By: Martianne Stanger
A decade or so ago, I hiked in the Swiss Alps. Prior to having children, I began knocking off some of the New Hampshire 4000 footers. Now, just tackling Mt. Laundry is conquest enough for me most days. (Trust me on this. All three of my children were hit by the belly bug this past April and I did more sheets and towels in one week than most families do in a year, I think!)
Truth be told, though, sometimes my feet itch to scale more than the basement steps and I long to breathe in fresh, clean air somewhere besides next to my laundry line. That’s when it is time to pack snacks and drinks, grab the family and head out to enjoy an easy nature walk at one of our favorite nearby trails, such as:
Our entire family enjoys each of these fairly-short, kid-friendly trails. But, sometimes Mama’s happy feet long to hike a bit further. At those times, I dig out our bigger backpacks and grab our passports to prepare for something a bit more challenging.
“Passports?” You might wonder. “How do you have the time, money or patience for international travel with three young children?”
Um, I don’t (even if I dream about one day doing a hut-to-hut with my family in Switzerland.)
The passports I am talking about aren’t international ones. They are Massachusetts Park Passports. Our family discovered them last year, and my son eagerly stamped each of our passports after visiting a few of the 76 suggested parks.
This year, we are geared to check out even more. In fact, as soon as the weather broke last month, we added the Blue Hills stamp to our passports and we have a number of other hikes on our list for days when the beach does not beckon – or even when it does, since Scusset is included in the Park Passports Program.
Of course, visiting the state parks means making lots of memories. So, if the kids and I are feeling ambitious this summer, we might even start a scrapbook to tuck our passports into.
The learning pages at the DCR site would act as perfect dividers for the scrapbook if printed on cardstock, and the free printable activity stickers would make fun embellishments, as well as act as a pictorial way for my pre-and emerging readers to record what they enjoy doing at each park.
In these economic times, Daycations are what it is all about for my family. So, I am just thrilled to have the Park Passports program as a motivating excuse to explore the wide variety of natural areas our state has to offer – from beaches to mountains, from forests to farms – and all for free (with a library pass at locations where there is a parking fee).
To get your own Park Passports, see the DCR’s Getting Started page. Then, if you have children ages 16 and under who stamp their passports at each of the parks within a specific region, you can also get a tee shirt as a reward.
(Free fun with prizes. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.)
I’d love to hear about some of your favorite passport hikes, as well as any other local trails you’d recommend checking out. Please share links, locations, and stories in a comment below.