kids and nature

Believe the View: October Photo of the Month

Written & Photographed by Barbara Joan

I had the great fortune of growing up outside. Thanks to my dad's love for and appreciation of the mountains, my earliest and fondest childhood memories involve summers spent foraging for native berries and morel mushrooms, camping under the stars in the Umatilla National Forest, and swimming in remote wilderness rivers. I made houses from sword fern fronds, learned to recognize where the dolly varden were hiding, and took naps in the shade of old growth forests.

Last fall, the depression I experienced in my 20s surprised me by reviving itself the same way I've seen beetles return from the dead when they believe danger has passed. I didn't see it coming and wasn't prepared to manage the familiar feelings and uninvited distorted thinking that invaded my world like noxious weeds.  I knew I needed to go outside again and so began my quest to find the beauty in my local public lands and, in the process, remember the beauty in me.

This was a view I found in the first days of August, 2016. Starting in the early afternoon, my husband, my three-year-old and I hiked past Mount Rainier's Frozen Lake to Second Burroughs Mountain. We lingered at the crest for some time in an effort to identify the many wildflower blooms and backcountry birds that fluttered about. We've completed many hikes in and around Mount Rainier, but this was our first time in the alpine tundra and there was so much determination, resilience and hope to take in. What at first glance seemed like a barren wasteland was actually replete with life and I was mesmerized. The parallel to my own internal journey was clear.

I took this photo on our way back down the mountain. Instead of returning as we'd come, we opted for the slightly longer route down the Sunrise Rim Trail. In the early evening glow of the setting sun I heard my son say, "Wow! Mommy! Look at this view!"  

I stopped and turned and looked back behind me at this big, glorious, patient mountain. "Son," I said. "Can you believe you own a part of this view?"

He looked at me curiously. "I do?"

"You do. And so does daddy and so do I."

And without a pause, his eyes large and bright and smiling, he said, "We're RICH!"

And we are, aren't we?

Barbara takes and posts pictures of public lands to inspire others to go outside and experience our blessed inheritance and advocate for its protection and preservation. You can see more of her images on her Twitter feed: @publiclandlvr.

Helping My Kids Fall in Love With Nature




A summer spent growing up in the great outdoors

Written and Photographed by Adam Runions, Deputy Director of

I determined that this would be the summer in which my kids get to walk deeper into nature. My middle child is 5, and I wanted to throw a spark and see if it ignited an interest, a little fascination in the outdoors.

I also wanted to show him what he is capable of. Teaching him about carrying what you need, getting comfortable with the exposure of the night sky, a myriad new sounds and the sensation of wading into a dark lake. These little strides feel big, and can become the foundation for a healthy sense of independence.

Outfitted with a little backpack, a platypus, and a good stick, he made the trek up to Independence Lake (on Independence Day). I’m glad he did!

Parenthood, Conservation and City Living


Finding ways to engage city kids in conservation

Written and Photographed by Jamie Robertson, Spatial Analyst

“Outside, Daddy!” demands my toddler, Rowan. She wants to be out of the house exploring the community garden, following the hoot of an owl, or surveying the bay below our Tacoma neighborhood. I hear it multiple times a day and will never tire of it. She loves being outside – out adventuring – and I wish more than anything that she always will.

Being a conservation geographer, my career and my personal life meet at a crossroads of place and a respect for the natural things supporting us in this world. As a parent whose childhood was spent freely wandering many undeveloped acres of wooded hills, playing in healthy clear creeks, and dancing around May Poles in what wasn’t quite a hippy commune but let’s call it one anyway, I recognize “place” played as large a role in shaping my sense of discovery, wanderlust, and career as the people I shared those experiences with. And Rowan’s childhood place is certainly different from my own.

My wife Courtney and I recently moved back to Washington after each discovering its lures before we even knew each other. We are from North Carolina, though we met, fell in love, and had Rowan in Colorado. Our landing in Tacoma was a surprise, but our decision to raise Rowan in this state was absolutely deliberate. As it turns out, Tacoma is arguably the prettiest city in the Pacific Northwest. Mt. Rainier looms, old growth trees tower in vast Pt. Defiance Park, the waters of Tacoma Narrows and Commencement Bay surround half the city, downtown museums and theaters provide an impressive cultural and aesthetic appeal, and beautiful Craftsman, Victorian, and Tudor homes with lush gardens spread across the steep hillsides. Despite its rough history and typical urban issues, Tacoma is a wonderful place to raise our family.

But with city living – or maybe I should say modern living – comes a struggle. How do we allow Rowan enough freedoms to discover her own paths? What is truly necessary for her to grow respect for the natural world?

Granted, my daughter is still a toddler, but finding ways to engage city kids in conservation is a necessary strategy for all people concerned with natural or urban wellbeing. I believe tomorrow’s conservationists will increasingly be born from an urban experience which differs so vastly from the back-to-nature background of so many conservationists today. Indeed, this will be necessary as urbanism will only continue to influence and control the fates of the natural world that shaped me so profoundly and which will keep our social and economic systems running well into the future. Freedom to discover outside leads to respect for nature and is fundamental to engaging all children, I believe.

In my job, discovery means mapping out the world around us to help Washington understand the natural world and the factors impacting it so we can determine collectively how to address conservation issues. As a parent, discovery means finding ways to teach Rowan skills of self-reliance and to build a foundation of confidence she will need to adventure on her own. …But for now, I’ll be sure to keep a watchful eye when she sprints out the door.

Learn more about how you can share the love of the outdoors with your kids.

A Park Ranger's Daughter

Written and Photographed by Heather Ferguson, Office Coordinator

Capitol Reef National Park. Big Bend National Park. Cumberland Island National Seashore. Great Basin National Park. What do all these amazing places have in common? My undying adoration thanks to my father. This is just the short list. A few of the many places that we called home throughout my childhood and some of the many reasons why my immersion into nature was so complete. While growing up, my father’s career in the National Park Service gave me a perspective that few others have had a chance to enjoy. He never missed a beat when divining that his daughter was no just in awe, but deeply in love with what surrounded her and always included me in the explorations in which I could take part.

In my very early days, as we lived in the natural wonderland that is Southern Utah, some of my most cherished memories are of Dad and me heading out on a hike through Arches and then Lake Powell, sneaking up on lizards, and playing in secluded pools. During our time in Capitol Reef, tiny though I was, I vividly remember the rich smell of the honey and fresh beeswax, the cherries and apricots that he brought home as he cared for the bees and orchards.

As a teenager, full of the expected angst and often at odds with a man with whom I was altogether much too similar in temperament, we came to terms with each other in natural settings. Our time in Georgia was testament to the healing power of nature. It was a whole new world for us both having spent the vast majority of our lives in the Southwest. Always well read, we ventured through swamp lands and eyed alligators, Dad sharing tales of some natural event pertinent to the location. Had a long weekend? Let’s go check out a different National Park or natural area!

Today, my folks have chosen to settle in a remote valley of Nevada, cherishing the last park where my father served as a Superintendent and finally calling one place “home”. When I go back to visit, I know that he will take me into the Lehman Caves to introduce me to any one of the 17 new species discovered in the last few years. We’ll probably go rock hounding and maybe even fish in the mountain lakes and streams running with snowmelt. He’ll share the familiar stories of his Peace Corps service in Nicaraguan National Parks and his summer of Nature Conservancy stewardship at Idler’s Rest in Idaho. As for me, I’ll be taking my time, relishing every minute with my Dad, and becoming inspired once again to take nature as my refuge.