980's to celebrate America's magnificent Trails System. During the first Saturday of every June, many events are organized such clean ups, hiking, bird watching, biking, trail restoration and much more.  Since we always do everything as a "familia", I was happy to find out that even my toddlers could participate at beach clean up which was being hosted by the National Park Service and Point Reyes National Seashore Association at Limantour Beach on National Trails Day.

At first sight, Limantour Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore looked very clean and I was somewhat disappointed that maybe we were not going to be able to find much to clean up but we were wrong.  Our family alone found a brick, lots of shotgun shells, Styrofoam pieces, cigarettes, hair barrettes, bottle caps, straws, razors, Easter Basket plastic grass and more trash that we couldn't identify.  Combined all 23 beach volunteers picked up over 900 pounds of beach trash which included a large fishing net and a 20 foot plastic beam that weighed over 600 pounds.  We actually had a break and snacks on the plastic beam and we wondered "How in the world did THIS get here?!"

For more photos of the Limantour Beach clean up and trail restoration please click HERE.

Chasqui Mom Last Thoughts...

We enjoy the outdoors quite often by hiking, riding, camping and backpacking, but it was fantastic to volunteer our time and enjoy the outdoors by making it a cleaner world.  My children might not remember this specific event at Limantour Beach but they were left with a lasting impression that trash belongs in a trashcan.  Every time we are out and about and they see trash we pick it up, whether it's on the trail or on a neighborhood walk.  

This year I have had the honor of joining the American Hiking Society Board of Directors and I look forward to serving America's hikers in the following years.  Jennifer Chambers, the Chair of the American Hiking Society Board of Directors is also a outdoor family blogger at Hiking Along and also had a great clean up at Northwood Chesapeake Bay Trail.

Head on over to Hiking Along and read about "Celebrate Trails?"  A few of my fellow outdoor family bloggers enjoyed National Trails Day by Hiking!!

Photo courtesy of  Tubbs Snowshoes  -  Moosefish  kids!!

Photo courtesy of Tubbs Snowshoes - Moosefish kids!!

Photo Courtesy of Wild Tales of

Photo Courtesy of Wild Tales of

  • Moosefish - John Soltys sand his family joined Tubbs Snowshoes on a hike to Serene Lake in Washington! Oh the joys of hiking with kids and encountering different people on the trail. [Picture above]
  • Wild Tales of - Kate and her family headed out to Seward Park located in Seattle on Lake Washington.  It's always great to hit the trail as a family including our pets!
  • On The Beaten Path - Even though Jill and her family are in Canada, she wanted to feature The Sunset Coast Trail, !

How and where did you celebrate National Trails Day?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Snake Encounters on the Trail with Kids

On our most recent family backpacking adventure at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, my family had two encounters with snakes.  Prior to heading out on the trail, the ranger showed our family the difference between a rattlesnake and gopher snake at the visitor center.  My children were immediately terrified due to all the noise the rattlesnake was making, but they slowly came in closer to the cages for a better look.

Selfie with a Rattlesnake

Hiking with kids slows down everything so ALL my snake encounters have been with my children.  I never saw snakes before we had children, not because they weren't there but because we probably hiked right past them and never saw them.  All our past snake encounters have been at a safe distance and since our children were small, they were high in their carriers.  FYI, no one got hurt during our last encounter except that I aged about 10 years from the scare.

1st Encounter - Rattlesnake: What Happened?
A mile into our first backpacking trip of the year, as were reached the picnic area of the park we took a little spur trail that crossed into some empty horse corrals.  My 4 year old son is the designated  "gate opener", so he opened the gate so the family could walk in.  Not more than five feet passed the gate, was a rattlesnake protecting a squirrel that it had just killed but my husband nor I saw it.

The victim....

As my son ran to catch up to my husband (three feet away from the rattlesnake), he suddenly saw and heard the rattlesnake and immediately turn around and started running, crying and screaming.  It was a DEATH scream.

I immediately got tunnel vision and all I could only see was my little boy running from a coiled rattlesnake ready to strike.

I grabbed my son, almost fell over as I dragged him to a safe distance, while my husband tried to catch his balance and run away with about 70 lbs on his back.  My husband's pack was 43 lbs alone, but our daughter was in the carrier during the rattlesnake encounter which made him very off balance.

We quickly made it over to the asphalt and headed to the picnic tables for a long break.  We explained to the kids that they did a great job protecting themselves and that the rattlesnake was probably more scared of us.  Our son was a little more shaken up than my daughter....she actually said "The rattlesnake is so cute!".

Out of mere morbid curiosity, I went back (by myself on the asphalt) to the scene of the crime to see if I could see the rattlesnake but all I found was a dead squirrel waiting to be eaten by the rattlesnake.  My mind was playing tricks on me and all the sticks looked like snakes near the squirrel, so I went back to the picnic tables.

2nd Encounter - Gopher Snake: What Happened?
As we reached the second mile, my son walked towards the gate to open it and my husband calmly said, "Snake".  This time my son did not scream but stepped back quickly and I immediately identified it as a Gopher Snake, which my son said "Mommy THAT one is not a poisonous one!!" and smiled.

We watched it for a few minutes, talked about the Gopher Snake and waited patiently until it slithered away into the grass.  We congratulated the kids again for being calm and careful on our second snake encountered and continued on with our trek.

A Few Learning Points
Of course these aren't the only things to do to protect against snakes, but more of "What I Learned" from our double snake encounter:
  • Talk to your kids about snakes and other wildlife BEFORE heading outdoors.
  • Learn about the types of snakes that are in your area and teach your kids how to identify them as well.
  • If you have a "scary" snake experience, talk about the incident later when your kids are calm.
  • Hiking "Sandwich" Order: Adult - Children - Adult.  To protect children from snakes and other wildlife.
  • Check out "Snake Safety While Hiking" by Walk Simply, about hiking with kids and snake encounters. 

