Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Cragmama’s Featured #KidCrushers Issue 3

Last month’s edition of #Kidcrushers (found here) featured lots of bouldering crushers, some budding crack climbers, a newbie multi-pitcher, and even one head injury!  Three lucky winners were chosen to win a prize pack from Flapjacked.  This month the bar has been raised, and we’ve got some kiddos featured that can climb harder than many grown-ups I know!  We’ve also got a great prize from our friends at Clif, so without further adieu, here’s #KidCrushers, Issue #3…

Here’s 13 year old Cathy K. tackling her FIRST TRAD LEAD (Cave Route, 5.4, at Table Rock, NC.)  She was part of a summer climbing camp with Fox Mountain Guides (more info here.)

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Photo: Karsten Delap

Sophie (age 6) and Ian (age 8) keep it all in the family on a summer day on Sunset Slabs near Anacortes, WA.  

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Another brother/sister duo, Noah and Zoe pull down on an early morning bouldering session in Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT.

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 9 year old sponsored athlete Victoria G. demonstrating the “kid beta” for Iron Man Traverse (V4) in the Buttermilks (CA.)

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Merit S. from Ohio is cranking it out at Scioto Audubon Metro Park, the largest (man-made) outdoor climbing facility in the US.

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Meanwhile, Caden M. is a dirtbag climber in the making!

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This crusher hails from Peak Experiences Climbing Gym in Midlothian, VA.

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Here’s a crusher (“Abs”) from fellow #outdoorfamilies blogger The Kid Project – I’m jealous that they spend their summer evenings playing in Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT.

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 As always, Crag-Daddy, Big C, and myself each chose our favorite picture, and those three folks will receive a prize.  This time around the winners were:  Cathy, Sophie, Caden!  This month’s #KidCrushers sponsor was Clif, and each winner will receive a sample pack of Clif Shot hydration mixes!  We like the ingredients in these better than Gatorade, and they taste just as good!  As a parent, my favorite part is that it comes in powder form, which means I can dilute it to make it last longer (otherwise Big C would have downed his before he even got to the crag…)

As always, if you know someone who isn’t featured here, but SHOULD be, let me know!  Email me a picture and caption at infoATcragmamaDOTcom, or simply tag your instagram photos using hashtag #Kidcrushers.  Photos received by August 18th will be featured in a post at the end of the month – and I’m thrilled to announce that Bearded Bros Energy Bars has already stepped up to sponsor the August Issue!  Yum!  So grab your camera and do some family crushing!  

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Sentimental Snapsots: The Power of “Do-Overs”

With a 4 month old in the house, one on one fun with my son is at a premium these days.  I always know his (and my) quality time tank is running on fumes when we have a day where everything seems to be falling apart.  You know the kind I mean – when you feel as though you can’t do anything right, and are a complete failure as a parent.  Yep, those days.  You’d think that by the second kid my track record would’ve improved a bit, but now that there are two of them, those out of control days seem to show up twice as often.  
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We had one such day a few weeks ago, sparked by the clingy nursing frenzy that is otherwise known as a growth spurt. It was overwhelming to say the least.  And while C is ordinarily very good at self-entertainment, he had clearly grown weary of playing by himself, and was acting out accordingly.  By the end of the day, it seemed as though the majority of our interactions that day had involved temper tantrums, whining, and crying (and usually a combination of all three.)  

That’s why I love this picture – it was taken the NEXT day, after we’d had a long talk at breakfast about what things went wrong the day before, and how we each could “start over and make better choices today.”  Baby Z was back to “normal,” Big C cut me a little slack, and I went out of my way to carve out some time for just the two of us.  The crag-daddy was working from home on that particular day, so during Baby Z’s 35 minute nap window in the morning (yeah I’m ready for all of these naps to start stretching out…but that’s another post entirely!!!), Big C and I biked to our local smoothie shop to grab a cold treat.  The time shared together seemed to reset both of our attitudes, and reinforced the conversation we’d had earlier.  

