Bring a Bit of Nature back into your Weekend

The birds are singing, dried wood littering the forest floor is crunching beneath your feet and there is a glistening lake laid out before you. Getting right back to nature—is there a more memorable adventurous type of weekend out there for families? Certainly not, especially when you consider the amount of freedom that is provided when we step out of the rat race and discover really what nature has to offer. State parks provide a great way to explore the wilderness with ease, and ensure these beautiful areas of our Californian state will always remain that way for generation upon generation to enjoy.

©Mike Shoys, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

©Mike Shoys, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

Discover Something New

Children are of course forever looking to discover something new, to interpret the world in a different exciting manner by hunting out the adventure. Who can blame them, there is surely a small part of this in every adult as well, which is why visiting state parks can be the basis of a great weekend that has something to offer for the whole family. Discover giants with your children—giant sequoias and coastal redwoods are protected by the state in the parks, and the feeling of awe when walking through these is second to none. In fact 95% of coastal redwood has been logged, which is a grave tragedy. The fact that they will always be persevered in state parks is just another reason to visit on your next vacation. The history of California is prevalent throughout the parks, whether that is seen in the age-old ringing chimes of nature or the Fischer-Hanlon House in Benicia Capitol State Historic, Park, where you will be able to truly experience 19th century upper middle class family life. History is truly prevalent throughout all the state parks. Why not rent a family-sized RV to travel between the state parks to ensure not one inch of the natural beauty here is missed?

©Tom Birdsell, Point Cabrillo Light Station

©Tom Birdsell, Point Cabrillo Light Station

The Leading Star in Any Trip

There is a wealth of activities on offer in these parks. Get back to basics and look up at the night sky—there are several parks that offer astronomy programs, and even observatories, creating those unforgettable, once in a life time experiences. California is in itself a fabulously diverse state with a range of things to offer whether you like trips by the beach, in the mountains or in the city. Santa Monica Mirror reported that for the Memorial Day Weekend more than 2.6 million Southern Californians were expected to travel more than fifty miles. In a state that is so diverse, though, this relatively small distance can land you in almost a different plant. It would be a massive shame to miss out on the huge array of different state parks on any trip to this varied place. Of course with such a sunny climate, California is a great tourist destination no matter what you are looking for, but to create something really special, take off from the normal tourist routes and travel around some of the beautiful state parks of California.  The great thing about these parks is that they are so accessible and dotted all over the state making it a great experience to incorporate in any vacation, whatever you have in mind.

©Elin Ljung, Mono Lake

©Elin Ljung, Mono Lake

Make a Splash

California’s state parks aren’t just about trekking around and taking in the picturesque sights, there are also a great many number of water based activities to occupy your families’ time on a weekend trip, including power boating on a lake or simply taking part in a leisurely canoe tour. So many of these parks provide the perfect backdrop into a world of escapism. Why not visit Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Parks, where you can get lost in a lava-scarred land only accessible by boat. What kid—or adult for that matter—would not want to explore all that there is on offer here. There is something surely so innate, so peaceful about spending time on the world’s waterways, and California most certainly has its fair share of beautiful spots to visit whilst taking vacation.

The fact of the matter is that California is teeming with a wealth of different experiences, adventures and forms of escapism just waiting to be taken, but for a real trip back into the natural beauty of this state, and to really get a feel of all that is on offer, there really is no greater weekend than that which is built around trips to the fabulously diverse state parks. California is forever changing and modernizing like everywhere else in the world, but the state parks without a doubt provide a solid piece of nature that we must always treasure.

