Monday, July 8, 2013

hikes with kids: horse thief butte, washington

 I am always on a mission to find the best nature spots for us as a family. During my pre-kid life, I spent much of my time hiking and backpacking, swimming in mountain lakes and hot springs. Now that I have children, I want their childhood to be filled with the magic of nature. I want them to know the plants and trees, to know what is edible and what is not. I want them to feel at home and unafraid when they are in the wilderness.

I find that as a family when we are out in the woods, everything is more peaceful amongst us. There aren't any squabbles or whining, the kids are in their element and the noise amongst us dissipates. There is mostly quiet, laughter, and engaged play. And we are all able to focus on each other and the land around us; there isn't any clean-up to be done, or errands to run, or computers to check.

That being said, not every awesome hiking spot or river swim is great for the kiddos. Some have super steep drop-offs (really, most hikes in the Colombia Gorge) or currents that are way too swift, and it is not relaxing for me and they don't get the chance to be free and explore by themselves. 

So when we find a spot that works for everyone, it is a keeper and we return often. We often drive out east when incessant grey and drizzle of spring here in the northwest has got us craving sunshine. We were heading out towards Maryhill, Washington to go to the Columbia Hills State Park, but it ended up being closed so we decided to drive to the other side of Horsethief Lake and go on a hike at Horsethief Butte. It's about an hour and a half east (and a little north) of Portland. It was so awesome and everyone had a great time. There was lots of sunshine and the terrain was super desert-y and dry (there are rattlesnakes there, although we didn't see any).

We hiked part of the way around the Butte (but we then detoured by steep drop-offs so we headed to the other side of the bluff). It was a rock scrambler's dream! I had the baby in the Ergo and I felt completely comfortable letting Uzi (who is 5) climb around on his own. He is a relatively cautious kid and he was always within at eyesight, if not reach. All the steep drop-offs have pretty tall ledges so it would be pretty difficult for a kid to fall.  Uzi had so much fun climbing the rocks with Josh- we all did. I feel like jumping around and climbing up rocks is just one of those extremely fun physical activities that I loved as a child and still love as an adult.  I hadn't found a great spot for kids to rock scramble near Portland until we went on this hike. The views were incredible and the landscape was so different from our wet, forested city. This will definitely be a place we will return to again, especially in the late winter or spring.

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