Bear and Moose Safety

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First Time Camping with BabyEd note: This might be a topic that's pretty far fetched for most of us Mama Hikers, but if you are in a place like Anchorage, this is something you have to think about even when on trails around town! So we figured we might as well post it. It will also help those of you heading out to national parks this summer where there might be bears or moose or other large animals Okay, so we've heard of "bearanoia" and how unnecessary it is, but let's be honest: when out hiking with your little ones, it's hard not to be bear phobic if you live in a place where bear spottings are common! And what about those majestic, spindly legged moose fellows? They're not quite as harmless as you'd think. But don't despair! When encountering this wildlife, the very best thing you can do is be prepared and know how to stand your ground (or make a run for it!). Let's start by talking about bears: Firstly, dangerous bear encounters rarely happen. From 2005 to 2012, there were 12 black bear fatalities and 12 brown bear fatalities (Journal of Wildlife Management). So, yes, fatalities happen, but when looking at encounters vs. fatalities, fatalities are very few and far between. What does this mean? That bears, like all wildlife, deserve respect. How can we be respectful of a bear's temperament and personality? 1.) MAKE NOISE! Lot's of it. Most bear attacks occur when a bear is surprised. Wear bells, travel in groups, talk loudly, sing. You get the picture! 2.) Bears are always looking for food, that being said, stay away from any carcass you may spot along the way. When hiking or camping, be conscientious about your food choices. Smelly foods, particularly fish, should either be avoided or eaten away from the campsite. Don't bury your trash. Bears have an amazing sense of smell. They will still smell trash if it's buried. Here's a great link that shows how to store, handle, and hang food appropriately. 3.) Become familiar with stances and behavior. A standing bear is a curious bear! Bears are not malicious. They're generally shy or inquisitive and will run away. If your reaction is immediately aggressive instead of ASSERTIVE, bears may become more aggressive themselves. You should not run from bears even though this may be your first reaction. This may make the bear think you are prey. Bears WILL run faster than you. You cannot outrun a bear. If you encounter a bear and it does not notice you, detour quietly so it continues to not notice you. If it does notice you, try to make yourself look as large as possible, speaking in a loud, deep voice. DO NOT scream or use a high pitched voice. STAND YOUR GROUND. Many times, bears "bluff charge". These do not result in attack and result in a bear leaving once they realize you are not a threat. If they do charge and attack, begin by curling up into a ball, protecting major organs. This may discontinue the attack, however if the attack continues even after "playing dead" FIGHT BACK! If it is a black bear, it is recommended you not play dead, but fight back as a first response ( Which leads me to tip # 4. 4.) Learn to tell the difference between black and brown bears. 5.) Protection. Guns or bear spray? Many like the comfort of a firearm. It is important to note that firearms often result in a more serious bear attack. If carrying a firearm, the caliber is important. In a handgun, nothing smaller than a .44 Magnum is advised. Likewise, nothing smaller than a 12 gauge shotgun or .30-.40 caliber rifle is recommended. If using firearms for defense, commonsense and accuracy are an absolute must. Bear spray has proven to be more effective in bear defense. Read this for a little more technical info on dealing with bears. Now, onto moose. Significantly more simple. Steer clear. Give them space. Seriously, it's as simple as that. More moose related deaths occur every year than brown and black bear attacks combined. These are mostly vehicle collisions, but attacks also occur. Moose are not normally aggressive unless hungry, tired or harassed ( In the event a moose is charging towards you, run for solid cover. If you're unable to do so and the moose has charged you to the ground, curl up in a ball and cover major organs. Once you're no longer perceived as a threat, the moose will leave you alone. Another fact that warrants special attention: moose absolutely HATE dogs. Leashing is important unless you want a potentially kicked dog. Many times trails will have wildlife reports or signs posted that may give you an idea of bear or moose activity. Always read and take caution, but don't be crippled by fear! As long as you're informed and prepared, an enjoyable hiking or camping experience is alway possible! imageAlex lives in Eagle River and is mommy to 3 year old Harrison and 3 month old Chell. She grew up hiking in the mountains of North Carolina but since moving to Alaska last year, has fallen in love with the hiking and scenery there. She's happiest wearing her babies, exploring new trails. Some of her family's favorite hikes are the Gold Mint Trail, Mt. Baldy and Alpert Loop. She looks forward to meeting more hiking mamas!

