Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spectacular Summer Hiking At Okaloacooche State Forest

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Forest Service challenges you to get the kids in your life out on the trail this summer, because part of preserving our local forest for future generations is teaching youth to appreciate and enjoy nature. 

Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest is located in Felda, Florida and has over thirty-eight miles of forest roads for hiking. Spend quality time with the family over summer break without breaking the bank; as it is only a $2 entrance fee per person.

Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest is a 32,370-acre pristine slough marsh that is just a short drive away from Palmdale, FL (40 minutes), Sebring, FL (80 minutes) and City of Okeechobee, FL (90 minutes). Plan your adventure for early morning when wildlife viewing is abundant. Here are five tips to making the hiking adventure fun for the whole family:

1. Keep it easy and feature friendly. For at least the first few times, select a hike that isn’t too long or too strenuous. For kids, the hike is about the experience. The Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest has marshes, flatwoods, dome swamps and a boardwalk that will keep kids occupied and give them a goal to reach.

2. Time is your friend, so plan for lots of it. Kids are natural explorers and want to pick up and touch everything. This is one of the greatest things about hiking, there is so much of the natural world for kids to discover and examine, make sure they have time to get their state forest fill.

3. Plan frequent energy stops. Hiking requires a lot of energy. Energy-drained kids often equate to cranky kids. Keep your child happy and motivated by taking numerous small breaks for fluid and food. You can also promote energy breaks as a way to keep your child moving by saying, “at that large pine tree, we’ll take a break and have a snack.” Chances are by the time they have a snack, they will be eager to continue.

4. Make it fun! The key to hiking success is to keep the kids motivated and having fun – so why not combine the two? Create games that you and your children can play out on the trail. Have them look for signs of wildlife (scat, animal tracks, bird holes in trees) or count wildflower species. Organize a scavenger hunt and have them find things that are bumpy, smelly, small, big, living, wet…the list goes on!

5. Get kids involved with the preparation process. Have them look at maps, choose the correct clothing, help with the food and select a favorite non-electronic toy to bring along. Give them their own daypack and outfit it with an emergency whistle, rain jacket, compass and mini first-aid kit with colorful kid bandages. Show them how to use their gear in case of emergency.

Start a family tradition of going hiking one or more times a month. Kids love the sense of adventure and doing something new. There’s a wide range of trails, terrain and sights for children to behold. With kids spending a good chunk of their time indoors during the week, hiking on the weekend is a perfect way to get them outside.

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