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Get a Junior Ranger badge
 Ice skating
Huckleberry Picking
Vegetable Gardening
Cherry Picking


     Nine fun and inexpensive outdoor family activities

Outdoor recreation has long been touted as a great way for families to exercise and have fun together. Not only does it provide inexpensive entertainment, but it is The Cheapest Medicine. Communing with nature provides a sense of well being and relaxation. Children begin to explore in infancy, so there is little reluctance in engaging them in hiking, camping, or other outdoor activities. So, no matter if you live in the Rocky Mountains or New York City, life’s an adventure. Head out to your favorite spot and enjoy the outdoors today.

  • campsite at Many GlacierIdea no. 1 - Camping:  Camp and be thrifty. You don't have to pay a lot for good gear. With internet stores like Campmor, Sierra Trading Post, and REI, it's easy to shop prices.  Don't be shy about purchasing second hand gear from Ebay or your local thrift store.  Oftentimes, items are like new and cost a lot less. We use two, Kelty brand (2) person tents. One for the parents and one for the kids.  They are light weight, easy to assemble and don't take up a lot of cargo space. TIP ~ A dresser drawer is ideal for keeping an infant safe and warm.

    As for the food, make it easy on yourself.  A single burner camp stove is compact and ideal for quick outdoor cooking. A can of beans, hot dogs and chili took me about 15 minutes to cook and serve on a recent camping trip. Tuna, carrot sticks, and crackers are another high protein choice to keep you going.  Whole grain cereals, nuts, and fruit make for a high energy breakfast.

    You don't have to be on a special diet to benefit from vitamin drinks like Boost.  They are better chilled but don't require refrigeration and everyone gets their calcium.  If you're camping in cold weather, a good sleeping bag is a must.  Before laying down your mats, line the floor of your tent with old blankets for added insulation against the cold ground. Remember, a good attitude sets the tone for a successful trip.

    Now here is some insight from M&E about what they think about camping.  E thinks that it is more fun the day that you get to the campsite. The day that you wake up and have to go home or continue your vacation makes you feel too rushed.  When you wake up the next day it is cold. You have to get dressed in your small tent, but camping is still real fun.  E likes rocky campgrounds, campgrounds with woods, or a stream so that she can have a lot of fun.  Sitting by a campfire roasting marshmallows is real fun.  Sometimes our mom tells scary stories and really scares us.  I, "M", get really scared when I hear animals walking around the campsite. I don't know what to do.  One of the best parts of camping is playing at the campsite. Read Camping, Boating, and Bears, for an account of our camping trip to the beautiful Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park.

  • Idea no. 2 - Snowshoeing:  Snowshoes can be expensive, especially if you have several kids to outfit.  But, once the initial investment is made, they should provide you with many winters of snowshoeing fun. They are less expensive than skis and buying an annual pass to the local ski resort.  Admittedly, they can be a little difficult to put on at first, but with some patience and practice the task becomes easier and the bonus is that you can explore in deep snow. TIP ~ Before you buy, if possible attend a snowshoeing seminar, such as "Identifying Tracks in Winter".  Free seminars are informative and educational, and snowshoes are usually provided free of charge. This gives you the opportunity to decide if you are compatible with the sport before making a purchase.  Rental is another economical option that I suggest to help you make your decision. When you do purchase, I recommend the affordable "Yukon Charlies" . They come in Men, Women, and Junior sizes, are made of light weight aluminum and anodized in attractive colors. To find your size, simple use the snowshoe weight chart for your preferred style.

    Here's what E has to say about snowshoeing. Snowshoeing can be fun if you are climbing a mountain with skiers and snowboarders zooming past. Rent them at Glacier National Park, for a weekend snowshoe walk in winter. Snowshoeing is a very beneficial sport. It keeps your legs fit. The outdoors and fresh air of Montana will also keep you in good health. So, get out there and snowshoe through the deep snow of Montana.  Read Snowshoe Fun on Winter Trails Day, a story about a free, organized snowshoe outing for the whole family.

