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I may be a little too nonchalant about ticks as I grew up in southern Massachuttes where they are as common as Dunkin Donuts and Red Sox fans. But some things have changed. First, Lyme Disease is becoming more prevalent and spreading. Check out the interactive map from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) here and see how it has spread over 10 years! Ten years ago the White Mountains did not see any cases of Lyme disease, but as the map indicates it has reached us, so it’s time to learn how to protect yourself, and most importantly your little ones, from this disease!

Alex on Slackline

Right after taking this picture my wife spotted Alex’s first tick… can you see it?

First you should be able to recognize the Blacklegged Tick (also called the deer tick). Most transmissions are from nymph’s because they are harder to see.

ticks at different life stages

The good news is it usually takes 24-48 hours of attachment for a tick to transmit the disease! With regular full body checks (bath time/pajama time) you should not panic if you find an attached tick!

Tick season in the White Mountains is from May to September. The best defense is a 3 pronged approach. Defend your kids, defend your pets, and defend your yard. Let’s start with the first line of defense, the yard!

This is taken directly from the CDC website:

Create a Tick-Safe Zone Through Landscaping

You can make your yard less attractive to ticks depending on how you landscape. Here are some simple landscaping techniques that can help reduce tick populations:

Tick Safe Landscaping

 

  • Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
  • Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
  • Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked.
  • Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that ticks feed on).
  • Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees and place them in a sunny location, if possible.
  • Remove any old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.

While there are pesticides that are effective at controlling tick populations we prefer the natural battle first. If you live in a very high risk area it might be worth investigating an early Spring treatment with an acaracide (tick pesticide), such as bifenthin.

Protect your pets!

Our canine and feline friends can easily transport ticks from outside to in, so during tick season there are a few things that can reduce the risk. The above yard landscaping is a great first defense. Then a quick brush and check every time your pet comes inside from playing in the yard can find ticks before they find a good hiding space to attach. Tick & flea baths and repellents will go far at reducing risk. For more info on protecting your pets check out this page on the CDC website.

Protect your yourself and your little ones!

The CDC’s first recommendation is “Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter”. This is near impossible for a family that hikes as much as we do. It just isn’t going to happen. So for us early detection is key. Remember it takes 24-48 hours of attachment for a tick to transmit the disease! I check Alex as best as possible when we get back to the car, then again at home.

While DEET is approved for babies over 2 months old we feel it is too toxic for us to feel comfortable applying it to our thumb sucking toddler but you can not argue it’s effectiveness. For this reason I use this 30% formula on myself when mosquito’s and tick’s are in abundance. For the absolute best protection I am a huge fan of Permethrin.

SAWYER PERMETHRIN INSECT REPELLANT, 24 OZ.

SAWYER PERMETHRIN INSECT REPELLANT, 24 OZ.

I’ve used this in jungles in South America and Asia, and obviously in the White Mountains. It’s 100% safe when used correctly. This is NOT FOR SKIN! It is meant to treat clothing, gear, footwear, etc. Once it dries there is zero chance of this “leeching” into your skin. I use it on my hiking shoes and pants, and Alex’s hiking shoes’s and pants. I also treated our kid carrier so when I set it down on the ground he has protection.

For information on the safeness of this product on kids (and us) check out this page from the University of Rhode Island. You can pick it up at your local Eastern Mountain Sports or online here. More information on this, and some other tips from the CDC can be found here.

Finally, when you find an embedded tick (and chances are you will at some point), know how to remove it. Improperly removing it can increase risk of infection. All you need is a pair of tweezers. Grasp as close to your skin as possible and pull straight out by slowly increasing pressure.

tweezers grasping a tick close to the skin's surfacetweezers pulling a tick away from the skin in an upward motion

Mistakes like twisting/jerking can cause some of the tick to stay in the skin. If one or both of the “pinchers” stay in do not try to dig them out. Your, or your child’s, body will naturally push them out over a few days but monitor the bite site for any signs of infection, which would require a trip to see the Doc. I would think it would go without saying but do not use a match or lighter on an embedded tick. This can cause it to regurgitate it’s meal, greatly increasing transmission and infection. Once it’s removed wash with soap and water and go back outside to play!