Please refer to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife "Rattlesnakes in California" for more information on protecting yourself and what to do if someone gets bitten.  Also please educate yourself about the snakes in your area.

Snakes are a part of nature both in the outdoors and our urban areas.  There is a fear factor in snakes but that fear is diminished as we learn that they are part of the Nature-s Cycle of Life.

Have you ever had a snake encounter with your kids?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Book Review: Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle by Jennifer Chambers

My soul hurt when I walked along the magnificent Amazon River in Peru and saw the shores littered with bottles, bags and other trash.  I turned to my husband and said "How can this be? This is THE Amazon River..."  My cousin, an elementary teacher in the Amazons, responded with "People just don't care..."

Why don't people care? That's something I wondered for a long time.  As a child, I vividly remember watching a video segment on saving ocean wildlife.  I remember seeing ducks covered in oil, fish caught in plastic bags and a beautiful turtle stuck in a 6-pack plastic ring, which they said would have never happened if the ring would have been cut into small pieces and recycled. Those images have stayed with me and 25 years later I'm still cutting up the 6-pack plastic rings into tiny pieces before recycling them.

"Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle" by Jennifer Chambers is a wonderful children's book which follows the life of a water bottle named "Scout" that was dropped into the street, goes down the drains and into the ocean.  Scout encounters many animals and insects along the creeks and rivers of Washington DC.  All the animals share their stories with Scout about how their lives are affected by the trash that pollutes their homes.  Not only are Scout's adventures into Chesapeake Bay entertaining but it is also very educational and eye opening to children.  The Watershed Heros, Alima and her mother, are great examples that I could show my children of how we could help the environment.

What did my toddlers love about this book?
  • Illustrations ~ My toddlers loved the illustrations by Jesse Auth.  Very life-like and creatively simple, all the animals were a big hit in this household especially the turtle!
  • The Ocean ~ It is very close to their hearts! My children absolutely love rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds and especially the ocean.  Reading about an adventure on any waterway is always fun for my children!
  • Conflict-Resolution ~ I've noticed that around the age of two my toddlers are able to understand the concept of conflict-resolution and don't like it when their favorite characters, in this case the Scout and the animals, are in trouble.  My daughter said "It's scary" when the turtle was choking on the bag but I was able to continue reading about how Scout helped the turtle, which was a great teaching opportunity.

What did I love about this book?
  • Educational ~ This book is not just a story but educational to children AND adults!  There were a few terms that I was not familiar within the story, but thankfully there is a Glossary of Terms in the back of the book.  I also knew that plastic could be recycled but for some reason I never really understood that plastic never goes away.  Now I know!
  • Resourceful ~ There is a list of organizations and websites such as the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Conservancy and many more environmental non-profit organizations that can provide more information on how to help.  Chambers also has a list of "10 Tips to Reduce the Use of Disposable Plastics".
  • Worthy Cause ~ 100% of the profits of "Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle" goes to support the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the Surfrider Foundation Rise Above Plastics program.  How great is that!
  • Readable for all ages ~ The reading comprehension might be a little above toddler level but I was able to quickly summarize the story appropriate for my toddlers.  It will be a book that will grow with my children.

What can YOU do to help?
  • Clean Up!  Any time you leave your house and see trash/plastics/cans on the street, pick it up.  It would be great if we could all volunteer for a coastal clean up once or twice a year but taking little steps every day like picking up a bottle on the street will stop stories like "Scout" from ever happening.  I highly recommend finding an regional organization to do a coastal/riverside cleanup in your area. Also, being a hiking family we always have our eyes open for trash on the trail that could be picked up! In this case, a Mylar balloon was on a hillside that could have easily been washed away in the creeks.  That's my little boy hiking up the hill to get the balloon, clean up time isn't just for toys at home! 
  • Use Reusable Bags ~ I'm very proud that my county has enacted a ban on plastic grocery bags.  It might take getting used to taking your own bags to the grocery store but it really does make a difference! My city looks cleaner already and knowing that there are less and less bags in the environment makes me happy!
  • Share About "Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle" ~ Share this post on social media, You Tube video, tell someone about the Scout's story, purchase a few books and give them as gifts to children and parents.  The more people know about what happens in our waterways the better our environment will be. (Paperback: $7.99 & E-Book: $6.99 - 44 pages)

Chasqui Mom Last Thoughts...

Going back to my original question, I believe people do not care because they do not see the consequences of their actions.  One water bottle might not seem like a lot but thousands of them end up on the shores, create "plastic islands" in the ocean and end up hurting wildlife in and out of the ocean.  One of the many responsibilities of being parents is teaching our future generations to take care of our "Sachamama" or Mother Earth which includes our waterways.  Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle is a great book to ignite the love of taking care of our Earth in our children.  Everything is interconnected from San Francisco Bay to the Chesapeake Bay to the Amazon River in South America, let's work together to make our watersheds cleaner!

What will you do to help your near by watershed?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Related Posts and Links
  1.  Jennifer Chambers blog and website: Hiking Along and "Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle"
  2. Chesapeake Bay Trust
  3. Surfrider Foundation

Jennifer Chambers generously provided this book for the purposes of a review. As always these are my true and honest opinions.

Jennifer Chambers is a middle school Science teacher, environmental educator, author of two books, outdoor blogger and owner of Hiking Along LLC.  Her nature playscape is Washington DC where she loves to hike with her two kids.