I’ll Always Remember our Water Date!

I didn’t want to get wet.  Let’s just make that clear in the beginning.  I was wrong. You should probably know that early on too.

When we planned a geocaching day with our friends Leigh and Tony, we specifically planned for hiking caches.  The Bug said she wanted to go hiking and get in the woods, and that suited the rest of us.  So, we found a couple locations in Delhi, Ohio (basically Cincinnati) where we could get in the woods, find some caches, and enjoy time with our friends.

Our second location was a set of hiking trails made by Boy Scouts on a hillside.  We parked on the side of a road and started hiking.  It wasn’t long till The Bug saw a creek at the bottom of the hill.  “Guys, it’s time you start thinking about me and go down to the water.”  (We’re still working on the whole humility thing, but you can tell she likes water.)  Well, we ignore her and kept up our hike.  Up the hill we went, then swept down through the woods, finding “treasures” all along the way. Come to think of it, asking an 8 year old to hike 6 miles without a creek break may be a bit extreme… but she did do remarkably well. 

Finally, toward the end of the hike, the trail met up with the creek, and we stepped down into the rocks.

The Bug took off for the water.  As the dad, I had to keep up with her in case she fell.  Her balance isn’t what it should be and it helps to have a spotter.  “Honey, don’t get your feet wet.  Hiking with wet feet is not fun.”  That lasted 7 seconds.  As she splashed her way around the little pools of water, it didn’t take long till my hiking boots were submerged too.

We sloshed around for a while, till we were beckoned back to the trail.  As we walked the last quarter mile or so back to the car, The Bug never let go of my hand, as she kept telling me sweet nothings.  “We need a date night again.”  “I love you a billion times!” “I’ll always remember our water date.” “I love you more than anything.”

Sometimes I can be such an adult. I can only think of the practical side of things — what has to be done or what is the best way to do something.  It’s so easy to forget to have fun with my kid.  I’m thinking it was a good idea to get in the water.  What do you think?

Pro Tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to get wet, but make it at the end of the hike.
  • Waterproof your boots or wear hiking sandals. (Wet boots, socks, and jeans were not fun to hike in, even if we were basically done.)
  • Keep dry shoes in the car.
  • It’s OK to be a kid once in a while.

When was the last time you were a kid with your kid?

Geocaching in Ault Park

Geocaching has been one of my favorite hobbies for years.  Well before there was a Bug, we loved to get out on a Saturday, visit a local park, and find a few hidden treasures.  In fact, I’m proud to say that our Cache Find #1100 was at a Buddhist temple in Seoul and The Bug’s first ever find was in the shadows of Seoul’s Olympic Stadium.  Anyhow, after we brought The Bug back home with us, our caching excursions ground down to an almost complete halt.

But…wait…you may not know about geocaching and everything I just said sounded like gibberish to you.  Let me explain.

Let’s start with the satellites floating above us in space.  You probably already know that many of these satellites can team up together along with devices here on earth to pin point our locations pretty much anywhere on the planet.  This may freak you out in a Big Brother sort of way, and I’m sorry about that.  There’s not much I can do about that.  Just enjoy the fact that your phone can now tell you where the nearest Starbucks is and give you directions to it.  Now, keep reading.

There are people who enjoy using this cool yet creepy technology to hide things and make other people find them. These people are called geocachers. So, here’s how it works.  Someone goes out and hides a container.  It can be big like a box or small like a little magnetic dot about a centimeter in diameter. It can be in the woods five miles from anything or along a crowded city sidewalk. The important thing is to get the GPS coordinates before walking away.  Go to www.geocaching.com and write up a description of your cache, including what to look for and any hints or stories you want to tell.  Eventually your cache gets approved, then you sit and watch your email inbox. Other cachers will use your coordinates to go out and find your cache.  When they open your container, they may want to trade stuff they find in it with something they brought along.  (Think cheapo toys that somehow invaded your house when you became a parent.) They will also sign a log book you left in the cache to mark their success.  Eventually, they will sign a digital log book to alert you that they were there.  It’s a fun — yet geeky — activity that can be done in all weather and relatively inexpensively.  (When I say all weather, I have cached in pouring rain, burning sun, and falling snow.) Every geocacher has a special code name.  Our family is called the Steagles.  (I’m an Eagles fan, my wife is a Steelers fan, together we make Steagles.) I call The Bug “Steaglette” in my posts.