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Hiking my Way to Happiness
The joke among my friends for many years was that a depressing day for me was the same as most people’s emotional state on a good day. Then I turned 38, and I won’t go into details, but I reached a point where I couldn’t even talk to my life coach without crying, so she eventually suggestion medication. For the first time, I was depressed with a capital “D”. Things turned around eventually, and in 2013 I got married, became pregnant with my first child, and moved to Portland… an excellent change of scenery after years in Los Angeles. As my due date neared, I started to feel the old dark cloud edging back in. Everywhere I looked I saw stories on postpartum depression. People talked about it in my mama preparation classes and in prenatal yoga. I talked to my doctor about whether I could breastfeed and medicate once I had a child. I was convinced I was doomed to postpartum depression because the memories of my dark place were in the not-so-distant past. It’s estimated close to a million women a year suffer from postpartum depression. The news loves to latch on to stories about women who really go off the deep end. Publications like the Huffington Post and the New York Times often have stories about “lonely mama syndrome” where women wax on about how isolating it is to be a new parent. Believe me when I say that I read every one of those articles word-for-word. When my son arrived I was high with the euphoria of newborn love. But I was also weepy, overwhelmed, bleary eyed and hormone-whacked. One minute I was laughing at my baby pooping 12 times a day, and the next minute I was sobbing about my sore nipples and how exhausted I was. It didn’t help that my husband would just stand there looking at me like I was a stranger and say thing like, “Seriously what’s your problem? You are just sitting here nursing all day. It can’t be THAT tiring?” This, of course, was my mama-brained interpretation and would make me sob harder. The fear of depression was overwhelming. On about week three after Mason was born, I found myself sitting in a new mama group inside in the middle of summer. I heard myself complaining about my husband and how he just didn’t understand how tired I was and how scared I was of getting depressed. Everything was scary. I was scared of people on the street, cars getting to close to us on the freeway, lead poisoning in our windows, pretty much everything in the world was out to get my beautiful new baby. And as I thought and talked more about all of this, I could feel the symptoms of depression lingering darkly around the edges of my newborn bliss. As I looked out the window at the sunny July day I remember thinking, “What would happen if I got so depressed I couldn’t take care of Mason?” That’s when it dawned on me that the one thing that always made me feel a little better in the past when falling down the dark rabbit hole was sitting outside. Even if I did nothing, just sitting outside breathing fresh air made a difference. Then I thought, “what if we could be having this same experience of talking to each other about nursing and dealing with our new lives and our fears outside, instead of in this cozy, safe little room?” While it was lovely, it was also too sheltered and was not helping all of my depression anxiety. I asked the group if anyone wanted to go on a little hike with me. Nothing hard, just a half-mile trail down the street from my house. There was just one thing, I didn’t really know how to use my carrier, so I was scared to go alone. And it wasn’t really a very good stroller trail. The next week, armed with a ridiculous amount of stuff in my BOB stroller I went to a park near my house that had a mellow trail. For this “major” outing I brought a carrier, a days worth of diapers, diaper cream, water, food and who knows what else. Three women were waiting there at the trailhead and two more texted to say they were on the way. I was a bit shocked that they came. I was still nervous about carrying Mason, so I started out with the stroller on the hiking trail. Eventually we came to a place where it was obvious I needed to ditch the stroller and carry my son. These veteran mamas helped me slide Mason into the carrier, and off we went. I only made it about another 15 minutes before I got tired and turned around, but it was exhilarating to feel the dirt under my feet for that half of a mile. I felt my spirits rising, and I knew I wanted to do it the next week. The next day I woke up feeling overwhelmed about my husband working out of town for 3 weeks. That dark cloud was hovering in the back of my mind. Mark had gone out for the day, so I decided to go for a walk. I started with the neighborhood, pushing the stroller, but then as I neared the park, I decided to try stepping on to the trail. I locked up the stroller and asked a stranger passing by if she could help me buckle the back of my carrier. I tried to act nonchalant like I totally did this all the time. There were so many things going through my mind. What if Mason had a blow out? Did I bring enough stuff? I couldn’t carry anything but a baby in the carrier. What if I needed to nurse. I had only