I hope this information helps! While Lyme disease is no joke it shouldn’t keep us from hiking and climbing in areas where ticks may be prevalent. It takes time for a tick to find a spot to embed, and much more time to transmit the disease. Twice daily checks reduces the risk of catching Lyme disease to around the odds of winning PowerBall!

Comment below if you have any suggestions or thoughts on the topic! We’d love to hear from you!

 

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Product Review: Friendly Foot Powder “Your Shoes Will Never Smell Again!”

As long as I can remember I have been cursed with some of the stinkiest feet on the planet. Even 2 year old Alex quickly learned to say “Daddy your feet stink!” The fact that I spend half a year not wearing socks in sweaty climbing shoes and half a year sweating in mountaineering & ski boots doesn’t help the issue.

Friendly Foot All Natural Foot Powder

The test subjects

So it was with great relief to come across Friendly Foot. This small earth-friendly company was started in a Washington state garage in 2010, and is now in stores & climbing gyms all over the US and as far away as Japan! I’d long given up on well known foot powders as simply “cover ups”; only effective as car pine-tree car air fresheners at actually removing odor. This is different. This blend has a slight acidic value which actually balances the PH of your shoes and inhibits bacterial growth. Four essential organic oils, Tea Tree, Lavender, Eucalyptus, and Peppermint have microbial, anti-fungal, antiviral, and antiseptic properties. The result? It works!

Other than the 20 pairs of footwear pictured above I have direct testimonials from my wife. A week after running out of my FF supply I walked in the house after a long day on the mountain and was greeted with;

“You’re out of that foot powder arn’t you?”

and

“You need to get some more of that foot powder.”

Well there you have it. Undeniable proof that the stuff works. You should try it. And to help you try it here’s a chance to win a free bottle! You can get up to 3 entries in the drawing:

First comment below on how you manage foot odor. Then you can earn two more entries by liking Adventure With Alex and Friendly Foot on Facebook. Just let us know in your comment that you liked one, or both, for additional entries. Contest will run until May 30th. On May 31st Alex will draw the lucky winner from all entries!

If you don’t want to wait for the contest you can order your own right now from their website here. As an Adventure With Alex reader you can save 10% on your order buy using coupon code “FF14”. Also orders of 4 or more bottles get free shipping within the US!

Friendly Foot Powder

Disclaimer: While Friendly Foot provided the samples for me to test this product in no way did that influence mine (or more importantly my wife’s) opinion on the product.

 

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One of the first bits of parental advice I got after finding out I would be a dad was to get my child a balance bike as early as possible. Even though Alex was more than a year away from being big enough to ride it I pulled the trigger on a Strider bike. Other than some minimal playing around inside I knew we wouldn’t really get to use it until this Spring. At 2 and a half years old his running and motor skills are just at the point where he can start to get used to the bike, and today we had our first true outdoor session!

Strider Balance Bike

Strider Balance Bike

For those who have never heard of a “balance bike” let me fill you in. Many of us learned to ride bikes using training wheels. These awkward wheels may actually slow a child’s ability to learn to balance on a bike… you are basically just relying on one crutch until you lean to far one way and now you are relying on the other crutch. Balance bikes have no training wheels. They also have no pedals. At first that seems odd, until you watch a toddler struggling to learn balance and the leg coordination to pedal correctly while trying not to bee-line it into the nearest tree. By removing the pedals a child can simply focus on learning to balance (and steer). Essentially they walk around until they feel comfortable sitting down and gliding.

Today we headed to our neighborhood park for a true biking session. Alex’s best buddy Rowan joined him with his brand new Smart Gear balance bike.

Strider Balance Bike

Couple of future X-Gamers

While there was no real “gliding” going on yet both kids enjoyed “riding” the bikes around the park for almost an hour! They took turns on each bike, and Rowan’s mommy and I started formulating a plan for weekly ride-play-dates. While I liked the eco-friendly nature of the Smart Gear bike, and the “anti-jackknife” feature, I think the boys liked the thinner profile of the Strider bike. It was easier for their little legs to stay under them on the narrower bike. This probably won’t be an issue once they both get a few inches taller. The Strider bike though also has foot rests which are definitely going to be needed once he starts gliding.