If none of that made sense, here’s a video to explain it better.


Now that you’ve had that introduction to geocaching, here is what we did on Father’s Day.

If you recall, we celebrated Father’s Day a week early.  We were going to go camping on the real Father’s Day Weekend, but that didn’t happen.  Instead, we decided to go to Ault Park in Cincinnati to do some hiking and geocaching.  It was a HOT day and The Bug was more interested in playing on the playground, so we only logged a few finds. I still had fun, though.

As we walked through the garden areas, I realized there was a cache only a few hundred feet away.  This can be deceptive, since those distances don’t take into account that most humans can’t walk a straight line to all caches. We got to within 100 feet, and saw that we were on the edge of forest with a steep decline toward the cache.  So, our nice little walked turned into a hike.  We had to find a trailhead and weave our way through the woods to the cache.

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Hiking to the cache. (Yes, the eye crossing was a complete surprise to me when I opened the pic on the computer screen. Oh well. She’s cute!)

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This is very typical of what you might find inside a cache. I tend to leave the toys and stuff alone. I’m sure you can figure out why. The Bug always wants something but rarely brings something to trade out.

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Sometimes caches aren’t quite on the beaten path. The Bug followed me off trail a bit too late to make it to the cache, but this is a good example of what you may have to hike through to grab your find.

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Heading back to the main path.

The Bug finally got to a swing and all was right with the world once again.

The Bug finally got to a swing and all was right with the world once again.

As always, here are some pro tips for you.

  • Get the geocaching app on your phone, but it’s also good to have a good handheld GPS.   I once cached with a family who tried to use their car GPS. Not such a good idea.
  • Bring plenty of water, a pen, and junk to trade if you want to trade junk. Don’t forget the bug spray too! I could tell you stories…
  • Always plan time for playgrounds. Once you get going you just want to keep finding the next one, then the next one, and so forth.  Always be prepared for the inevitable swingset to mess up your plans.
  • I asked The Bug for good geocaching advice.  She said, “Nuttin’.” She doesn’t like geocaching nearly as much as I do.  Sad, really. (One fun fact is that she doesn’t call it geocaching or caching like we do.  To The Bug it’s called, “finding treasures.” Cute.)
  • Make it a fun time! Enjoy the hike, race to see who can find the cache first, and always end with ice cream.

I’d love to hear your geocaching stories!  Drop a good one in the comment section.

Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver

Zoo Camp

The Bug loves the Cincinnati Zoo.  I don’t think I can overstate that fact in any way.  Her lifelong dream is to be a zookeeper, but she has recently narrowed her focus. She wants to be in the Bird Show…or more accurately she wants to be in charge of the Bird Show.  This girl has goals.

With her love of the zoo, it was only natural for us to enroll her in Zoo Camp this summer. While the zoo offers a couple different camp options for the little ones, we went with their half-day morning program called “Growing Up.”  She loved it!

Each day I dropped her off in her classroom, which was really a tent overlooking the giraffes. Since she has always had a soft spot for the giraffes, I’m surprised she was able to focus at all, but she learned a lot!  Her teacher is a zoology major at a local university and was INCREDIBLE with the kids.  (And I know a thing or two about being patient with 7 year olds.) Not only that, but they had three “volunteens” in their class to help the learning and fun go on.

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Every day, they focused on a different kind of animal — insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. They had visits from animals in those categories and went on hikes to see them in their enclosures at the zoo.  All along the way, they sang songs and played games.  Their time together ended with a craft about that particular animal.

THE BUG LOVED IT!

We made plans early in the week to eat lunch together at the zoo on Friday.  Now, I’ve mentioned before that we normally pack a lunch to save some money, but I didn’t tell The Bug that we were going buy pizza instead of eating a sandwich.  She flipped out with excitement.  (Seriously, it doesn’t take much when you’re 7.) On our way to buy our food, I told her we had to hurry if we wanted to make it to Bird Show in time.  Oh! My! Goodness! I had one hyper girl on my hands! We hooked up with one of her camp buddies at lunch and had fun hanging out with her and her family that afternoon.

