With summer hiking series, kids ‘get outdoors and stuff’ | PostIndependent.com

With summer hiking series, kids ‘get outdoors and stuff’

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

GRIZZLY CREEK – In cityscapes across the country, kids play stick ball in the summer and hang out at the local pool. They ride their bikes in a cement playground and play in the shadows of skyscrapers. Many of them will never see a mountain stream rimmed by pine trees, or set foot in a canyon with thousand-foot granite walls.But here, in Glenwood Springs, kids can do precisely that for at least one day a week. And they can do it for free.The Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Department has teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to offer their annual summer hiking series for kids age 9-14. The program runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays, mid-June until Aug. 10. And it’s not just a way to get kids out of the house. With this program, run by Youth Recreation Coordinator Eric Brendlinger, kids spend a good chunk of their day learning about topics ranging from map-reading to wildflower identification.Still, the day’s focus is really the hike, said Brendlinger.”Our hikes have a carrot at the end of them, like they’re going to see a cool lake or a cool ice cave at the end of the hike,” said Brendlinger. “We show them a good time.”Brendlinger added that even the kids whose parents have signed them up against their will often wind up enjoying the outings in spite of themselves.”The ones who are pushed into it often open their eyes to what’s right here, in their backyard,” Brendlinger said. “Really turning kids on to what’s out there, that’s what’s fun for me.”Many kids have such a good time that they come back, week after week and even summer after summer, said U.S. Forest Service Information Specialist Janet Rothe, who works in conjunction with Brendlinger.

“Two kids today, when we were talking about things, they knew all the answers because they had learned it last summer. It was neat to see that they had retained the information,” said Rothe.”I love it when they come back,” added Rothe.Rothe also believes that the lessons kids learn through the series, such as leave-no-trace and wildlife appreciation, follow them through the rest of their lives.”In and out of the wilderness, you can use these experiences,” Rothe said, and pointed to how the program teaches kids survival skills as well as not to litter.There is always plenty for them to learn, however, Rothe said. Many times, kids forget or decline to pack light and bring way too much to carry.”Some bring books, some bring toys. A lot of kids bring stuffed animals or dolls,” said Rothe. “Some have their earphones and headsets, and that really bothers me because we’re going out there to hear nature.”We try to introduce them to the thought that lighter is better,” Rothe said.One fact is indisputable, though. Kids love the mountains.”Hiking is fun, because you get outdoors and stuff,” said Shawn Wachtler, age 12.

“You get to go see the wilderness,” said Noah Corgan, age 9.Jake McAlvoy, 9, loves “the great sights,” and said that he’s learned “to respect nature more” through the hiking program.Kinsie Romero, 12, enjoys “being outside with my friends and getting exercise.”Aspen Lent’s take is pretty simple. The 10-year-old says she just likes being by the river.But whatever their particular taste, kids are certain to be sated by the variety of hikes in the program.For more information or to enroll a child, contact Eric Brendlinger at (970) 384-6311 or visit http://www.glenwoodrec. com.Contact John Schroyer: 945-8515, ext. 529 jschroyer@postindependent.com

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