Strider Balance Bikes

Ready to race

Strider Balance Bikes

RoRo is moving, Alex closes the gap

While we were at the park multiple parents came over with their kids asking if they could let their little ones try. Alex & Rowan were happy to spend time on the slides & swings while their bikes were demo’d. I got the impression that many of the new parents didn’t realize they could start their young toddlers on a “real” bike at such a young age. At least one parent seemed like he was heading to a store to buy one right after leaving the park!

There are some pretty amazing Strider videos out there. Check out Strider’s official YouTube channel here.

How old were you or your kids when you starting riding? Did you use training wheels? Any tips for other parents?

Also please subscribe at the top right if you enjoyed this! This blog lost some momentum over the long winter and it’s nice to know people are reading. We have a busy Spring/Summer planned so there will be at least a weekly post… here’s a preview of next weeks product review update:

All Natural Friendly Foot Powder

It works!

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Adventure With Alex has some big announcements to make for 2014 but first a look back at last year! AwA had 26 posts last year, averaging 2 a month. The busiest day of the year was July 26th with 130 views. The post that day was Alex’s first 4000 footer! Mount Washington!.

Lake in The Clouds, Mount Washington

Lake in The Clouds, Mount Washington

Top 4 runners up:

AwA joined Facebook, and quickly got 114 likes! Our email subscribers grew to 164! I’m estatic to think that sharing our adventures is encouraging other families to create some of their own adventures! Alex also had his first rock climb, and first plane trip!

Watching the development of Alex from infant to toddler has been the single most amazing thing I have ever experienced. While I’ve seen nieces and nephews transform though family visits the day to day changes are so surreal. New words and connections are made almost every day. Hysterical moments of toddler misinterpretation often result. Even the frustrating moments when his budding independence seems like in-your-face defiance… I am trying hard not to miss any of it.

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So what’s on the agenda for 2014? Well, many who know me are aware my winter guiding schedule does not allow for much free time for blogging, and sadly, getting outside with Alex. I can promise you this though, Alex will be on skis a few times this winter! Skiing as a child is my single most powerful memory and undoubtedly had profound impacts on decisions I have made in the last 20 years. I thank my parents for bravely putting me on the slopes in Tahoe, CA at the tender age of 3 and I am giddity at the prospect of someday watching my son leave me in the dust as he races down the mountain with the same youthful exuberance I still have! So look for near-future posts and gear reviews covering what you should be mindful of when skiing with a young toddler… I have been picking the brains of many who have a ton of experience, most recently a mom of 3 who’s youngest started at 19 months and is now 12 years old and a nationally recognized snowboarder.

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Also for 2014, and something I am definitely new to, is sponsorship. I’ve always liked sharing my opinion on products I use with customer’s and clients and based on the statistics I get back from my blog people like reading reviews just as much as trip reports. So to that end I’ll be adding a bit more product reviews to AwA. More than just generic reviews found online these will be detailed accounts of the advantages and disadvantages of something I would truly use. If it’s something that helps with adventuring with kids I’ll be happy to test it and share my honest opinion with my readers.

Earlier this month I posted a review for Friendly Foot, a really cool grass-roots company I stumbled across and am stoked to be supporting. But even before that, in late Fall, Piggyback Rider, a company that manufactures a very unique and interesting solution to the child carrying dilemma has added me to their list of ambassadors and sent me their Nomis model to demo.

Piggyback Rider

Piggyback Rider

Alex, at 25 months, wasn’t quite ready to use this but when the Spring hiking season arrives I expect he’ll be the perfect size and we’ll log some serious miles on this so stay tuned for that!

Over the next couple months things will be a little quiet here while my guiding season is full bore. Those interested in ice climbing and avalanche courses can follow along over at my personal guiding blog. Expect AwA to ramp up to full speed come April as the winter guiding season closes and a 2 and 1/2 half year old and his Dad get back to red-lining the White Mountain National Forest, back-packing, learning to ride the Strider Bike, swim lessons, and what ever else adventure comes our way!

See you soon!

