Guest Post by Kait Curran Palmer

Summer is upon most of the Northern Hemisphere at this point–minus the cloud-covered and still-chilly Pacific Northwest–but for the rest of you lovely people you are kicking off your flip flops and getting to have a grand ole time basking in the warmth of long and sun-filled days.

No bitterness here as I sit wearing flannels and a fleece.

None at all…

Seattle drudgery aside, as the kids are out of school and it is the season for “fun in the sun,” I thought I would share some of my favorite outdoor activities with you.

I have to admit I’m a huge Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) fan, and not just because my husband works there. When the CEO Sally Jewel was asked who REI’s competitors are, she replied, “First I define competitors as things that keep people indoors, or keep people from enjoying lifelong outdoor activities. So, competitors include the couch, computers, television, certainly video games […] How many of us grew up camping, participating in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, playing in the woods, building a tree fort, or digging a swimming pool in the backyard?”

I think she makes a great point, and issues a challenge for us to get off our hineys and take a hike.

Now, I understand not everyone may be a Backpacker Jane willing to forgo toilet paper in favor of leaves whilst chewing a twig of a walnut tree, but I do think everyone has it in them to enjoy God’s beautiful creation. Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy the Great Outdoors during the summer months.

One if by Land

Eat dinner on the patio.  Experiment with making a kite from paper and sticks then go try to fly it.  Pack up a picnic and find a local trail or park to hike around in.  If you’re the kind who’s always looking for an opportunity to learn (or teach), check out a local plant/bird/bug guide book from the library and have a competition to see who can spot the most species.

Get out your bike and take a spin with your kids. Build a cardboard fort in your backyard and have a camp out–with or without the kids!  Go berry picking and eat the sun-warmed fruit right off the bush (if its pesticide free, of course).  The point is to get OUT.

I know for me that when I’m sitting at my desk at work, I’m ready and willing to lace up my boots and hit a trail after work.  Come 5:30, though, propping my feet up and watching a movie sounds so much more appealing than lacing up my trail runners.  I’ve gotten to where I will call my husband and tell him I want to go on a hike after work, so please make me go even when I gripe and say I don’t want to.  He usually has to put up with my begrudging and complaining, but by the time I’m in the middle of the dappled green woods listening to a small creek run downhill, I wonder how a movie ever sounded good compared to this.

If you’re bored to death with your neighborhood park and wondering where else to go, here are a few online resources to search for things to do:

http://www.rei.com/family-adventure

or for an interactive map of family-friendly activities

…by Sea (or lake, or river, or pond…)

Most places are at least semi-near a body of water. Whether it’s an ocean to surf in, a bay to kayak, a lake to canoe or a creek to fish, water and summer just go hand in hand. If you live near the ocean, explore tide pools at low tide. Take a fishing pole and drop a line in a river, listening to the quiet music of nature.

Renting a paddle boat is usually pretty inexpensive and a great way to explore the shores of a lake while still keeping your kids safe and dry.  If you want a team-building exercise (or marital-fight-inducer, either way you look at it), try a tandem kayak. Guaranteed to test your mettle and force you to work together…but at least you’re outside, right?

While there aren’t as many online resources for water activities, Google is always a good way to find what’s near you.

http://waterplayusa.com/

Volunteer

No matter where you may live there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in a field that interests you. Grab a trash bag and join a trail cleanup, offer to walk dogs at a local shelter, help plant native species in an estuary…point is there are lots of options. We are charged to be good stewards of the environment and caretakers of God’s magnificent creation. Spending a few hours picking up trash in a river valley is a way to show your kids a concrete example of that stewardship.

http://www.handsonnetwork.org/
http://www.volunteermatch.org/
http://www.serve.gov/

I found it hard to find one overarching website for Canada, but it seems there are a lot of province-based websites dedicated to volunteerism. Try a search in your specific area to learn how you can volunteer.

Now that you are armed with the resources to find things to do in the long school-less days ahead, get out there and have some fun!

What are your favorite things to do outdoors? How do you motivate yourself when you know you need to get outside and do something?

Kait Curran Palmer has far too much outdoor equipment in her closet but tries to make good use of it by getting out-of-doors with her Mountain Man husband and precocious dog. When she is not romping around outside she is usually reading or writing about finding the adventures in an everyday life at Your Morning Cup.

The quote from Sally Jewell was taken from http://ethix.org/2009/01/01/when-customers-and-shareholders-align/