Every day won’t be perfect, fun, and may very well be downright horrible.  But thank goodness for “do-overs.”

How do you bounce back when life gets overwhelming?

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Gear Review: Yahoo for Weehoo!

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“Weeeeee-hooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” was the uninhibited chant I repeatedly heard from behind me on the 3 mile section of road between our house and Trader Joe’s.  It was our first excursion on our brand new Weehoo, an innovative new bike trailer design from a small company out of Golden, CO. 

Let me back up.  A couple of months ago, Women’s Adventure Magazine asked if our family would be interested in reviewing this product for them.  To be honest, while I thought the idea was super cool, I was a little unsure of how my 4 year old son would react to the Weehoo.  After all, he’s pretty darn proud of the fact that he’s moved up to a “big boy bike” in recent months, and I was afraid he would think the idea of going back into a bike trailer was babyish.  After all, while a regular bike trailer does a great job at transporting babies and children too young to bike, it’s more of a spectator sport, since passengers just sit back and enjoy the ride.  But the Weehoo is no ordinary bike trailer…

To find out the many reasons why it’s awesome (and in no way baby-ish for big kid riders…), check out the full article here on Women’s Adventure Online.  An excerpt can also be found in the summer print issue of the magazine, along with plenty of other reviews on the latest bike gadgets for the whole family, so be sure to check both out!  

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A Blackberry Biking Bonanza

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Our family traditionally celebrates the 4th of July in Winston-Salem with both sets of grandparents.  We have homemade ice cream, ping pong and corn hole tournaments, and of course the biggest, most badass fireworks display in the neighborhood!  As the Crag-Daddy’s parents have gotten bitten by the biking bug in recent years, the past couple of Independence Days have also featured a biking adventure – last year we spent a day on the “rails to trails” system in Virginia’s New River State Park.  

So much has changed since then!  Not only has Big C graduated from balance bike to big boy bike, but we’ve added another family member!  So in light of all the transition, we opted for a more low-key adventure a little closer to our home base.  Big C’s grandparents (aka BeBe and Papa Joe), are lucky enough to have neighborhood access to the Muddy Creek Greenway.  Even luckier is the fact that several sections of the trail are lined with wild blackberries – and they just so happen to be in season right now!

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So the morning after our fireworks fiesta, we enjoyed a leisurely (and yummy!) pancake breakfast and then took our bikes out for a morning spin.  We timed our departure for Baby Z’s naptime, and she dozed peacefully while her big brother darted around on his bike, fleeing from make-believe bad guys and talking his Papa Joe’s ear off.  

A happy little girl with her Daddy!

A happy little girl with her Daddy!

We all biked at Big C’s pace, and stopped often for his little legs to rest, but I was very proud of him for covering all 6.5 miles of greenway with zero complaints!  Everyone’s favorite pit stops were the ones involving the picking (and eating) of the blackberries – luckily we’d thought ahead and brought containers to bring some back with us.

Once we were back at the house, we enjoyed the (literal) fruits of our labors by making a delectable cobbler, using not only the blackberries, but also some melt-in-your-mouth fresh peaches!  We had so much fruit that we DOUBLED the amount that would normally go in the recipe, and the results were FANTASTIC!  You’d think it couldn’t get any better…except that we had some of the homemade ice cream from the night before to serve on top!  

There’s just something magical about  “foraging” for your own food and then turning it into something yummy.  With all of the over-processed, preservative-laden options that overrun grocery stores these days, our homegrown goodness was so refreshing – as well as a great opportunity to teach (and actually show!) Big C where “real food” comes from.  I should be ashamed to admit that 4 people finished off all but one small piece of the cobbler within 12 hours…but I’m not.  Instead I’m thankful for the many freedoms that my family is able to enjoy – and one of those is gathering around a table enjoying delicious food with people that we love!  

How did YOUR family celebrate your freedom this past Independence Day weekend?

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From this...