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What is a review of foot deodorizer doing on Adventure With Alex? Well it’s quite simple really. I am genetically predisposed to having stinky feet. You can ask my mother. Or my wife. My feet reek. Add that to the fact I rock climb, ice climb, ski, hike, mountain bike, and paddle more than 200 days a year that puts me at an extreme need for some anti-odor ammunition. Long ago I gave up on the big name foot powders. They left my socks a bit grimy, smelled a bit too “minty”, and after a few weeks left me with a weirder funk than when I started… I tried spraying my shoes down with “Steri-fab” which seems to work wonders on our rental climbing shoes and plastic mountaineering boots that have different sweaty feet in them all year long. It didn’t work on my shoes, just everyone else’s. I truly have some awful smelling feet.

friendly foot deodorizer powder

Stinky climbing shoes no more!

So it was with a bit of skepticism that on a late night of internet wandering I came across Friendly Foot All Natural Foot Powder.  I can’t remember the exact connection but I know it was through LinkedIn. Regardless, the company caught my eye so I pulled up their website. A small company started by a long-time climbing guide in Washington State who was into environmental responsibility, organics and “paying it forward”… well I had to reach out. The connection was positive and a week later I had a 4 oz bottle to try out and review on my fledgling blog. The timing was impeccable as I was leaving for a 6,000 mile 48 hour 4 flight 2 night 1 day avalanche instructor course on the opposite side of the country the next day. I’ld be starting my day normally at 6am, flying out of Boston at 4:30pm, and arriving in Reno 8 hours later for a total same sock wearing time of 19 hours. Then ski boots for the day. Then return at 6am the next morning. A perfect test run!

After that extensive test I spent a few more weeks using the powder daily. My scientific control was asking my wife daily if she smelled my feet after coming home and removing my shoes. Normally I wouldn’t have to ask, she would let me know that those boots/shoes/socks had to go down stairs to the gear room immediately and I needed to wash my feet before I contaminated the whole kitchen. Now when I ask her she hesitantly says… no….

What sets this foot powder away from others is the scent. It is pleasant, not over powering. Tea-tree, Lavender, Eucalyptus, with a bit of Peppermint make up the main ingredients. Instead of smelling like strong medicated foot powder or floral baby powder it’s a more subtle, but effective scent, similar to the smell of quality massage oils.

I’ve dabbed a bit in my ski boots, climbing shoes, hiking boots, and house slippers, and the difference in odor is quite measurable… I even left my wet boots after ice climbing for 7 hours up stairs and my wife never noticed!

So yes, foot powder is now something I am using daily. Since I use it before and hiking with Alex I figured a review of the product would fit in just fine here. In full disclosure I was provided the product at no cost, but the opinions here are solely my own. If you know my wife you are welcome to ask her opinion on how  well this stuff works!

Also, the kind folks at Friendly Foot have offered a 10% off discount to any Adventure With Alex readers! Just use coupon code “FF14” at checkout!

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Only a day after returning to chilly New Hampshire from a warm Thanksgiving in Florida we received a greatly anticipated package. Alex’s Patagonia Baby Hi-Loft Down Sweater Hoody had arrived! We ordered this after seeing Alex’s BFF Rowan don it after joining us for a dinner party on a chilly night a few weeks ago.

patagonia puffy winter kids clothing

BFF Rowan sporting his Patagonia Puffy!

Knowing Alex will be spending a fair amount of time out in the snow this season we decided a high quality down jacket for days he does not need his North Face Insulated Down Suit was needed.

Fits great!

Fits great!

I’m going to put it right out there and let you know this jacket ain’t cheap ($129). Patagonia is known for pricey clothing. They are also known for extremely high quality clothing and excellent environmentalism. While they have factories all over the world they believe in transparency and make it quite easy to see where they source their products. Still some would say paying this much for a 2T jacket that he will grow out of in one year is crazy. For this I have 2 opinions to share;

1) Alex’s comfort in cold weather adventures is our first priority. If we want to snowshoe, hike, and ski with him this winter keeping him as toasty and mobile as possible is priority numero uno!

