Go Hiking, Hike the Capital Region
Nature Preserves, the gems of upstate New York
With the economy in a serious down turn, getting involved in sports can be a challenge for you and your family. Sports can be expensive. Hockey skates, football uniforms, and even baseball bats are expensive. One sport you can get your kids involved with is hiking and for the most part you need nothing expensive to begin this sport. To get started, you need an old pair of sneakers or boots, an old backpack, long sleave shirts, pants, high white socks to deter ticks, and a few other things your kids most likely have laying around the house right now. It is good to have a cell phone with you when you hike as well as a compass, a thermos or water canteen. None of these items need to be brand new. I went through my son's old toy box and found two sets of binoculars. It is nice to have a camera in your bag as well. For a canteen you can use a clean old plastic container or even a clean glass peanut butter jar. Remember to wear high socks, light colored clothing, and make sure to check for ticks after each hike.
If you live in upstate New York there are so many places to hike. All of these trails are free. Keep in mind that hiking is a sport. Don't think of it as going for a walk because, if you do you will find you are worn out before your kids. Pace yourself. Do not start out real heavy. Walk slow at first and build to a faster pace. Keep it steady and gradually slow down at the end of the trail. Don't take sudden stops.
For ages 2-5 there are age related walking trails such as the Woodlot Trail at Five Rivers in Delmar, N.Y. or the trails at Indian Ladder Farms. At these sites, feel free to bring a lunch. There is a steep hill with a picnic table at the top of a hill at Indian Ladder Farms. I suggest bringing cold water and five or six fresh apples. Seeing a farm and learning where healthy snacks come from teaches us about the importance of land preservation. Kids can see first hand that respecting the land is important for ourselves and our country.
For ages 5-8 I suggest Whitbeck Memorial Natural Preserve in New Scotland, N.Y. and Lishakill Preserve in Niskayuna. These trails are a bit more challenging. Make sure children double knot laces on their shoes. It is best practice for children of this age to wear velcro shoes rather than laced sneakers or shoes. These trails are also nice trails to have to picnic on. School age children can learn to walk quiet and look for animals and wildlife to photograph.
For ages 8-10 I suggest hiking Prospect Mountain right in Lake George, N.Y Exit 23 on the Northway. The Trail starts a few blocks west of Canada street and takes about 3 hours up and 1-1/2 hours down. This is not a hike to bring food. Leave all food in your car. Never bring food on mountain trails and be sure to take at least two cell phones with you. Never go off the trail. Take with you some red yarn to mark the trail along the way. Teach children that it is for safety reasons all hikers need to remain on the actual trail. There is a bridge over the highway. Sometimes children feel uncomfortable on this bridge. You should talk about the bridge to your kids before you start and reassure the children of it's safety. At the top near the summit is a road and a wonderful view of beautiful Lake George. It is a spectacular site! Bring your camera! After the hike you can take the kids to Shepard Park Beach. It is a public beach and weather permitted swimming is free. You can also try the Rail Trail. Look up on line an entrance near you. Another good trail for this age group is Bennett Hill in Clarksville, N.Y. To get there take Rt. 443 out of Albany/Delamar and turn left at Slingerlands street in Clarkville to Bennett Hill. Again, No food. Leave food in the car and bring cell phones and a camera.
Children over 12 can hike anywhere. I suggest Hadley Mountain north of Lake Luzerne. Another good spot is Thomas Mountain in Bolton Landing. Remember leave all food in your car and take a camera. Also, as you advance to more remote areas there is a greater chance of seeing wildlife. The Adirondacks have bears. Talk as loudly as you want and try to keep talking most of the hike. Bears will stay away from noise. Remember to use your yarn and keep marking the trail at every turn. This way no one gets lost. Around creeks and waterfalls trails can be confusing this is where you need to take a break, mark the trail and write down notes. If you climb for many hours and do not see anything you have not reached the top. Many people quit because they think they reached the top and nothing is there. They never saw the top of the summitt and left. They were only half way. The top of Hadley is indescribable magnificent.
For the experienced Hiker I believe the best trail is the Appalachian Wilderness Trail. I have not gone and done this yet but, I plan to when I retire. For now, I will stick to the Adirondacks.
By Joanne Kathleen farrell author of Liberty for the Lion Shield. See my hubpage Last of the Mahican Lands. You can also find me on Myspace, Reddit, Stumble Upon, Google+, and Facebook