Ferncliff Peninsula National Natural Landmark....with kids!

All 4 of us!
I woke up Saturday morning and said to M, I think it's a good idea to drive to the mountains and hike around with our kids. And M said, yes, fabulous. And then we both said, and let's not give them naps! And pack far too few snacks! And choose a trail that goes perilously close to the edge of a raging river! And so it was mostly fun, punctuated by occasional sobbing.

Actually it was really fun, nobody fell in the river, and I promise to go grocery shopping before our next woodsy adventure. We even got some sun!

Laurel "scrambles"
We went to the Ferncliff Peninsula National Natural Landmark at Ohiopyle State Park. There are many short trails to choose from; the Ferncliff Trail (1.8 miles) runs around the perimeter of the peninsula. I think this is a great place to take young children, because the trails are short, it's close the parking area and you are pretty close to the visitor's center across the river, along with all the ice cream shops that you will need to visit because you bribed your 3 year old to walk further than she wanted to. In all seriousness, though, the trail does go pretty close to some steep cliffs over the Youghiogheny River, and I'd be hesitant to take little kids here unless you have a 1:1 adult kid ratio.

We spotted some frog eggs, yellow violets and a lot of mountain laurel trees. Laurel's favorite thing to do was to look for boulders to "scramble on" and examine the tree roots on blow-downs. She also liked hanging out on the rocks right below the bridge where she could gather sticks, stones and leaves and throw them into the river. That seems to be some kind of universal, instinctual pastime of preschoolers.

M and I are hikers at heart and if it were just the two of us, we would definitely be going further, faster and harder. It's been an adjustment for us to get our outdoor fix while accommodating the needs and limitations of our young children. I'm learning to keep the following things in mind:

1. Bring way more snacks than you think you'll need. Lure your kid along with animal crackers if necessary.
2. Dress them in layers. Bring a change of pants. Not only for when they fall in a mud puddle, but also for the time when they pee on their pants while trying to go in the woods.
3. Pick a patch of woods that you go to frequently throughout the year so they can see how the season changes it.
4. Take your time. Slow your pace way down so they don't feel rushed. Leave lots of time to explore whatever catches their eye. Expect them to marvel at dandelions instead of lady slippers. Be ok with that.
5. Don't worry if someone cries. Someone is probably going to cry. This doesn't mean it's a bad time and you shouldn't do it (just think of how many tears are shed at home over basic hygiene routines and dinner time).

It was awesome to get some fresh air and to spend some time together as a family.

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