  • Idea no. 3 - Get a Junior Ranger badge: Take advantage of your State Parks and National Parks.  State Parks provide simple settings in nature where families can explore, hike, picnic, fish and observe wildlife. National Parks are extraordinary places set aside for their natural beauty and abundant wildlife.  Hiking, camping, boating, and simply enjoying the outdoors in a National Park makes for a memorable experience.  hile visiting, let the kids get a Junior Ranger Badge.  natural wonders and offer and It's easy to get a Junior Ranger Badge.  Compare it to a scavenger hunt where kids look for flora and fauna and check it off as it's found.  TIP ~ No special time needs to be set aside as it can be accomplished while parents enjoy the activities already scheduled for their park visit.

M&E say you can get one at the State Parks or Glacier National Park.  All you have to do is do some fun activities like identifying plants and animals. Then you can receive your badge.  It is a fun thing for children of all ages. At Lone Pine, remember to check the park's yearly plan for other activities to make sure that you can participate when you are there.


  • Idea no. 4 - Ice skating:  Kids take to it almost immediately and once learned, it's like riding a bike. But, you're never too old to learn to ice skate. GlidingIce Skating around on a frozen pond is a great way to chase away winter doldrums. Get some really good deals on ice skates by waiting to purchase a little later in the season. There will still be plenty of time to skate and the money you've saved can be put to lessons or admission to a rink. TIP ~ For the self starter, Expert-Village website offers free skating lesson videos online. If you don't object to hand me down shoes, used ice skates may be another affordable option.  Let's face it, when you rent skates, a lot of other people have worn them already.  If your goal is more than just entertainment, of course a quality pair of skates is essential. There are risks to ice skating as in any other sport, so take it easy at first and consider wearing a helmet.


It's fun, and also easy to learn says M.  You can go fast, but try not to fall! She says that she likes ice skating in a place that is not crowded. If you do skate in a crowded place, go with traffic. It'll make your time nicer if you do. Here are her tips for ice skating:

  • Keep yourself on the tops of your skates

  • Try to skate slowly at first

  • Don't get too rambunctious

  • Do not try to do fancy stuff when you can't skate well

    Use these tips, but have fun!

    Read Kid's in the City to find out what M&E think about big city life and their first ice skating experience on a rink!

  • Idea no. 5 - Berry picking: Making memories and starting a family tradition is easy and rewarding with berry picking. Depending on your location and climate, berries and picking times vary. A quick search on the internet and you will find what berries are available in your area and the best times to pick. Pick enough berries to make some jam and you'll be glad you did.

July and August is prime huckleberry picking time in Northwest Montana. Huckleberries are similar in size and appearance to blueberries with colors that range from reddish purple to deep eggplant. Often confused with the edible service berry, huckleberries are identified by their round leaves as opposed to the serrated leaves of the service berry. Each summer, we take to the mountains in search of these juicy little berries.  No permit is needed for picking the "hucks" in our National Forest if harvesting less than 10 gallons. For harvesting more than 10 gallons of huckleberries, a permit is required and cost $4 per day with a five-day minimum.  A season permit costs $80. TIP ~ Steep hillsides, along trails, and ski runs where the bushes receive sun are the best spots for picking.  We enjoy picking on the slopes of Big Mountain Ski Resort. Huckleberries are an important source of black bear and grizzly diets, so avoid picking early morning and evening when bears are most likely to be foraging. Some pickers prefer buckets, but we like gallon sized Ziploc bags for collection. The berries are quite delicate but freeze well.  Simple wash and lay out in a single layer on a cookie sheet to freeze before packaging. Hucks are highly prized, yet not commercially grown due to the fact they grow best in higher elevations.  They are not widely sold in grocery stores but are often sold at roadside stands.  For economy, as well as fun, pick them yourself as they are pricey and may cost up to $30.00 a gallon if purchased.  Use them in any recipe that calls for blueberries.

