Hikes for tykes

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Danger- cuteness ahead!

By Dawn Padfield

Way back in 1997, Elizabeth Meer was looking for a way to continue her weekly wildflower walks, but with her kids. So she, and a group of about five other families, started a weekly group focused on finding kid friendly nature walks in the area.

Skip ahead 13 years later and these hikes are still going strong.

While the faces of the families have changed as children have gotten older, the group is still scheduling walks and introducing preschoolers to the beauty of the great outdoors.

The group is currently led by Judy Kays, Megan Orsini, and Tracey Nautel. They like to use the words 'led by' lightly, as they try to keep the hikes pretty informal. Each hike is usually coordinated by a group of 3-5 core families.

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They meet every Thursday morning at 9:45 am in the spring (April-late June) and fall (Late August - early Nov.) skipping the summer, to avoid overgrown trails and the pesky bugs, and the winter for obvious reasons.

Right now there are about sixty people on the group's email list, but the regular turnout isn't quite that large. The last two hikes I joined saw about 15-20 moms.

The list of hiking locations includes state parks, Nature Conservancy areas, and even a town park. Over 13 years, they've narrowed down the best locations for kids and they know the best times to visit each area. Here's a list of some upcoming hikes and a few other neat places to visit.

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The children on the hikes range from the very young (lots of little ones in backpacks and carriers) to preschoolers. The trails have a lot to see and are not too overwhelming for little legs. (Note of caution: Since it is early in the season, the bathrooms at most of these places are still closed, so your kids might have to get closer to nature than expected.)

The first hike I attended was Thacher Park's Hop Field loop. When I arrived there was already a large group of (mostly) mothers gathered around in the circle. The hike coordinator (these rotate) lead a round of group introductions and we were off. The walk lasted about an hour and a half and took us past a waterfall, streams and bridges, and some nice hills. The pace was perfect for kids, with plenty of stops along the way for resting, dawdling, whining, and snacks.

Bonus: Families get a good opportunity to meet each other and chat along the way.

The Scoop

For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

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