Creating a Family of Explorers
My two kids and I are here to tell you that families that explore outside together have more fun. If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you might already have an inkling that this might be true for you, and possibly that’s why you’re a part of the Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation family like we are. I joined my first walk in 2017, joined the board last year and was elected president of the board quite recently. My kids have SO many feelings about all of this. Ha!
I have a lot of fun with my kids. Not Instagram fun. Actual fun. Dirt under the fingernails and likely in the shirt fun. Rocks shoved in pockets fun. Sweaty fists gripping prickly bouquets of desert weeds fun. Sand in the shoes fun. Burrs and goatheads and Russian thistles embedded in dog fur fun. We get dirty. We get sweaty. We get lost. We identify plants. We get lost again. We get hot and tired and crabby and have some snacks and a break and a laugh and recover our good natures and go on.
We logged 71 miles for the Trails Challenge in 2021, and those were just the times I remembered to record our hike with my trails app. We camp for birthdays and hike on weekends, sometimes to lakes we’ve never seen and generally without another human around for miles. My kids LOVE to be outside together, exploring the Great Basin and beyond, so we always make time.
In 2020, we went outside. My kids were little, 8 and 4, and we were not what you would call adventurous or outdoorsy. But we started to hike on Peavine every day, looking for flowers, watching the tent caterpillars hatching and growing and transforming into moths. We saw snakes and spiders and insects and very few clouds. We looked for signs of change as we wandered the same path doggedly every day.
That summer, we went camping for the first time, ever. Then we went again, and again, and again. We got super dirty. We got better at setting up the tent. We really started to notice patterns in wildflowers and birds. And we were SO happy doing it.
In the fall as the fires subsided at long last and the weather turned, we learned how to disc golf. We explored all the local courses, just the three of us, with a few hand-me-down discs and an app. (Yes, there’s an app for that). My daughter went from a 2-foot throw to a 10 just because we were out there throwing so many discs so many times. And when she got bored, she would collect stuff (that we diligently left in the parking lot every time) or climb rocks.
We have been planning our life around exploring outside together ever since. We scout campsites and book in January for the coming year then invite friends to join us, and we go whether they join us or not. We map out road trips that hit disc golf courses we want to play and we play them and generally make a new friend. We always have at least 4 hikes waiting in our “NEXT UP” list, adding to the list of more than 50 hikes we’ve done in the last 3 years (few of our friends can keep up with us, yet!). We take advantage of our local parks and watch birds and deer at Oxbow, hike at Galena, look at old buildings at Bartley, wander the arboretum at Rancho, slip into the river at Mayberry or Dorostkar, play with friends at Lazy 5 under the trees, climb rocks and throw discs at Sun Valley Regional.
This last weekend, I had some yard work I wanted to get to before the weather turned too warm (I made a commitment to myself to not turn on the water, to rip out my irrigation, and return my yard to Peavine-standard as much as possible). I was SO happy to make progress on the yard for a few days. But by Sunday evening, my kids were fraying at the edges. “Mom, we didn’t really DO anything this weekend.” From my child who does not complain about anything really ever. Hmm. I had a think. “We did not,” I answered. And apologized. Turns out, he wanted to disc golf, or play catch at the park, or go for a hike, or take the dogs out, or find a creek. With me and his sister. On a lovely sunny weekend. And honestly, I can’t blame him. We made a plan for the following weekend. To go outside, together, and explore.
And luckily for us, the 16th is a Junior Naturalist day of service at Teglia’s Paradise Park, so that’s where we will start. How about you? What will you explore together this weekend?
About the Author:
Katie Palani is the current board president for Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation. She went to a Discover Your Parks Walk in 2017 at the former (future) Sierra Vista Park site to see about a local bike park, and hasn't looked back since. Katie teaches 2nd grade at Veterans Memorial while raising her two sweet kids, Rowan and Holly, with the help of many great friends here in the Truckee Meadows. She loves to hike, disc golf, camp, kayak, ski and swim in the Great Basin and beyond, most often with the kids and sometimes with the rescue dogs (the dogs don't ski yet, but they love the kayak).