From this…

 
...to this!!!

…to this!!!

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The Best Vehicles for Adventure!

As much as I despise car shopping, I’ll be the first to admit that the right vehicle can make road trips a dream, whereas the wrong one can turn it into a nightmare.  We learned this lesson firsthand a couple of months ago on a family camping/climbing adventure to Grayson Highlands State Park, VA.  Our previous adventure-mobile (which I LOVED prior to Baby Z’s arrival) was suddenly glaringly inadequate with the addition of a newborn.  

Luckily, we were expecting this to happen, and we’d already done a bunch of research on what would be best for our newly expanded family (spoiler alert…we are now mini-van owners!)  But for those of you who may not know where to begin, I surveyed several of my fellow adventure blogger friends on their tried and true favorites.  Obviously things like gas mileage and storage space are relative, but here are the ones that came out on top…

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HONDA ELEMENT:  This was our adventure-mobile as a family of 3, and it served us very well.  Take a look at the parking lot of your local crag and you’ll quickly realize that the Element is pretty popular with the climbing crowd.  In fact, at one point over half of the Trango athletes all drove Elements!
The Good: For a relatively small vehicle, it’s got a lot of cargo space. The entire interior is made to be hosed down, so you don’t have to worry about all those muddy footprints!  The back seats can be folded up and to the side for more room.  The high clearance and AWD gave us confidence driving along bumpy, gravelly, and deeply rutted mountain roads, and it’s proven itself worthy in the snow a time or two.  We’ve even driven through a couple of feet of water without any trouble!  It handles great and turns on a dime.  The suicide doors give you LOADS of room to get gear in and out.  We haul our bikes with it, and throw a Thule boxtop on the roof for camping trips, and we’ve always had plenty of room to spare.  Considering that it’s shaped like a giant box, the Element gets decent gas mileage, especially compared to larger SUV’s.  
The Bad:  There is not a middle seat, just a middle console.  This has been a dealbreaker for us, as no 5th seat now means no room to bring an extra climbing partner along, which is a MUST now with Baby Z.  The engine is only 4 cylinders, so it doesn’t have a lot of get up and go, and you’re not supposed to haul anything bigger than a bike with it.  While the car doors are great in wide open spaces, Big C and I have to play musical chairs to get ourselves in and out of the car in some of the shopping centers around here with very small parking spaces.  

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Teresas Subie

SUBARU OUTBACK - Another vehicle that will overtake a crag parking lot is a Subaru Outback. A LOT of outdoorsy folks love ‘em, and rightfully so.
The Good: You’ll have the comfort of a sedan, but with a whole lot more cargo space, especially if you throw a box on top.  It also comes with AWD, and has much higher clearance than the average sedan/wagon.  Teresa Delfin from Expect Adventure says that the “petite” Impreza Outback (plus a rack that holds a box + bikes/kayak) is perfect for her and her two kids, but that taller passengers might prefer the extra leg room of the Legacy Outback.  She also loves the way the manual transmission handles mountain curves.  Jentri King from Backcountry Parenting is a big fan of the organized storage in the back, saying “It keeps things handy in case of emergency – ie first aid kit, food, guidebooks, etc.  It will also hold a stove and pot set in the side cubbies…we can have the car all set for camping, so we just need to pack clothes each time.”
The Bad:  Teresa’s only complaint was regarding the AWD – “If you blow out a tire, you have to replace all 4, and this can get pricey!”  Jentri’s family wishes they had a tow hitch as well as better gas mileage.  

SUBARU FORESTER - Another “subie” found its way on the list.  The Forester is shorter, but taller than it’s wagon counterpart, and looks more like a small SUV.  
The Good: Rockies Girl Sarah McLean got her family’s Forester for the space, clearance, and AWD.  She says, “We often drive to the mountains to ski, so having a vehicle that was safe driving in icy conditions was a main concern…I’ve taken it up logging roads with no problems. We’ve also fit 4 adults, camping gear and climbing gear on a 9 hr road trip though it was tight.”  Mae Kiggins of Mommy Loves Trees also loves everything about her Forester and adds – “we can even fit our jogging stroller in the back without having to take the wheels off.”  
The Bad:  I couldn’t find anyone that had anything bad to say about the Forester, but my guess is that it has similar towing issues as the Outback and the Element.  

