Risky Places We Love: Cane Ridge Park Mountain Bike Trail.

Cane Ridge Park

We have a new mountain bike trail just outside of Nashville. Thomas had Election Day off from school so we gathered up one of his friends, loaded the bikes and headed to Cane Ridge Park.

The trail is only two miles long. It was well marked and had very few rocks and roots – perfect for kids. There is a really cool training loop that has a narrow board to cross, a banked hill, a log jump and small bumps to ride over. The boys loved it. I timed them and they rode the training loop over and over trying to beat their best time. As a bonus, we found half of a mouse on the trail.

Warning: Circle of Life photo.

Cane Ridge Park
Mountain biking and blood and guts. Awesome.

This trail is a perfect introduction to mountain biking for kids. It’s easy but still challenging. Thomas’ friend rounded a corner, hit a tree and crashed. He got right up, blamed the bike and continued his ride. No blood or tears.

Cane Ridge Park

Overall, we got a thumbs up from Thomas. The best part was listening to him yell, “Epic!” as he rode up and down the hills.

Cane Ridge Park is located in Nolensville, TN (just southeast of Nashville) at 419 Battle Road.  You can find directions here.

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Risky Places We Love: Go Ape

The most awesome face I've ever made, courtesy of the @GoApe zip line.

You know the signs of a perfect risky adventure?  When you’re cheeks hurt from laughing, your muscles ache from working, and you’re still picking mulch out of your pants days later.

Go Ape, Indianapolis

Welcome to Go Ape Treetop Adventures, my favorite risky place in Indianapolis.  Go Ape is a playground for big kids and adults.  Set in a lush forest near Eagle Creek Reservoir, Go Ape is a series of treetop obstacle courses connected by ziplines.  Five awesome ziplines, to be exact.

The original plan was for Elena and I to have a mom-daughter risky date.  I thought I had read the fine print well, but not well enough.  I knew Elena needed to be 10, I didn’t realize there was a height requirement as well (4′ 7″).  Unfortunately Elena isn’t quite there yet, so once again her zipline dreams were dashed (I’m looking at you, Super Bowl 46).  Instead, Mike and I decided to make it a date.

Go Ape, Indianapolis

We paid a visit on a gorgeous summer morning, but Go Ape is open virtually year round.  Fall in Indianapolis would be an amazing time to go!  It was my first experience ziplining, and I was nervous.  No need to worry, though.  The instructors are kind, thorough and very encouraging.  One trip down the bunny zipline and I was hooked, literally and figuratively.

Mike and I spent nearly 2 hours together – climbing, balancing, crawling, zipping, and more importantly, having an absolute blast.  I seriously can’t remember the last time the two of us had that much fun together.

Go Ape, Indianapolis

Go Ape would be an awesome family activity for those of you with older kids who are struggling to find ways to connect with kids that have outgrown playgrounds and children’s museums.  Or do like Mike and I did – leave the kids at home and have your own risky fun for a change!

Still not convinced? Let’s see if my masterful video changes your mind. Note: a few of the clips are sideways (sorry) and I may or may not refer to my cooter (again, sorry). Don’t say you weren’t warned. 

Many thanks to Go Ape for providing Mike and I with the coolest date we’ve had in years.  Go Ape is located within Eagle Creek Park on the northwest side of Indianapolis.  They also have locations in Rockville, MD and Williamsburg, VA.

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Bikeyaking (Or How to Get Michelle Obama Arms)

I love kayaking. It’s fun to take the kids but the problem is that you really need two vehicles for most kayaking trips. I don’t mind being risky but I draw the line at letting my 9-year-old drive the car. The solution?  Bikeyaking. We live close to the Stones River which just happens to be near the Stones River Greenway. Biking and kayaking? They go together like PB & J.

I got the idea from my friend, Riley McLincha. He is the world’s first and possibly only RunYaker. He kayaks and then runs back to his car. He does over 300 miles a year. He’s what I like to call hardcore. I hung up my running shoes several years ago but I can still bike.

Thomas and I locked up our bikes at take out (the place where you leave the river and go back to land), hopped back in the truck and drove to put in (the place where you put your kayak in the water).  We put in at the Mercer Trailhead and took out at Thompson Lane, which is about an hour paddle. The best part was the waterfalls. Ok, there really aren’t any waterfalls but there are several 6 inch drops. This isn’t whitewater by any stretch but it’s still fun for a 9-year-old.

waterfall

At the end of our paddle, we hopped on our bikes and rode the two miles back to our truck. The greenway was well marked and mostly flat, making it an easy ride.

biking on the greenway

The downside is loading all the equipment into the truck. If I can make it fit, so can you.

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Biking and kayaking changes things up for the kids, so they don’t get bored. It also allows me to take Thomas kayaking without another adult.  As an added bonus, schlepping bikes and kayaks just might give you Michelle Obama arms…

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5 Tips for Kayaking with Kids

Kayaking with kids

Hubby Roger bought me kayaks for my birthday this year. It was love at first sight. Kayaking combines a lot of my favorite activities. I especially like exercise that masks itself as fun.

