The other night I escaped our still-germy house and made it to our local showing of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. As always, I left feeling excited and energized about getting outside and trying something new. One of the short films we saw was a biopic by Sender Films about 9-year-old Ashima Shiraishi, a two-time American Bouldering Series junior national champion from New York City, and her coach Obe Carrion. Ashima is a gifted climber who astounds everyone who watches her. At one point in the film, Ashima travels to Heuco Tanks, Texas, a bouldering hotspot, and manages to climb a V11. The focus with which she tackles the problem stunned me and my fellow moviegoers. At just over four feet tall, she had to muster incredible creativity to think her way around problems that others managed to solve with a long reach or a dynamic move. This girl is powerful and inspiring. The clip above shows some of her most recent ABS competition.
Parental Advisory: In the first few seconds of this film there is a quick photo still of a young Obe flipping off the camera and the narration has a swear or two. If you want to show this video to your own young climber, just jump ahead to the 25 second mark.
Every other week, Everyday Wild will post a review of a book related to wilderness adventure, outdoor life or exploring the wild with children. Reviews will highlight books for both kids and adults, and will focus on finding and sharing those books that are particularly useful or inspirational to families looking to be more connected with the wild.
“If you go owling you have to be quiet and make your own heat.”
I decided to begin this series of book reviews with one of my favorite classic books for children: Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen. Those of you who read my first post about watching a porcupine with my father will understand why this book resonates so strongly with me.
Jane Yolen spins a carefully crafted tale of a family rite-of-passage. The narrator , a small girl, is finally old enough to go out owling with her father. “Long past her bedtime,” she bundles up into winter clothing that hides all but her eyes, and follows her father through the deep snow and out into the woods. She understands the ephemeral nature of wild animals from the stories of her older siblings, “My brothers say sometimes there’s an owl and sometimes there isn’t”. It’s a beautiful story told in the softly lyrical language that Jane Yolen is known for.
When I finish reading this story, I am left with a yearning desire to go into the woods in search of owls; I imagine most children will be too, and this makes it a perfect tie-in for a nightime walking adventure, particularly in winter. Grab a flashlight and some snowshoes, and tramp along a winter path. Be careful to take the time to be still, and perhaps you will be lucky enough to hear an owl calling to you from deep in the woods.
Kids on a Wire from World Report Viewfinder on Vimeo.
So, I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus due to the birth of our baby boy, Liam, who arrived in early July. It’s been a crazy 5 weeks, but we are now settling into a routine that, happily, includes more writing time for Mom. We’ve been on a few adventures already, including some short hikes and trips to the beach. The Kid is pretty mellow as long as he has access to milk whenever and wherever he feels like it, and he has been falling asleep in his carrier on most of our little treks. Next weekend, we are heading out on our first camping trip as a family, and I’ll post about how we are preparing for this next big step.
In the meantime, I came across this reminder of how much we take for granted in the west. The Nepalese kids in this video travel for hours each day in order to go to school, and in the process must cross a dangerous river on a shoddy zipline. I have such respect and awe for the strength of their desire to learn and improve their own lives.
Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
In what he described as a “monumental undertaking”, Aaron Teasdale, a Montana based writer-photographer, took his two young sons on a 6-week mountain bike backpacking expedition from Glacier National Park in Montana, to Banff National Park in Canada. Teasdale and his sons rode a massive triple-seater mountain bike, which allowed the two smaller boys to keep up with their father, but caused them to have to invent some tricky bike maneuvers to get over the many fallen trees that blocked the rough trail they were following. His wife Jaqueline accompanied them and towed along a BOB trailer that contained much of their gear and food. Check out these links below to follow his journey and see pictures of a VERY cool family-style mountain bike.