M&E say that huckleberry picking is the most fun if you pick the huckleberries instead of just taking a mostly boring hike, saying the hucks aren't abundant enough! The blue berries called huckleberries are very similar to blueberries in taste and looks. You may find yourself climbing up a hillside to cocciferous plants to pick and eat huckleberries. You may even encounter a bear! Then you'll know the time is right to utter those dreadful words: This ain't good...  I hope the bear wants to eat our huckleberry pancakes more than it wants to eat you!

  • Idea no. 6 - Fishing: It takes patience to be a good fisherman and boys and girls of all ages can practice this virtue while waiting for that prized fish. The thrill of a fish tugging on the line of a fishing pole is an exciting and memorable experience. Fishing poles don't have to be expensive to catch fish. Check with your state fish and wildlife agency for license requirements. Each state has its own regulations. In Montana, kids aren't required to have a license until age 12.  Nothing taste as good as fresh food and a dinner of freshly caught fish is wholesome and nutritious. It helps to stretch your food budget if you can catch a free meal here and there. TIP ~ Click here for (5) plain and simple fishing tips.

Here's what M&E say about fishing. Fishing is fun, especially if you catch a fish.   In my experience big fat worms usually work best.  I've caught rainbow trout and they taste pretty good.

  • Idea no. 7 - Vegetable Gardening:  Victory gardens are gaining popularity once again. DuringTomatoes from our garden World War l and World War ll, individuals were encouraged to plant a home garden as part of the war effort.  Hence the term victory garden. It was thought that this would lessen the demand on the food supply, plus be a morale booster considering this as a contribution to the war effort. Also, it would be rewarding to have grown your own fresh fruits and vegetables.
    Tomato gardeners everywhere will attest to the satisfaction of growing one's own tomatoes. They are robust and flavorful, not tasteless like the grocery store kind. Don't stop at tomatoes, check with you local extension service to find out what grows best in your area. If you've never tried vegetable gardening, now is a good time to start. It's another way of being economical while enjoying the health benefits of fresh from the garden produce. TIP ~ Digging in the garden is good therapy for the mind and body.  It builds character in kids who help with the planting and a sense of accomplishment upon harvest. Feel more independent of the mega food suppliers by starting your victory garden today.


M & E say weed your garden every week to keep the plants healthy. Why? When weeds come too close to your plants, they will want to stay alive.  The weeds will take the nutrients from your valued plant. An easy garden to grow may contain: tomatoes, green onions, bell peppers, beans, carrots, and lettuce. We buy our tomatoes and bell peppers from a nursery where some people have already gotten the plants started growing.  Plant your vegetables in neat rows so you can walk around your garden and weed easily. Planting from north to south is recommended so the plants will get the most sunlight.

  • Idea no. 8 - Cherry Picking:  If you don't have a grove but are lucky enough to haveM&E and cherries the opportunity to pick your own cherries, by all means do so.  Farmers will outfit you with the necessary harness and bucket to pick right from their trees. They will instruct you in the proper way to remove the cherry from the tree. Pick as much as you want. The cherries are weighed and the price per lb is much cheaper than the grocery store.  Cherries freeze well, just be sure to remove the pits before freezing.

"E" says that cherry picking off of cherry trees is fun.  "M" got tired of cherries because she ate them so much, but "E" loves cherries.  Try our yummy cherry pie recipe while you are still here on our website.

TIP ~ If you don't have a pit removal tool, try using a paper clip to remove those stubborn pits.

  • Idea no. 9 - Sledding: Winter just isn't complete without sledding down your favorite hill. Slsleddingeds are available for purchase in all price ranges, from the inexpensive big box store sled to the more expensive models found at sporting goods stores. They will provide you and your family with hours of fun as long as you don't leave the sledding strictly up to the kids.  Walking back up the hill will give you some extra exercise and keep you fit. TIP ~ There may be lots of rolling around in the snow, so make sure to wear waterproof clothing to stay warm and dry.      click for video

    M & E love sledding.  We sled at the same place where we fish or at another nearby park.  When a good amount of snow gets on the ground, we drive over to the local sledding hill.  We sit onto our sleds, and zoom down the hill.  Sometimes we hit holes, and fly up into the air.  Going back up is tough, especially when the hill is icy. Sledding is a fun pastime in winter.

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