Roger was less than enamored. He doesn’t mind kayaking but he isn’t going to do it all the time. I quickly realized that I wasn’t always going to have another adult around who was available for kayak trips so I needed to be able to take the kids alone.

It scared me at first. It can be risky. Water levels rise, weather rolls in and rivers change quickly.

I didn’t want to give up my new favorite sport so I devised a plan to take the kids by myself. Here are my 5 tips on kayaking with kids:

1. Know your river.

I always scout the river before I take the kids. We have several rivers that are extremely shallow during most of the summer. They are located in populated areas and are fairly free of obstacles. The rivers flow well and really only take about an hour on the water.

Kayaking with kids

2. Know your kids.

We started by taking the kayaks to our neighborhood swimming pool and then to the lake to let the kids experiment. Can you stand up in your kayak? How far can you lean over before you tip? How long does it take for your kayak to fill with water and sink? Can you use the bilge pump to soak your little brother? This build skills and confidence. It also lets you see which kids you can take alone and which kids will require backup.

3. Invest in a dry bag for your phone.

They make pouches for your phone that you can wear around your neck. The phone stays dry and you can dial without removing it from the pouch. Plus you can take pictures without having to worry about dropping the phone in the river.

4. Get good ground support.

I always shoot a responsible adult a text message when we put it. Then they know to come looking for us if we go all Gilligan’s Island. If I take your kids kayaking, I usually make you meet up with us at take out and drive us back to the truck so that we can load up the equipment.

5. Tow

Benjamin spent most of his early childhood in a bike trailer so when we got the kayaks it seemed only natural to purchase a small inflatable boat and tow it behind my kayak. He loves it. He gets a snack and a water gun and he’s good. I also tied lines onto the front of all the kayaks so that if an older child gets tired, I can tow him too. It adds to your workout, but you get used to it. My shining moment was when Thomas hooked another tired child to his boat and towed her.

Towing kids on kayaks

The kids are becoming great paddlers. They get stronger and more confident with each trip. We do a lot of trial and error on the river and each paddle is a new adventure. So yak up and get out there.

Have any questions about kayaking with kids or how to even get started? Leave me a comment – I’d love to help!

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Trying Risky Things Risk-Free: The Hoosier Outdoor Experience

One of the most daunting things about trying to add a little risk and adventure into your family life is figuring out how to do something you’ve never done before.  Especially for those of us who weren’t raised this way, or who aren’t inherently risk-takers, tackling something like canoeing, mountain biking or camping with zero experience can be overwhelming.  And chances are, if you’re overwhelmed or don’t know where or how to begin, you probably won’t try that risky thing at all.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just try it once, with someone to guide you along?

If you’re local to Indianapolis, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has just the thing for you.  On Saturday, September 15 and Sunday, September 16, the DNR is hosting their annual Hoosier Outdoor Experience at Fort Harrison State Park.  Featuring over 50 different outdoor (and potentially risky!) activities and more than 120 grassroots partners, the Outdoor Experience is an excellent way to try your hand at some really cool activities, such as fishing, canoeing, kayaking, animal trapping, woodcarving, archery, horseback riding, geocaching, mountain biking, rock climbing and so much more.

Mike took the kids last year while I was out of town and they had the time of their lives.  They’re still talking about it, nearly a year later.  The very best part?  It’s all free.  To help with planning, the organizers do ask you to register beforehand.  You can learn more and get your family registered on the Indiana DNR website.

We hope to see you there!

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Risky Places We Love: The Flow Rider at The Monon Center

One of the downfalls of living in landlocked Indiana is that it doesn’t leave much opportunity to try out thrilling water sports.  We don’t own a boat or know anyone that does, so forget tubing or water skiing.  We could kayak, but our Hoosier waters tend to be calm – no rapids for us, especially in this drought.  The bodies of water we can claim don’t boast giant waves, or even medium waves for that matter … until now.

Meet FlowRider:

FlowRider at the Monon Center

FlowRider at the Monon Center

FlowRider is Indiana’s first simulated surfing ride, and you can find it at The Waterpark at the Monon Community Center in Carmel.  With 30,000 gallons of water flowing through every minute, rushing at 30 mph, it’s the closest most Hoosiers will get to surfing without a plane ticket.

Lessons aren’t required to participate, but they certainly help. You have the option to ride the wave body board-style, on your knees, or for the very adventurous, standing up.  You do have to be 48″ tall to ride, so Eli was out (sad trombone).  Elena and my nephew, Marc, were all over it.

FlowRider at the Monon Center

FlowRider at the Monon Center

Why should the kids have all the fun, though? We might be The Risky Kids, but every once in a while The Risky Parents want to play.  And really, what’s riskier for a grown woman than posting a video of herself in a bathing suit for all the internet to see?

If you live somewhere other than the great state of Indiana, don’t fret.  You can find FlowRider at venues all over the world.

FlowRider at the Monon Center

We never made it to standing up, but with more practice I’m sure we could.  And then, just maybe, we’ll be ready for some real waves on a coastline far, far away.  For now, we’ll just keep catching our waves in Carmel.

FlowRider at the Monon Center

FlowRider at the Monon Center

And, really, isn’t wiping out so much more fun without jet lag?

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