How We Did It
Aaron Teasdale: Weblog
A mating pair of horseshoe crabs heads into deeper waters. Sean Donohue©2011
Around the full and new moons in May and June, a strange phenomenon occurs all up and down the Atlantic Shores of the US: the spawning of the horseshoe crabs. Sean and I first discovered this event about 8 years ago when we set off on an evening paddle to watch the full moon rise over a nearby bay. As we paddled close to shore, we noticed piles of horseshoe crabs in the shallows and along the beach. On closer inspection, we realized they were mating, and thus began our fascination with these strange prehistoric animals. Where we go we’ll often see a dozen or two mating pairs in a single trip, but there are places where the crabs are more abundant, and hundreds of pairs pile up on the beach.
Horseshoe crabs look ancient, and in fact their origins predate most species on the planet. These living fossils are covered in spiny body armor and have a long, spike-like tail that they use for righting themselves if they become flipped upside-down. During Mating, the male clings to the females back, and they stay linked for hours. The female will then dig a hole in sand or mud, and the male will fertilize the 60-120,000 eggs as she lays them. These eggs are an important food for at least 11 species of migratory shorebirds, as well as many other small shore animals. After mating, the male and female separate, and head off into deeper waters.
The mating of the horseshoe crabs is a great natural event to look for with kids. The crabs themselves are fascinating with their spiny armour and long spiked tail, and the presence of so many in one place can be awe-inspiring. Add in some moonlight and an expedition that involves flashlights, and the event becomes even more fun. It’s also a great chance to show kids how to observe nature without touching (and potentially disturbing a special moment for the crabs). If you are doing nature journaling with your kids, this is an exciting observation to write about.
If you want to find popular spawning locations near you, the University of Delaware’s Horseshoe Crab Spawning Website has a great page with an interactive map that will help you plan your trip. I particularly like their tip about using a red filter on flashlights and camera flashes when doing night observations to avoid blinding the animals for an entire tidal cycle.
I’ve always been a bit of an insomniac, but with this pregnancy I’ve often found myself up late at night, wandering around the thicket of the interwebs. Among other research, I’ve been searching for examples of familes who have managed to maintain an adventurous lifestyle with their children. One of the first family adventures I came across is the tale of Ben and Kami Crawford, who backpacked the 93 mile Wonderland Trail with their 4 children ages 2,4,6 and 8. It took them 12 days to hike the trail, which loops around the base of Mt. Ranier, during which time they gained and lost around 20,000 feet in elevation. There are a few hairy moments; morale flagged during the constant rain mid-trip, a few dicey suspension bridge crossings had me squirming a little, and I can’t help but think about what I would do differently in terms of preparedness for extreme conditions. But overall, they had a great trip and I find it heartening to see an example that negates all the comments I’ve been getting about how we’ll never be able to leave the house again after we have kids. You can watch all 9 narrated slideshows of their trip here.
I’m a big fan of nature documentaries in general, and BBC Nature productions in particular, so was excited when I stumbled across this clip from the new BBC series Human Planet. The clip shows very young kids in Venezuela foraging for tarantulas to grill up for snacks. Of course, these tarantulas are among the most poisonous spiders in the world, with long fangs and stiff body hairs that cause an itchy rash when they come in contact with skin. There are no adults present during the scene, and it is clear that these kids are experienced spider hunters who know the jungle landscape like an old friend.
A lot of people I’ve shown this clip to are horrified that these kids are allowed to “run wild”, or express pity that they don’t have the levels of education and protection that kids in western society have. Very few make the connection between how capable these kids are and how they were raised to become so independant. As I’ve mentioned before, I think it’s important to take away the idea that kids “norm” to what their upbringing allows them. A child who is taught how to survive in the jungle from an early age will become an expert at it. Place that same child in a city, and that confidence may disappear. At the same time, if we give our kids the freedom to explore the natural world around us, along with some instruction about the dangers of that world and how to avoid them, then they will “norm” to it, and become fluent in the language of their own environment. If we overprotect them and don’t give them the chance to develop critical leadership and independance skills, they will “norm” to a lifestyle where they aren’t able to make important decisions for themselves. I’m not saying encourage your children to play with poisonous spiders; maybe start with something smaller, like what’s in the backyard, or a local tidepool, or on the hiking trail. Learn together what is safe, and what is not, and let the kids lead us for a while…
Click on the picture to check out the rest of Human Planet.