A note from Maman on the Trail:
Meet Erin, a human of the outdoors. Erin lives in Anchorage, Alaska and gets outdoors with her husband and their two sons, ages 12 and 23. Here is her story…
On her time outdoors…
We are an Alaskan family dedicated to bringing the outdoors to all kids. Through Alaska’s only family travel website, AKontheGO.com, we live the values and walk the talk together with an incredible community of local and state support in the outdoor recreation and travel industries. Plus, we’re just really busy, happy people. There’s my husband, James, who works for the US Forest Service; our son O, now 12, who has been just about everywhere in Alaska; and our older son, MJ, who occasionally joins us. He is 23 and lives with the challenges of autism. Our two dogs join us for camping adventures.
I am inspired to get outdoors by my father, who is now 85 and still the guy who leaves me in the dust. He is a forester and loves trees and nature, and fostering the same in his kids and grandkids.
On getting outside with growing kids…
We have had to adapt our expectations of what getting outdoors looks like. When they were little, it was easy to make the decision about when, where, and with whom. These days, our 12-year old is constantly reminding us that he likes to be consulted ahead of time. Our oldest is not particularly a fan of the outdoors anymore, so he does not usually accompany us on our adventures, especially in the winter. So we’ve had to adapt to that as well, as it is very much his lifestyle choice as an adult.
On getting outdoors with autism…
It was an excellent tool for behavior management when our son was younger (well into his teens, in fact). Outdoor activity provided an outlet for feelings and kept his physical self healthy. As he has grown into an adult, however, his choice is not to be outdoors. From a sensory perspective, winter cold very much bothers him. From a boundary perspective, I think (although he’d probably disagree with me) the outdoors feels too “open” for a young man who feels most comfortable wrapped in physical limits (that help, not hinder him).
On blogging about family travel in Alaska…
When we moved to Alaska in 2005, there was precious little in the way of resources for parents. With a toddler and a young teenager, and as a new resident to this enormous and unfamiliar place, it was tough to find out where and how to get outdoors with the kids, and what destinations were family-friendly. I started AKontheGO.com in 2009 after freelancing for a local outdoor magazine and noticed the positive feedback every time I wrote about family travel. I fell into the right niche at the right time, and I’m still the only resident family travel expert in the state.
On the top places to visit in Alaska…
The Alaska Marine Highway System (a destination and journey) covers 3,000+ miles of coastal Alaska with very different communities along the way. Small, larger, Alaska Native; they are all found there, and if a family truly wants to get to know our state, this is the best way to do it. Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and a hub for every economic and culturally-related aspect of the state. With 300,000 people, Anchorage has more than half of the state’s population and it is one of the most culturally-diverse cities in the country. Our school district has 100 different languages spoken by students, and as such, there is a wealth of opportunities for visitors. It is also the jumping-off point for all the activities people want when they visit; fishing, hiking, wildlife, camping, national parks, Native experiences, etc.
On learning resilience from a mama bear…
The day I shared breathing space with a mama bear was probably the defining moment of my own motherhood. I was on a trip deep in Katmai National Park and it remains front and center of my daily parenting, and living.
I was visiting Katmai National Park after an earlier trip that same season – this time I came to get away from some tough things going on with our older son and needed to completely unplug for a few days. I went out on a hike with the camp manager and we crossed paths with 8 or so brown bears, which was stressful enough, but on the way back, we encountered a sow with a 2 year-old cub and ended up in between her and it in the middle of a stream bank. Fortunately, the whole mission of Hallo Bay Bear Camp is to utilize strategies and behaviors the bears will find non-threatening (this is a major component of their success and eco-service to the bear-viewing world), so we did everything right; she ended up moving between the cub and us, but so close I could feel her breath and look right into her yellow eyes. It was about 2 minutes of sheer fight or flight response and it left me thinking if a mama bear could power through what must have been a very stressful situation for HER, then I could continue powering on as a human parent. It has defined my sense of resilience ever since.
A little Q & A…
Q: What is your go-to adventure snack?
A: Smoked salmon, unless we are in bear country, then I switch to smoked almonds.
Q: What piece of gear do you never leave the house without?
A: My Teton Sports day pack*. It sort of bugged me at first but I take it everywhere, all 4 seasons.
Q: What is your favourite nature quote, and who said it first?
A: “Life is a journey; bring comfy shoes.” ~ Unknown
Q: What one piece of advice would you share with someone who is wary of or new to the outdoors?
A: Just go. Go out your front door. Next time, go down the street. After that, go where your soul tells you, not your head.
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