Hi everyone! Today I am really excited to welcome a new Out and About DAD to our site! Well, actually, he’s not all that new around here. In fact, you may notice that he’s been tagging along on Audrey’s outings for years. (Because he’s her husband, not her stalker…let’s not get weird here).
I first started
nagging trying to convince Shane to do some blogging for us a couple years ago when he began picking on the site for leaving out 50% of the parenting population. Although I knew he was just joking around (the sarcasm is seriously part of his charm–I mean it!), getting the perspective of more dads on this site has always been something we’ve hoped to accomplish.
As you may know from her latest post, Audrey has been spending her weekends gainfully employed at River Bend Bookshop in Glastonbury. Which is good news for me because Shane isn’t content to pass those solo parent hours sitting at home. Nope. He’s out and about with his boys doing things that I, in all honesty, would never even attempt on my own–kuddos Shane! And more importantly, he’s finally ready to write about it 🙂
So today, just in time for Father’s Day weekend, Shane is here to share his latest adventures with Bug and Bean (though he won’t be calling them that–Dad’s prerogative!) and to remind us that dads can be (almost) as much fun as moms (wink, wink).
Shane Beatty lives in Glastonbury, CT with his wife, two sons, and two dogs. He is a Connecticut native that, although he may be slightly biased, thinks that Connecticut is a pretty great state. He doesn’t understand why so many people talk negatively about the state, when there are so many great things to do here, as evidenced by the many outings written about on this site.
He works in IT, which is very interesting to him, but you don’t have to talk to him about it, so don’t worry.
He enjoys almost everything about the outdoors (hiking, mountain biking, gardening), but the sun doesn’t agree with him, so please don’t take him to the beach.
He is a lifelong Yankees fan, as are his children, of course.
He dreams of some day having a farm, but not really having to do all of the hard work that goes along with that, because he’s actually pretty lazy. But it sounds like a nice idea to him, in theory.
One of his least favorite things in the world is writing, especially about himself.
Due to recent changes in Audrey’s work schedule, I’ve been given the opportunity to be primary caregiver to both of our delightful children during most weekend days. This has resulted in a lot of changes to our weekend routine. Trying to manage all of the household work, getting the kids to tee ball games on time, making sure nobody starves to death, etc. has made me gain a whole new appreciation for what Audrey does every other day of her life. I have a wonderful wife, and I’m so thankful and fortunate to have her. This is the end of the sappy part.
I can’t be stuck inside the house all day with a 5 year old and a 1 ½ year old. Nobody should have to endure that. I realized quickly that I need to find some activities for us to do during the weekend, especially now that the weather is finally getting nice (it’s not raining again…is it?). I also realized that I should look at this as a really great chance to spend some dedicated quality time with the kids, instead of the usual rush of trying to get everybody where they’re supposed to be, and just barely hanging on to some semblance of a normal life.
I’ve always loved the outdoors, and to this point, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of showing the kids what’s so great about nature. The Big One (I can’t bring myself to use pet names, so The Big One and The Small One are the names that you will henceforth know my children as, when I’m speaking of them) loves bugs (he was recently letting a millipede crawl on his arm), and delights in picking dandelions and other various “weeds” to give to Mom or the nearest stranger nearby. The Small One enjoys being outside, but isn’t so much a fan of getting his feet dirty. He’s a work in progress.
In my opinion, there’s not much better than getting out in the middle of the woods, away from the traffic and the people and the noise, and just listening to and appreciating nature. So when I happened upon a Facebook post from the CT DEEP (Department of Energy and Environmental Protection – I’m sure that amalgamation makes sense to somebody, but I don’t get it) describing the “Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge” for 2019, I knew it was the perfect thing for us.
The DEEP has been doing the yearly challenge since at least 2015 (that’s the earliest date I could find on page one of my Google search, and I don’t know anybody that’s ever bothered to actually visit page 2 of a Google search, so that’s where my search ends), and it’s “designed to promote hiking in Connecticut’s State Parks and Forests”. Regardless of your parenthood status, I think it’s a great thing for everybody to check out; our State Forests and Parks are such a wonderful and underutilized resource, and the Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge is an excellent indicator of just how underutilized they are.
On the list for this year are 14 Parks and Forests. Half of them, I’d never even heard of, and of the remaining ones, I’d only visited 3. The challenge is:
- Visit at least 10 of the 14 listed State Parks or Forests
- Take a picture of yourself (and kids!) in front of a designated sign, AND at each of the listed sites within the Park or Forest.
- Send the pictures to the DEEP when you’re done!
The DEEP website has the full list of rules and places to visit/take pictures, so please check it out and don’t just take my word for it.
But what’s a challenge without PRIZES?? Everybody that completes 10 of 14 hikes receives a medallion (which The Big One is SUPER excited about), and if you’re a crazy person like me and you finish all 14 hikes (I plan to, but let’s aim for 10 to start…), you’re entered into a drawing to win one of 50 hand-carved hiking staffs (doesn’t “hiking staff” sound way more official than “walking stick”?). I suspect they don’t have kid-sized hiking staffs for the tiny ones, but I’m sure The Big One will find a very safe and responsible way to use his if he manages to earn it.
Entries for both the medallion and the hiking staff need to be received by December 6, which leaves you 6 months to get you and your kids outside 10 times. Now, before you start complaining to me that I should have told you about this months ago so you’d have time to complete it, let’s be realistic and admit to ourselves that you, just like me, were not going to take your little complainers hiking when it was cold/snowing/raining, which eliminates any possibility of you having done many of these hikes before you started reading this anyway. But like I said before, the weather is good now, so no excuses!
