Almost everyone can fondly recall a memory of playing outside in the summer. These nostalgic images, sometimes compete with the smells and sound memories, herald a time when we ran barefoot, got sweaty and often created made-up games. Perhaps you puttered individually and quietly by a creek or ran noisily in a pack through the neighborhood with friends. Most of us didn’t care about “hat hair,” biting bugs, and to many of our mothers’ chagrin, usually gave little thought to how dirty and smelly we became.
Somewhere along the journey to adulthood, the carefree elements of time spent out-of-doors evolve,…and that’s not ALL bad. A little sunscreen, hiking sandals or boots, and pest spray can make “green” time (and the days after) much more pleasant. Yet, as we enter the middle of an Okie summer with hot temps, high dew points, an abundance of problem bugs, some adults are saying, “Where was spring? Enough!” and are counting the days until autumn.
It is true, we are having one of those summers that require the hardiest of hikers to dig deep for motivation to get out and stay out. Oklahoma had the coolest 2018 recorded daily temperature in the month of March in history, the hottest average day highs in May, and not so much over-winter freezing that nature could put a dent in the tick population.
But this story isn’t about bemoaning the arrival of the warmest season on the prairie, it is about challenging all of us to think like a kid again (or, at least, an open-minded, positive and thoughtful planning adult) and make the most of the time of year when days are long, water is the right the temperature to take a plunge and many more of us can plan hiking adventures with kids, grandkids, pets and friends.
At a recent site visit to one of the Nation Wildlife Federation’s participating ECO schools in Reston, Virginia, one of our CCOF team members was reminded that elementary kids get out for lessons, planting flowers, PE, reading time and even caring for small animals and vegetable gardens regardless of the weather. Their mantra: you simply “suit up” for the day. Students grab a rain slicker or umbrella, put on boots and a coat, un-layer or up-layer with what they have in their locker…because weather does not change the schedule of the day.
And to that point, unless there is lightning on a camping trip or high wind on a boat trip, why do many of us as adults (and some kids now too) say, “Oh, it’s raining, we can’t hike” or “it’s too hot to bike, let’s stay inside”?
At CCOF, we want to challenge you to shed the “humbug” attitude (yours or those of kids or friends when you hear it), and adopt a “heck yes” mentality toward getting outside, no matter the weather, and enjoy it. With just a little planning, you might have even more fun and create greater adventures on a warm or wet day!
Did you know Oklahoma has six national park sites, one of the nations oldest and largest National Forests (the Ouachita), and more than 55,000 acres in State Park land? And, then there are all the municipal walking and biking trails as well as the city and county parks. So, finding a spot to play is NOT a barrier.
But it is summer, so may we suggest you consider looking for trails with shade or a destination that ends with a river or lake to hop into and cool your crew down? Some great shadier spots in the Sooner state include:
Cedar Lake, Ouachita National Forest (yay pine trees!)
Chickasaw National Recreation Area (ohhh, creeks and spring-fed watering holes)
Beavers Bend State Park in Broken Bow
The Illinois River near Tahlequah (combine that with a hike at the J.T. Nickel Family Nature & Wildlife Preserve!)
To tame the summer heat and entice the most ardent humidity haters, think about:
Take a cooler with ice and rags for cooling off
Pack more water to drink than imagine you need…and drink up often
Wear a hat (wide-brimmed all around is best)
Apply (and re-apply) that sunscreen
If you will be in “buggy” areas, spray hiking clothes down 24 hours ahead of time with pyrethrin repellant to keep ticks at bay – including socks, shoes, hats, etc.
Use a “people” safe spray for insect deterrence on the skin (hands, neck, etc.)
Wear lightweight clothing and long sleeves and pants that breath when possible
Pack “light” snacks and take shady breaks when eating
Hike early or late to miss peak temperatures
End near a “watering hole” known for public access and safe water
Check the forecast for severe storms or dangerous heat warnings
Take water spray bottles for a welcome water fight
Acclimate ahead of any big trip/hike planned
Hydrate for many days ahead of extra outdoor activity
Freeze fruits or fruit juices and take them in a travel cooler or backpack
Make the trip fun or educational (use nature books, plan a treasure hunt, download plant or animal mobile ID apps, or create your own version of being-outdoors-bingo)
Make the most of our ecologically diverse state and get outside! If you go in a group, let everyone help
in the planning and packing. Above all, don’t let the summer slip by and find yourself saying, “I wish I