nursed in the privacy of my home at that point and was still struggling with it. What if he slipped down in the carrier or I just dropped him? What if a scary homeless dude was on the path? What would I do? As I got on trail, I felt the pressure still there in my chest, but with every step the fears and tears started melting away. It was so silent in the forest. The birds got louder, as did the bubbling water in the stream on the side of the trail. Everything was so green and lush in spite of the sweltering July heat. I felt Mason’s sweaty little nearly naked body snuggled up against me. I leaned down and kissed his head and breathed in the new baby smell. I moved so slowly, but with every step I felt a little lighter, a little calmer. That day I walked all the way up the trail to the stone house, doubling the distance I had done with the group the previous day. Along the way Mason got hungry, and I stopped and asked a random couple to unbuckle the carrier. I took my wailing baby to a quiet place off the trail and sat down to nurse. I was nervous and not as graceful as I would have liked, but I did get enough milk in Mason to appease him and get back home. And when my husband came home and I announced that I went hiking alone, I felt so proud of myself. The next week, ten women showed up to join me. It seemed I wasn’t alone in feeling the need to commune with nature and “hike it out”. As the weeks progressed my circle of friends widened and new faces showed up to hike with us. I also noticed something shifting in me. With every hike, I felt physically stronger and the dark clouds moved further and further away from me. In June, we celebrated our son’s second birthday on a hike with 30 or so friends whom we had met through hiking with our children. It was a sweltering day, much like those first days I ventured into the woods with Mason. As we approached a shady forested stretch and I watched Mason running and laughing and looked around at all of the smiling families around me, all I could think was how happy I was. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other in an effort to evade depression got me here. It’s may be a cliché, but the first step truly is the hardest. Once you take it, you’ll notice how quickly the path will open up in front of you and the clouds will lift. Tips for Successfully Getting on the Trail Create a regular hike/walk day. Try to plan at least two hikes a week. (If you plan two, you’ll likely make it to at least one.) Pack the night before so you don’t use the next morning’s chaos as an excuse to stay inside and skip it. Choose a mantra for the trail. As heavier thoughts or stressful things enter your mind, go back to that word and look at the trail. Try to leave the cell phone out of reach so you can enjoy the hike. Find a hike buddy who will help keep you accountable and get you out there. Don’t let your gear hold you back. Think used, think simple, think repurpose. I put my old cashmere socks on my baby’s legs over his clothes and booties to keep him warm on cold days! Keep it close to home. No need to go on an epic journey to find adventure. Some of my best days hiking were no more than a few miles from my house. Don’t get hung up with weather. Rainy day? Carry an umbrella on trail. Too hot? Look for shady trails and water features. Find groups like Hike it Baby (or start one in your area) to help get you out on days you just don’t feel like it. Shanti Hodges hikes between 3-10 miles a week on average and tries to get outside with Mason at least 3 days a week year round. In spite of being viewed as a hike addict, she is not afraid to admit that she needs the Hike it Baby 30 Challenge to motivate herself out on the bad days! Her secret to getting out on days she's not feeling it and there isn't a challenge going on is to text a handful of her hike buddies and get them to guilt or motivate her out the door.  This article first appeared in Green Child Magazine. Check them out for awesome stories about healthy parenting. ABOUT OUTGROWN OutGrown is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works to create a world where everyone can enjoy the physical and mental benefits of spending time outside. We are focused on creating opportunities and removing barriers to access so families with babies and young children can take their first steps outside. We believe all families have the right to connect with nature, benefit from spending time outdoors and be inspired to a lifelong love of nature. Since its grassroots inception in 2013, OutGrown is a growing community of 280,000 families and over 300 volunteer Branch Ambassadors. More information on all of our programs can be found at    EDITORS NOTE: We hope you enjoyed reading this article from OutGrown. We’re working hard to provide our community with content and resources that inform, inspire, and entertain you. But content is not free. It’s built on the hard work and dedication of writers, editors, and volunteers. We make an investment in developing premium content to make it easier for families with young children to connect with nature and each other. We do not ask this lightly, but if you can, please make a contribution and help us extend our reach.