Because I wanted to help you, and not because I’m a crazy person that needs to visualize everything, I made a Google Map that has all 14 hike locations mapped out. I’m tracking our progress by changing the icon color to green on all the hikes that we’ve completed. So, hopefully this map will get greener and greener as the years go on.
A few weeks ago, I strapped the behemoth that is my 1 ½ year old onto my back in our brand new (new to us, at least – thank you so much to the wonderful friend that gave it to us) hiking baby carrier loaded with snacks, drinks, raincoats, and other essentials (donuts as a reward for making it to the halfway point of the hike), and set off on our first hike of the year at the closest location on the list – Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middletown.
The picture locations for this one were the sign at the entrance, the “little falls”, and the “big falls”. I’ve found that The Big One does really well when tasked with an important job. His assigned jobs for this hike were Picture Location Finder and Trail Marker Finder. The job that he assigned to himself was Greeter/High-Fiver of Everybody on the Trail. The Little One’s job was Stop Hitting Daddy on the Back of the Head. I had only one job, which was Make Sure Everybody Survives. Fortunately, we all successfully completed our jobs.
We picked a perfect day for this one, because it was still fairly cool, and the waterfalls were really flowing due to the recent deluges of rain (have I mentioned the rain already?). The trail itself is fairly easy (not many rocky or steep parts except for one section near the Little Falls), although a bit long, depending on the level of endurance of you and/or your hiking partners. It’s and out-and-back round trip of about 3 miles, with the Big Falls at the halfway point. The Big One surprisingly had no issue with the distance, which was most likely due to the sugar rush he experienced after inhaling his donut once we got to the Big Falls.
Overall, the trail is very well marked. I can’t stress enough how much The Big One loves spotting the trail markers. It’s like a little reward each time he sees one before me, and it really helps to split up the hike into sections that seem more attainable. We make a game out of it, and the more “boring” sections of trail all of a sudden become more fun. Despite the abundant trail markers, there are two things that I think are important to note:
- After visiting the Little Falls, the trail goes STRAIGHT up the hill. It’s manageable, but it’s steep. The thing is, once you get to the top of the hill, there’s a fork in the trail and there’s no indication of which way to go to get to the Big Falls. Turn right. There – I just saved you about a mile of heartbreak.
- Once you’re ALMOST at the Big Falls, the trail abruptly ends at a fairly busy road. TURN RIGHT. Wow, I just saved you again. You’re welcome.
I highly recommend downloading the trail map to your phone in advance of your trip in order to check it out in case there’s any confusion along the way.
There are two parking lots for Wadsworth Falls State Park. The “correct” lot to park in for this hike is right on Route 157. You can put 721 Wadsworth St. Middletown, CT into your GPS app. There’s also a parking lot right at the Big Falls, on Cherry Hill Rd. So, if you don’t feel like doing the hike (or want to do it backwards, I guess) you can park there.
The Wadsworth Falls hike itself isn’t too physically demanding. If you and your smaller ones can handle 3 miles of walking, it’s totally doable. However, some of the hikes on the list are more demanding and potentially unsafe, depending on everybody’s age/abilities. Two notable ones are Horse Guard State Park and Macedonia Brook State Park. They both have some very steep rocky sections. We just did Horse Guard State Park (maybe there will be another post about that one!) and it was amazing, but we had to be very careful in some spots.
Fortunately, The Big One can be a good listener when he wants to be, so we managed it just fine. But please just be aware, and be ready to turn back rather than take unnecessary chances. Also, some of these hikes are much more remote than others. We ran into a ton of people at Wadsworth Falls, so it’s not too much of an issue, but people do get lost in the woods, and it’s always important to be prepared (thanks, Boy Scouts!). Ok, I will now turn off Parent Mode.
In case I haven’t successfully sold this idea to you, consider this: Connecticut’s State Parks and Forests are now FREE to park at, for Connecticut residents. Well, not really free, since you pay the fee as part of your vehicle registration now. But look at it this way: you’ve already paid, so don’t waste your money. Get out there and give nature a try.
When you’re out there, do your hike however you want to do it, but I recommend taking some time out to just appreciate the abundance of life that’s happening all around you. It’s pretty amazing. Oh, and don’t litter. The environment thanks you.
I could go on and on about how great these places are, but even if you can’t or don’t want to do 10 hikes this year, I encourage you to at least give one a try – maybe pick one that’s nearby. You might be surprised how much you and your kids might be able to learn from nature.
Various locations (parks) across Connecticut
Per the DEEP, “State Park and Forest Recreation Areas are open to the public year round, as conditions permit, from sunrise until sunset. They are open to vehicular traffic from 8 a.m. to sunset.”
- Stroller Friendly: Probably not. A good jogging stroller might work for some sections of some trails, but I’d recommend a good baby carrier instead
- Coffee Mug Friendly: YES, but take your trash home with you
- Restroom: SOMETIMES. The outdoors are one giant restroom for a 5 year old boy, but only the most visited of the State Parks have actual restrooms or porta potties.
- Baby Changing Station: NO
- Parking: YES. Some Parks have more parking spaces available than others.
- Food for Sale: NO
- Outside Food Allowed: YES. All food is outside food when you’re eating it in the woods. DON’T LITTER.
- Cash Required: NO
- Dress Code: Hiking boots preferred, but at least wear good stable shoes. Be prepared for potential changing weather, and consider bringing environmentally-friendly bug spray
- Age Recommendation: 0-116. Even if you and your hiking partners aren’t walkers, you can always check out smaller sections of the Parks. Just know your abilities.
Evening/Weekend Hours: YES, but be mindful of the time. Nobody wants to get stuck in the middle of the woods overnight.
- Birthday Party Venue: YES. Why not? Sounds like a good birthday party to me.
- Discounts: N/A
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