CONTRIBUTED BY SITE READER SUSIE COMPTON

 

Take Your Kids To A State Park and Improve Their Health

California is rich in state parks. Lakes, mountains, beaches, forests, historical features, culture, and camping – there’s a park for everyone, and all tastes can be accommodated within the gorgeous, soaring scenery. Visiting a state park, however, may be particularly beneficial if you want to get your children into a fit and healthy way of life. From gaining essential nutrients to staving off illnesses like depression and attention-deficit disorders, research is consistently proving that getting them out into nature is one of the absolute best things you can do for your kids. Here is why:

Get Some Vitamin D

photo1Going outside is massively beneficial from a nutritional point of view. This may seem like an odd claim to make, as the act of simply strolling through a state park does not involve an awful lot of eating. The simple fact is, however, that the body cannot gain enough of Vitamin D – a vitamin essential for absorbing calcium and growing healthy bones – through food alone. It is made naturally by the skin when bare flesh is exposed to sunlight. You don’t need to fry your skin in the sun to gain enough Vitamin D. It is produced very quickly – so do be careful not to let your children burn! So important is Vitamin D that people living in northern climes where it is hard to get sunshine on the skin are strongly advised to take supplements like Walgreen’s “Nature Made” Vitamin D capsules. This is important, as studies in London have found that low levels of Vitamin D lead to “risk of depression in mid-adulthood” and panic disorders. Lack of vitamin D in children has been linked not only to mood disorders like depression, but to skeletal diseases like rickets caused by insufficient calcium absorption. Of course, if you want your children to get all the benefits of vitamin D then you need to make sure that they’re getting plenty of calcium as well. Companies like Yoplait make yogurts which are stuffed full of both calcium and vitamin D – a winning combination given that, as Yoplait point out, “Studies show that calcium absorption improves when taken along with vitamin D”.

Encourage A Healthy Lifestyle

photo2Vitamin D is not only beneficial from a nutritional point of view, however. It – and the healthy outdoor lifestyle with which it is associated – have been linked to general participation in healthy behaviors. Studies have found that people with low levels of Vitamin D are not only susceptible to fatal illnesses like cancer and heart disease, but are also likely to lead highly unhealthy lifestyles. The New York Times reports that “blood levels of Vitamin D are a good barometer of overall health”, and also makes the link between low levels of Vitamin D and “behaviors that contribute to poor health, like a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and a diet heavy in processed and unhealthful foods”. As Kwikmed point out, “obesity levels are on the increase, and this is due to a lack of exercise combined with a bad diet”, so making sure that your children understand about healthy behaviors is absolutely vital if they are not to fall pretty to these increasingly prevalent lifestyle factors. Introducing your children to healthy lifestyle choices that they actually enjoy, such as walking in California’s state parks will therefore not only ensure that they soak up plenty of life-giving Vitamin D, it may also ensure that they develop an appreciation for the need to make healthy choices and care for their bodies. Children who understand that an alternative, healthier lifestyle exists are much more likely to make healthy nutritional choices as they grow older, and treat their bodies with the care that they deserve.

Learn To Walk

090-P65157Something as simple as taking your children for a walk through California’s beautiful state parks could have untold benefits for their future health and mentalities. Obviously, walking is excellent exercise. Harvard Medical School note that “walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, vascular stiffness and inflammation” as well as promoting strong bone growth and a healthy musculature. However, studies have also shown that walking through a natural environment can have fantastic effects upon the mind as well as the body. Meredith Melnick, writing for Time magazine, states that walking can induce a semi-meditative state highly conducive to positive mental health – “walking is a good opportunity to process the day and let my mind wander without the oppression of the endless to-do list that awaits me at home”. While this effect can be gained through walking in an urban environment, walking through a state park enhances it a hundredfold. In his book ‘Last Child in the Woods’, author Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” – a blanket phrase covering a multitude of childhood problems (such as obesity, depression, and attention disorders). He presents compelling evidence that such disorders are caused (indirectly) through a lack of exposure to and engagement with the natural environment. In an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper, he relates his view that a reconnection with nature could improve childhood immensely and pave the way for a happy and productive adulthood. “I’ve lost count of the number of teachers and youth leaders who have told me how different kids become when you get them out into nature. Trouble-makers become leaders. Nature is their Ritalin.”

Get Out, Get Active, Get Healthy

photo4So, if you want your children to become fit, healthy adults with a firm appreciation of the benefits of nature, good mental health, and a willingness to make healthy lifestyle choices, it seems that a day out in one of California’s beautiful state parks may be just the thing!

CONTRIBUTED BY SITE READER SUSIE COMPTON