What AK on the Go uses to get on the go!

HONDA PILOT – One of the “big” SUV’s, this was a vehicle we’d considered before purchasing our Element, but ultimately decided against because at the time we wanted less car for everyday use.  But for John Soltys of Moosefish, the Pilot is the ticket for happy adventuring.
The Good:  “It can seat eight, or seven with the dog, or five with the dog and some gear. In reality, we almost always take the Thule box on top or pull a cargo trailer. The Pilot gets decent gas mileage and handles better than a truck.”
The Bad:  “The 
suspension is a little soft for serious off-roading, but it does great in snow and on dirt roads.”

JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE – I was rather surprised that my survey results only included one Jeep, which for so many years was the iconic adventure vehicle of choice!  Here’s what Jessica Averett from Bring the Kids had to say about it.
The Good:  “I love it because it can pretty much take everything we can dish out at it without needing to be super insanely tough or modified.  We use it for skiing, camping, climbing, rafting…the 4×4 has taken us down some pretty intense trails through Moab, while still fitting 3 kids!”
The Bad:  “We just had Baby #4 and decided that pretty much the only car that works for that many kids AND carrying lots of gear is the Suburban, since no other cars with three rows of seats also have lots of cargo space.”

JETTA TDI WAGON: Erin Kirkland of AK on the Go prefers her Jetta for road trips.
The Good: “It’s diesel and has plenty of storage – we put the box on top and can go just about anywhere!”
The Bad:  Erin wishes it could haul her new trailer…

The newly christened "Craggin' Wagon" in action at the Obed River, TN a couple of weeks ago.

The newly christened “Craggin’ Wagon” in action at the Obed River, TN a couple of weeks ago.

TOYOTA SIENNA - This is our latest new purchase! (Well, new to us, we bought used…)  I know so many people that resisted diving into a van and then once they got one, wondered why they’d waited so long!  It might not get us any cool points at the crag, but our family is optimistic that our new “Craggin’ Wagon” will get us there in fine comfort and style on the inside!
The Good:  We’ve now got plenty of room to carry extra climbing partners with us, along with all of our adventuring gear.  In fact our maiden voyage included 2 large bouldering pads, camping gear, a bike, and an inflatable kayak! (And we didn’t even need to use the box top!)  When Baby Z gets upset on the road, one of us can easily slide back there and get to her.  In the event that we did want to add on a trailer later on, the Sienna has more than enough power to pull it.  Plus, who doesn’t love van doors for loading and unloading gear?!?  There is an AWD option, but we opted to save our money instead, since it seems for us right now more of a “nice to have” rather than a “need.”  
The Bad:  Nothing to speak of so far, though we are admittedly still in the “honeymoon phase.”  

ADD-ONS - Sometimes the best adventure solution is not the vehicle itself, but the things you add to it.  Racks, box tops, and trailers are probably the most common ones, but every now and then you run across something super unique!  

Joe Disciullo's pimped out Honda Element is perfect for climbing road trips!

Charlotte local Joe Disciullo’s pimped out Honda Element is perfect for climbing road trips!

Nice roof top tent for the Edge family from www.adventuretykes.com!

Nice roof top tent for the Edge family from www.adventuretykes.com!

While there’s probably not a car out there that is PERFECT (one that normal people can afford anyway!), it seems as though many families, ours included, get very attached to our vehicles.  After all, it’s main job is to get all the people we love to the places we love the most!  So with that in mind, I’d love to hear the goods, the bads, and even the uglies of what everyone else adventures in, along with how many you usually transport and where you usually go.  Happy adventuring!

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