October 7, 2014

Geocaching for Families

What is Geocaching?

The recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website (from google).

(Ammo can with treasure and children trying to retrieve a cache from a downed log)

Getting Started

1.  Visit Geocaching.com and watch their amusing and helpful videos.  GeocacheAlaska is also a good resource once you are familiar with the sport.
2.  Dowload the geocaching App.  I use the free App from Geocaching and it works well for us, but you can buy the $9.99 version that apparently has more features.
3.  Get outside and open the app to find the closest caches to your location.  Tap on the one you want to visit and head out. Remember that your GPS has some variability in accuracy.
4.  The app gives you information about the difficulty of finding the cache, the terrain difficulty and the size (micro=film canister to large=ammo can).  It also tells you how close you are to the cache and which direction to go.  (I suggest playing around with it before setting off with the family.)
5.  Locate the box, bottle, rubbermaid, or other container and write your name (most geocachers have clever names, but you can just write your given name!).  Often, there are treasures in the box and it is customary for you to leave something in the box as well.  I carry a bag of glow in the dark bugs and a friend always has necklaces, but you can leave gift cards, foreign money or anything else that you might like to find.
6.  Replace the cache in the same place you found it and hide it again.
7.  On the app, mark that you found that cache and move onto the next one!

 (Ammo can that was clipped to a tree and my son's tromping off after a cache)


1.  When you are hot on the trail of the cache, look up every now and then.  I have found myself walking into trees or into a thicket where there very well could have been large, mean animals.
2.  Always remember where you came from.  You can get disoriented and forget exactly which direction your car is located!
3.  Caches can be on the ground, hung in a tree, hidden in a log or magnetized to a sign post!
4.  If you simply can't find it, look in the Activity tab on the app.  In the comments section, if there is a long string of "Did not Find", the cache could be missing.  People also might have listed 'hints' that can help in your search.
5.  Bring a pencil as many caches don't have one to sign the logbook.
6.  The caches are everywhere - in the middle of downtown, at the top of mountains and 40 feet under water.  If you are out and about with some time to spare, fire up the app and have fun!

(A reason to be aware of your surroundings -
we literally stumbled upon this bone pile on route to a cache)

Where should I go?

A great place to start is Campbell Creek Science Center - Drive all the way to actual Science Center.  There is a cache at the edge of the parking lot before the trail hidden near the base of a tree. There is another one on the other side of the Building in the trees.

Have fun!  This is a wonderful sport to get you outside and moving!

October 3, 2014

A Natural Playground for Anchorage?

I love the new parks being created in Anchorage. The fireweed climbing structures in Fairview, the amazing tree house at Stephenson Park and the zip lines at Oceanview are wonderful.  However, I see a need for a different sort of playground in Anchorage.  I dream of a playground with a natural feel, more loose parts (logs children can move for example) to encourage creativity and less plastic.

I can think of many parks that need a little TLC and would be ideal settings for a natural playground.  Castle Heights, Tikishla, and Ruth Arcand are the forerunners for location in my mind.  They are near wonderful natural areas, have space and need a bit of refurbishing. 

You can embed slides into hills, use logs for balancing elements and place large rocks for seats. Some elements must be made of plastic or concrete for durability and safety, but care is taken to have them mimic nature as closely as possible.  Much of the equipment is multipurpose and children can use their imaginations making the rock cave a hide out for bad guys, a lion den or a fairy house. 

In my internet searching, I made a little collection of images.  Some are from Canadian companies specializing in natural playgrounds and others are from actual natural playscapes that children enjoy. 

I worry about vandalism, but don't think that should stop a playground from being built!  Do you think a playground like this would work in Anchorage?  Would you take your children to a non-traditional playground like this?

September 23, 2014

Westchester Lagoon

 It was definitely Fall this morning at Skedaddle!  The sun poked through the clouds a few times and was wonderfully warm, but then a little breeze started and brought a little chill. 

I find this a hard season for dressing my children! We typically wear a long sleeved thermal shirt and a fleece.  I then layer on a rain coat or large fleece coat if needed.  I always pack gloves and a hat in the backpack with the snacks.  They don't take up much room and can really help extend an outdoor play session.

Footwear is also hard.  If we have large enough shoes, thinner wool socks in tennis shoes are good or thick socks in rain boots to help them stay on while playing.  I try to keep my sons in rain boots until there is a thick layer of snow as they don't dry out very quickly if they get wet. 

I hope you join us next week for Skedaddle on the East Side at Turpin Park.  There is a LARGE field here making fun for running, flying a kite or soccer.

September 9, 2014

Oceanview Redo (and ribbon cutting!)

 We visited Oceanview Park to check out the zip lines that were rumored to be amazing.  They did not disappoint us in the slightest.  My son rode it about a zillion times and I got a work out running from side to side.  I even gave it a few rides- it is fun!

 I think the rain kept most of the regulars away, but it was nice so the children only had to take turns with a few other children. 
We even took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony and could be on the news tonight!  It was a grand day!

September 2, 2014

Stephenson Playground

Another new playground in town!  This playground is small, but provides something wonderfully different.  There is a huge tree house structure that the kids loved.  It also had a long slide that was a little intimidating for the younger children, but even the adults took some turns!  There is a swing and balance log, but that is all.  The main emphasis of the playground is the huge structure. 

 If you have some time, you can take a look at the manufacturer of this equipment- playlsi.com.  There are some amazing things.  I found my way to their 'playbook' and started daydreaming about amazing playgrounds that could be built here.  Someday!
On another note, it was the first skedaddle with only one child for many parents as school started.  It was sad to notice that some families were not there (kiddos in school), but so interesting to see how differently the younger siblings act without their older role model to guide them. 

August 26, 2014

Balto Seppla

 I am thoroughly impressed with the design of this new playground in town.  I found the conceptual design online and it was interesting to see an image for a library and Iditarod Interpretive trail.   My boys kept saying that it was an American Ninja Warrior training area.  All of the children had so much fun climbing, swinging and spinning until they got sick (maybe that was only my son). 

The younger children seemed most happy in the sand pit with shovels, buckets and the two diggers.  I love that there is a sand area in town, instead of just using the volleyball pits. 

 Skedaddle descended upon this playground with about 40 children (some babes in arms).  While this playground is not large, the three distinct areas let children spread out and have some space.  There even were enough benches for the parents needing a rest.

A big shout out to all of the Skedaddlers starting school tomorrow.  There are many Kindergartners and First Graders leaving skedaddle for the summer.  As a parent, please feel free to come and have your coffee to chat even if your kiddos are at school now.  Parents need socialization and we would love to chat with you each Tuesday morning!

August 19, 2014

Campbell Creek Skedaddle

I remember going to this playground as a child.  There was a little play structure with a wide metal slide.  On those hot Alaskan summer days, it would get so darn hot!  I like the new and creative elements now at the playground.  It provides physical challenges for older and younger children.  It seems most children like the climbing net and even tiny kiddos traverse it at the top. 

No matter how wonderful the playground is now, the children always end up at the river.  It is a safe place for wading or even crawling for the littlest ones.  A small channel is near the bank and provides a wonderful wading area.  There is a little bridge made out of cinder blocks to cross the little channel - perfect place for working on balance skills.  Once on the island, children build lakes, toss stones into the water and scare their parents by wading towards the bridge.  You can even see salmon in this river at the right time! 

Join us next week near the Loussac Library for playing at the Cuddy Park.