It’s no secret. Trees are my favorite. Nature and the outdoors are my jam, but trees hold the wooden key to my heart. Strong, silent, and crucial to life-sustaining oxygen, like Richard Power’s wrote, ““This is not our world with trees in it. It’s a world of trees, where humans have just arrived.”
Sylvan nuptials aside, we all stop and take notice of these stoic sentinels during their colorful fall transformations, when we’re seeking the summer shade, and maybe even during their spring rebirth.
But it’s during stick season, that trees are often overlooked. When we slow down and take notice, we can discover the subtle changes of the dormant dendrites as they branch out under the winter sky, quiet, lying in wait for the earth’s axis to tilt towards the sun.
This week we’re celebrating the trees of winter, taking time to notice the typically overlooked. This observation requires you to up your perception from low-res to high, to perceive things that may have been invisible to us, and to “break bud” with our tree friends, as we all wait for the promise of spring.
I’ve never known anyone yet who doesn’t suffer a certain restlessness when autumn rolls around… We’re all eight years old again and anything is possible.
As the leaves drop and the temperatures follow, keeping up interest and excitement in getting outdoors can pose a challenge. Check out this list of fall activities that might just be the shake-up you and your family need.
Fall Colors Hike – Head outside and see if you can find a leaf in every color of the rainbow. Grab some paint samples from the hardware store and carry them along to match the hues!
Go for a bike hike! Take your bicycle along on the adventure! Don’t be afraid to walk or leave it at the side of the road or trail to explore.
Hit up a local apple orchard, corn maze, or pumpkin patch for an outdoor change of scenery.
Go for a costume hike! Dress up in your favorite Halloween gear and hit the trails!
Leaf ID Scavenger Hunt. Bring along this printable guide or collect what you find and ID at home. Try your hand at leaf rubbing.
Go for a full moon hike. Bundle up and don’t forget the flashlights and glow sticks.
Fall Scavenger Hunt – Berkshire Family Hikes nature boards are a great option for fall hiking! Slide in the fall scavenger hunt insert or take it along for leaf collecting!
Bat Hunt – Go out at dusk and look to the skies for bat activity. Collect twigs and leaves to make this adorable bat craft from Little Pine Learners.
Puddle Jumping excursion – Gear up and jump in some autumn rain puddles. Come home and warm up with a mug of spiced apple cider or egg nog.
Potion Hike – Go on a hike with the intention of collecting ingredients for a special potion! Give your mini witch or wizard the freedom to collect and brew a spooky elixir.
Spider Web Hunt – As the days get shorter and the nights longer, another sign of fall is bigger and bigger spiderwebs popping up laced with morning dew drops. Here’s how to preserve the webs you find, from Inner Child Fun.
Birds and wasps have begun to abandon their nests and hives. Now visible in the bare trees, go out and spot or photograph some or collect for your at-home nature table.
Need an indoor activity? Some libraries are starting to open back up and it can make for a nice transition back into the day-to-day public. Grab some fall books and sit outside under your favorite tree to read. Here’s a list of some of our favorite fall reads.
Once springtime hits and the first flutters of mild weather breeze in, we’re all ready to get outside after a long, dreary winter. But with the spring thaw comes the onslaught of a nuisance of a different kind, the devil’s parasite – yup. The tick.
But as the wise old Clark Sisters once said, “Don’t let the Devil get ya down.”
In order to hike AND avoid ticks, it’s necessary to take some precautions. No matter how much you protect yourself, there’s always a chance you’ll still get bitten. So take ticks seriously, and protect yourself and your family from illness by following these simple, yet important steps:
Ounce of Prevention / Pound of Cure
Suit up, we’re going in! You know the drill – long socks (tuck ’em in Urkle), light colored clothing, PANTS. Typically we spray the squad down before we get in the car (we prefer to marinate in citronella) and carry along for mid-hike applications. Lately we’ve been using bug spray with 20% picaridin as opposed to a DEET based spray. If you’re sweet on DEET – NEAT! Spritz away. Maybe you like to go au naturale with lemon eucalyptus oil, in that case – mist me baby! Whatever you’re partial to – put that shit on and ride. If you’re looking for some serious armor, grab a pair of permethrin coated gaiters. Check out the Gear page for some products we use when we hit the trail.
