Blueberry pancakes and a hike. It’s become our routine one morning each weekend. It gives us regular time together as a family outdoors and physical activity.
We are creatures of habit though and often find ourselves hiking the same paths week after week. While getting to know places in nature intimately, especially as they change with the seasons, is valuable, I wondered, how could we expand our adventuring?
The answer: I gave each kid a copy of the Outdoor Duluth Recreation Map and asked them to pick any green space to explore.
The City of Duluth produces the detailed Outdoor Duluth Recreation Map. We picked up a free copy at the Parks & Recreation Office in downtown a couple of years ago (here is the 2015 PDF version; according to the Parks and Recreation office, the 2017 version will be available in early August). It highlights the 129 parks, 11,000 acres of green space, 6,834 acres of city parkland, 85 miles of bike trails, and 150 miles of hiking trails. WOW!
The kids love studying this map. The first time, Daley quickly honed in on one place, while Finley circled many options (said differently, nearly every one of the green sections).
Each time we go on a make-your-own-adventure adventure, we not only discover a new corner of Duluth, we make great memories. Some outings go as planned, and some don’t; either way, it is an adventure. Here are two examples.
Daley’s Make-Your-Own-Adventure Adventure: Our New Favorite Beach
For one of Daley’s adventures, he chose to explore Hearding Island WMA…because it required canoeing. If the kid can maneuver a watercraft into an outing, he will.
The 29-acre island was created in the 1930s from sand dredged from the harbor bottom. As a current Wildlife Management Area, it offers great bird watching opportunities but has restrictions. We read on the DNR website, “no disturbance during nesting season,” so we planned to solely canoe around it.
Yet, in a classic Duluth outdoor experience, we never did paddle its circumference due to the fact that our town has two distinct weather patterns happening at the same time.
It was the perfect summer day at our home as we prepared for our adventure by strapping the canoe to the top of our car. Sunny. Warm. Light breeze.
However, that light breeze turned into significant wind and waves (at least for navigating a canoe) when we arrived at the UMD Boat Shed along the bay side of Park Point.
We stood there to take in the not-so-light-anymore breeze. Should we still try to paddle around the island in this wind? Daley voted yes, of course.
We opted to follow our family’s “safety first” mantra and enjoyed a lovely morning along the UMD Boat Shed’s tiny beach. We watched huge freighters steam to the nearby docks and collected an impressive amount of beach glass.
While we never got to explore Hearding Island WMA, Daley’s adventure gave us a new favorite beach.
Finley’s Make-Your-Own-Adventure Adventure: Web Woods
A few months later, one of Finley’s choices brought our family to the Web Woods trail. None of us had ever heard of it before. It is perfectly tucked into the Duluth Heights neighborhood and great for a quick leg-stretcher hike. You can read more on my post dedicated to Web Woods about why this lollipop loop trail is worth exploring, especially if you are out running errands near the mall.
While our kids love old stand-bys such as Hartley Park or the Lakewalk, the thrill of exploring a new area put a skip in their step. And having them pick the unknown location added just enough intrigue to make it an adventure.
How do you motivate your family to spend time together outdoors? Share your experiences in the comment box below. Thanks!