Thanks to the recent rains the hills are green, the flowers are blooming and there is less sand on the beach. April is the perfect time to get out and explore our local wilderness before summer’s dryness and heat takes hold.
Two of my favorite annual events are around the corner: Adventure Day at Caspers Wilderness Park on Saturday, April 14, and the Spring Fair and Art Festival at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary on Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22. Both events offer the opportunity to get outside with guided hikes, arts & crafts, games, animal exhibits and local experts on all things outdoors. The Tucker event also features an arts and crafters fair. Plus, on Sunday, visit the nearby Madame Modjeska House (it’s on the national historic register, designed by McKim & White, and is usually open only for prearranged guided tours.) Tucker and the Modjeska house are tucked away out in Modjeska Canyon and Caspers is a few miles out of San Juan on the Ortega, both offering a fun drive out of tract-housed OC. www.OCParks.com or www.TuckerWildlife.org.
An event that we’ve never been to, but is on my calendar this year, is Earth Day at Panhe: A Native American Celebration, on Sunday, April 22 (I figure go to Tucker on Saturday and Panhe on Sunday.) Panhe is a 9,000 year old Acjachemen village, located at the present day San Mateo Campgrounds on the inland side of San Onofre State Park. The day features Native American dancers, singers, storytellers, demonstrations, crafts, music and more. I saw some pictures from last year’s event and it looks wonderful. www.SanOFoundation.org
Close to home, the Laguna Canyon Foundation offers monthly outdoor time for all members of the family. When we first moved to Laguna and weren’t familiar with the terrain and local critters (no rattlesnakes or lizards in New York!) husband and I went on a series of guided hikes so we would know what we were getting ourselves into. Our local schools do a great job introducing the kids to the canyons and tidepools, but nothing beats getting out together as a family.
On Sunday the 22nd (what a day!) naturalist, outdoor mentor and local mom Kimberly Leeds leads families in outdoor adventures in her Sunday Fun Day class starting at the Willow Canyon Staging Area on Laguna Canyon Road.
Technically, you are leaving town to get to the next two events, but you’re entering the greenbelt that surrounds Laguna, just from the other side: There is a Tot Walk on Friday, April 20 that meets at the Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park, off Alicia Parkway, which is perfect for the littlest walkers in your life; and on Monday, April 23, the Baby and Me Hike allows caregivers to get outside with their littlest ones in a sling, backpack or other carrier (no strollers.) www.LagunaCanyon.org
A few years ago, we went on a guided family hike out at Riley Park (as close to Coto de Caza as I need to get) and stopped afterward at the picnic tables right by the ranger station and parking lot to have our picnic lunch. And that’s when Eagle Eye Isabel saw it: a snake. In the bushes. No big deal, at first. But then we saw, and heard, its tail. Yup, a rattler. Minding its own business, but too close for comfort. The girls and I stood up on the picnic table while David casually walked over to the park ranger, who, luckily, was right in the parking lot, getting in his truck to do his rounds.
The Ranger got out his snake-catching stick/noose and promptly caught the rattler, showed it to us (up close & not too happy – fangs!) and put him in a sack to relocate him to the further reaches of the park. And we had a tale about a tail to tell.
Riley offers a guided Sunset Hike on Saturday, April 14. www.OCParks.com
A final recommendation: following the old, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for life” saying, Seeds Education is offering a Garden Supper Club on Tuesdays after school beginning April 17. This is a class for 6 to 10 year olds who will learn how to grow their dinner and then get to prepare and eat it. The class is at Anneliese in the Canyon. www.SeedsEd.org.
Whenever you go hiking or exploring the outdoors, remember your sunscreen, hats, long pants, sturdy shoes and water. A healthy snack/bribe is a good thing to bring along for little ones.
Rebecca Meekma is that friend who always knows something fun to do, and the Calendar Editor at Parenting OC magazine. Reach her at [email protected].