Danger! Been So Long…
During the spring months and early summer, ticks are in their early growth stage. This means they are tinier, diseased, and even more demonic. Any hot day following a colder one is a boon for these blood fiends as they emerge hungrier than ever. *gags* The same is true for uncharacteristically warm days in the fall (second summer). Maybe it’s best to avoid hiking on these kinda days? Maybe you’re a thrill seeker.
Stay On Target!
One of the 7 principles of Leave No Trace ethics is to travel ON the trails. Not only is the key for avoiding excessive damage to our natural communities but it works twofold as a way to steer clear of any dark passengers. Stay the course. Follow the path. Avoid the long grass. Kids up the ante because they’re unpredictable balls of chaos that insist on going everywhere you wish they’d steer clear of. Do your best. Or buy a leash.
Check Up On It
Remember the movie Monsters Inc.? And the slug-like hag named Roz who was constantly on poor one-eyed Mike’s ass? I like to pretend I’m the Roz of the forest and the ticks are all micro-Mike’s who don’t turn in their paperwork on time. I am constantly scanning myself and the kids for little specks. They stop and I’m peeling back their ears. We have a snack and I’m lint rolling ankles. I stay vigilant. Be the Roz. “Always watching Wazowski. Always watching. Always.”
Deliver the Death Knell
We do a thorough check at the end of our hike before anyone gets in the car (a 2nd shout out to lint rollers!). When we get home everyone undresses on the porch – ticks trump indecency – and everyone heads in for a rinse in the shower. I take my life in my hands (a mother’s sacrifice amirite?) and gather all the clothes and head for the laundry room. If you think I’m dumping this toxic mass into the washer, “EEERRT!” WRONG. Open up that dryer and ring the funeral bells. Did you know ticks can actually survive a wash cycle? Even hot water (more proof they’re Beelzebub’s handiwork) ! But it’s
Here you are, scratching an itch and you feel a new mole you never noticed before…and then it hits you…you’ve been BITTEN! If it were me, I’d hop in a dumpster and light it on fire (don’t do this). Nah, don’t panic. Throw on some Coldplay and follow these steps:
Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Cya Suckaaa.
For more information on tick prevention, removal, and identification and more, check out
And if you’re struggling with ticks in your yard at home, but using chemicals to treat the problem is just not for you, check out this list of tick-fighting plants you can put in your own backyard!
Sometimes keeping spirits up and minds occupied is more exhausting than the actual hiking! These games and activities will help you and your children stay engaged and interested out on the trail. Keep scrolling for all 50.
50 Things To Do On The Trail
Follow the leader – Always a classic, use your imagination to spice it up!
Appoint “Park Rangers” to help keep trail clear and safe.
Create a scavenger hunt list – this can be done on the fly with general nature items or in advance and more specific to each trail, depending on your level of ambition. For a free hunt printable, click here. To shop our Nature Hunt Inserts & Nature Boards, click here.
Play I Spy – Make it more challenging by adding rules like, “pick something that shares your first initial.”
Tag blazes or trail markers to “Power Up” when energy lags and a mental boost is needed.
Tell a story or a create a “Pass Along” story – Use a pinecone, stick, or acorn to “pass along.”
Allow collecting** – We are always reinforcing “Leave No Trace” and earth stewardship, but experiential learning in nature is also valuable. Sometimes just let them take those pinecones home. Use your judgement. Thisarticle from the founder ofHikeItBaby helped us find balance.
On flats & fields, have a race or play “catch me.”
Bring disposable cameras – Let your child have full reign in what they choose to photograph. Makes for much more fun
Poetry On the Go – Someone starts an easy 1st line like, “I really love to take a walk…” the next person continues with another rhyme, and so on.
“When You Hear…”game – Choose a trigger sound such as a bird chirp. Line up single file while walking. Whenever the trigger sound is heard, the1st person in line has to run to the back. Great for group hikes!
Have any tried and true games or activities you do on the trail? We’d love to hear from you! Share with us in the comments!
**These activities are hotly debated subjects in the Leave No Trace world. It’s important to stay educated about how humans effect our natural environments and make informed decisions and choices based on what is right for both place & people.