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I highly encourage you to enroll your kid in Zoo Camp.  Slots fill up fast, so start looking for sign ups in Spring 2017.  Just to warn you… The Bug plans on taking a full day slot next year.

Here are some pro tips.

  • Take something to do.  It was silly for me to drop her off at the zoo, head back to Kentucky, then turn around and get her again.  So, I camped out with a laptop and did some blogging last week.  They have free wifi throughout the zoo, so come prepared. The views above your laptop are probably much better than what you see in your office anyhow.

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  • Don’t be a nerd and hang out with your laptop the entire time.  You have a world class zoo right there in front of you!  See some animals before you get your cup of coffee and hit the wifi.

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  • Find your kid during the zoo hike.  The Bug’s teacher was really cool about me meeting them at random times and places to snap a picture or two.  I never wanted to be in the way and just wanted a quick hi and picture.  It got so The Bug was looking for me while they were out and about.

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  • Don’t forget the Pizza and Bird Show Trick.  It’ll be a winner every time!  Add some ice cream too.  I give you permission to compromise.

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One other thing, I’m already pushing The Bug to be a volunteen when she turns 13.  This is an awesome opportunity to spend time in and around the zoo helping out and seeing if this is what she wants to do full time.

 

Zoo Day!

One day, not long after The Bug came into our lives, my wife told me, “I want to get a zoo membership!” And just like that, we’ve been members at the Cincinnati Zoo for six years now. It is literally our favorite place to go and I am fairly certain I can walk it blindfolded.

When The Bug was just a baby, we took her and by far her favorite animal was the waterfalls. Seriously. It didn’t matter what animal we saw, it was no big deal for her.  But when we passed a waterfall, she just wanted to watch it for the longest time. As she got older and realized the animals were pretty cool, the giraffes quickly became her favorite. She had a giraffe shirt she would wear for zoo visits and had about 5 or 6 six toy giraffes to play with.

Something happened in the last year or so.  Now, she has to go to the Reptile House as soon as we get there.  Most kids aren’t sure if they want to pet the snakes the handlers have around the park.  Not The Bug. She strokes them like old friends and would happily wear one if she found the right handler to let her do it.  She also loves the Insect House and gets excited when I’m with her.  Cause Mommy won’t go in there.  Something about tarantulas.  (Why are there spiders in the insect house? I’m still not sure.)

We kicked off summer with a visit to the zoo Memorial Day morning. The Bug was so excited to go, she was up early and helping to get breakfast ready, all in the attempt to get out the door on time. We dressed patriotically and were able to walk through the gates before the heat was oppressive. The Bug couldn’t decide where to go next.  Had we followed her plan, we would have bopped from one side of the zoo to the next.  As it was, we attempted a circuitous route around the zoo and almost saw it all (including the Cheetah Run) in about 4 hours.  Then it was time to go home and rest up before Memorial Day dinner.

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Here are some pro tips if you want to visit the Cincinnati Zoo.

  1. Get a membership. Obviously, this only helps you if you live locally, but everything is covered.  Admission, parking, and the train and carousel. Boom! No hassle. No worries. And, members get in earlier than the commoners AND get a discount on food and souvenirs.
  2. Get there early.  The crowds haven’t formed yet.  The animals are active. The heat hasn’t kicked in yet. Early is good. This is a great tip for Festival of Lights too. Get there in the late afternoon and you can see animals before it gets dark. And when it gets dark you’ll already be there and not have to wait in crazy lines to get in the zoo!
  3. Bring your lunch. We don’t like spending a lot of money on food if we don’t have to, so we always pack a lunch.  The zoo allows outside food so I always have a backpack full of food with me.
  4. Use a backpack carrier instead of a stroller or wagon. When The Bug was little, I loved to carry her in the backpack carrier. She could see what I could see and there was no awkward in and out of the stroller moments.  My hands were free, and we could talk. Now, of course, she walks for a couple hours then I carry her on my shoulders.
  5. Sneak some money for Dippin’ Dots when your wife isn’t looking. Seriously. We all know that Mommy is #1. Handing your kid a bowl of the ice cream of the future is a sure-fire way to buy her love.  (And members don’t have to freak about the price. It’s cheaper for you!)

We love the Cincinnati Zoo and hope that you can love it too!