10 Tips for Keeping Babies On Trail
Arika Bauer / Zion Adventure Photog As the founder of Hike it Baby, an organization dedicated to getting kids on trail from birth to school-age, people often think adventuring outdoors with a newborn must have come naturally to me. Or they assume I was just a hardcore outdoors person pre-baby. Nope. Neither was the case. While I now may look like a seasoned veteran with my now 5-year-old, I only got to this place from a lot of trial and error and advice from others around me. Now I feel it’s my duty to pay this knowledge forward, so here goes for those of you who are hesitant to get on trail with your little one. Streamline Bring what you really need on trail and nothing more. Two diapers if you have an explosive baby. One bottom change or a onesie. The top won’t usually get soiled. One bottle. Leave the rest in the car. If you have to carry extra, how can you make it lighter? Collapsible water bottles for example can be a great way to keep your load lighter. Carriers are key A quality carrier can make or break whether or not your little one likes to hike. Hand-me-downs are great, but when it comes to carriers, if you want to get out a lot, do the research. Try a lot of brands and don’t get one just because it’s cute. Get it because it’s functional and will let you hike an hour or more comfortably without back pain. Twig and Lens Photography / Laura Castro An infant usually won’t complain about being snuggled up against your chest on hikes. A toddler, however, might throw a fit. Make sure as your child evolves, so does your carrier. When Mason was an infant, we used a Baby K'Tan because it was like a sling but had some support and was easy to get on and off on trail. Then we graduated to an Onya Baby for lumbar support as our nugget got heavier. Now we switch between that and a Deuter frame carrier depending on the type of hike and weather. The frame carrier isn’t good for a lot of ups and downs (if this is your child), but it’s great for protection from sun, rain or snow or you need space to carry things. Don't Forget the teethers and a blanket! Teething babies are no fun on trail, so remember your teething beads. Make sure they are on a necklace or tether so you won't lose it midway through a hike as well. A teether keeps them busy and calm while teething and the soft blanket is a perfect place to put your precious one on a hike break! If you haven't tried a chewy of some sort yet and you are experiencing a regularly super fussy baby, sore gums could be the cause. Pick your trail wisely What may once have been a short hike for you, now could be a pretty epic adventure with a fussy baby. Gauge how your little one is doing. Stop often, and if things are going well, honestly assess a turnaround point. Better to start heading back early over having a super unhappy child to battle with at the end of a hike. Snack it up If you are at the eating phase, bring snacks you know will work. Don’t experiment with new foods on trail. A hangry (hungry and angry) baby is not a fun hiking partner. I often travel with lollipops or gummy bears on trail so if things are going bad, I have an emergency solution. My son isn’t food-driven, but a little bit of sweets on trail will often calm down a tantrum so we can redirect. Photo: Anka Trifan Bottle feeding If you don’t nurse and need to carry milk there are lots of solutions for keeping it cold and warm. Start with frozen packs and put them in your clothes to warm up during the hike with body heat. Also, look into the soup-sized thermoses (Hydroflask makes a good one) and put hot water in. Add a cold bottle to that and heat the bottle, then drop a tea bag in and you are set. Pumping on trail It is possible to pump on trail! There are great small hand pumps that allow you to pump then add a nipple and serve. Easy as that. Look for a nice out-of-the-way bench or a tree in the woods, lay baby down and pump away. I often found myself so relaxed in the woods that my milk flow increased. Could be all of that oxygen and exercise? Find a community Having a community to help motivate you and show you new trails makes it so much easier. Even now after three years of hiking all around Portland, people in my hike group still continually introduce me to new trails. Also, the more kids on a hike together, especially at that 3- to 5-year-old stage, the more likely they are to motivate each other. We have seen 5-year-olds hike six miles because there were other kids to keep them moving. Different trails for different ages As your child ages up, different trails will work for him or her better. With little ones, you can hike almost anywhere with good footing. As they get older, you'll want to be aware of steep drop-offs, a lot of turns in the trail and things like falling rocks and slippery roots. New walkers are unbalanced, and while trails are excellent training ground for them, if they fall over every other step, it can be frustrating for them. Look at the trail you're adventuring on with a child’s eye. Look at the ground and what’s in the way. A little incline for you might be Mt. Everest for a 2-year-old. Songs and bubbles One of the easiest ways to deal with child meltdowns is serious distractions. Bubbles and songs can help a lot with this. I am a terrible singer but I have gotten pretty good at “Wheels on the Bus” and “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” (this is a book that has a song-like feel). Bubbles combined with song can really help move the hike along and get you through rough patches. If all else fails, bribe them I know, this seems like a bad idea because you want your kiddo to love nature just because it's nature. But the reality is there are those days when lollipops are just part of the program. I keep some in my glove box for when we are having "those" days. I don't have to resort to them all the time, but when I really want to hike and my son doesn't, out they come. Share with us in the comments below some ways you get your kids on trail. Read more: 9 Tips for soothing a cranky baby on the trail Hiking with a newborn This post is sponsored by QALO.