2) Resell value. This jacket is already out of stock at almost every retailer I searched online, and it is only December 3rd. While I would think Patagonia would increase their product run the following season I can also understand them staying conservative with production. Expensive quality kids clothes usually do not sell until they have been marked down to basically cost. Quality brands just don’t make money on kids clothes. But when supply is limited they can still sell at retail, or close to it. Also, from a consumer standpoint they have solid resale value. Bottom line, I’m sure baring any major damage to the jacket we will sell it at the beginning of next season for around $80, and put that towards a 3T size.

This way to the Christmas Trees daddy!

This way to the Christmas Trees daddy!

Enough of the politics, on to the review!

You can read the nitty gritty details from the manufacture’s website here. I’m just going to call attention to what makes this a 5 star item.

Warmth– While 600 fill goose down isn’t the highest fill down I like to see in a quality peice, they were not skimpy on how much they used! 74 grams, in a jacket that only weighs 235 grams, that means 1/3 of the jacket’s weight is quality down. That is a great ratio when it comes to down jackets!

Dryness– DWR: “Durable Water Repellent finish”- on lots of jackets so no big deal? Well Patagonia treated both the shell fabric and the lining of the shell fabric for a double dose of water-resistance. While the fabric itself will be basically waterproof the stitching at the baffling will be a weakness to water, so we plan on reserving this for when all H20 is in it’s preferred state… frozen.

Durable– Shell Fabric: “1.4-oz 20-denier polyester mini-ripstop”… what does that mean? It means super lightweight packable soft quiet durable nylon, not cheap big box store blue light special nylon. It also shows zero signs of wanting to “bleed” down, a common cosmetic issue with even high end adult down jackets.

Warm enough for Christmas Tree hunting!

Warm enough for Christmas Tree hunting!

So that’s it. Well almost. It also packs into a virtual nothing ball so we can bring it anywhere it might be cold. It has nice fuzzy chin protectors and hand-warmer pockets. Alex, being 2, hasn’t really discovered how to use pockets yet, but it’s nice they are there.

Bottom line: It’s not cheap, but worth every single penny, especially if you can either hand it down or re-sell it and buy the next size up!

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Bugs & Babies

Tis the season of flying biting things, and this family has a hard time staying inside no matter what Mother Nature is throwing at us. If that adversity is of the stinging blood sucking kind, it’s good to have the right equipment to keep you and the little ones as comfortable as can be. Below I share my personal strategies for keeping baby and family relatively bite free.

670px-Mosquito_2007-2

1) Timing. Mosquitoes are most active from dusk to dawn (night), so I have the best luck in New Hampshire hiking in the morning or early afternoon. Late afternoon hikes run the risk being chased back to the car by a black cloud of culicidae.

2) Location. Many hikes start in low lying sheltered areas. Often the mosquitoes are worse right at the trail-head. I dislike wearing ANY repentant, natural or otherwise, when it isn’t needed. I’ve watched many families soak their children in “Off” when stepping out of the car, regardless to the presence (or lack of) any biting insects. So my advice is to get out of the car and start hiking. Get away from the damp low lying campground and moving along the trail. If the climb isn’t steep a 3 mph gait can really keep the fliers away.

3) Clothing. Even during the hottest months babies/toddlers being carried will be most comfortable wearing light weight long pants and long-sleeved shirts. This reduces the amount of bug repellent that must be applied when feed time begins.

4) Skin Repellent. If the presence of biter’s is apparent, and feeding time seems imminent (not Alex’s feeding time), then I bust out the repellent. For him I like All Terrain’s Kids’ Herbal Armor Repellant Spray. Legs, arms, and the back of his neck/ears get the most attention. I’ll use this myself when hiking with him, but I also carry a 30% Deet Spray for dealing with crazy swarms. If the bug situation has escalated to need DEET, I apply it away from him. No skin repellent beats the effectiveness of DEET, and if I am carrying him on my back while wearing it I feel we both have a bit of a protective bubble around us.

5) Gear Repellent. I treat our kid carrier with AMK BEN’S CLOTHING AND GEAR REPELLENT. This “Permethrin” formula is something I used for years in some of the most bug infested jungles in the world while serving as a US Marine. It really works against just about everything. This is not to be applied to skin, or even clothing while you are wearing it. Once it absorbs into clothing or gear and has dried it can not leech back into our skin. I can set the kid carrier down in a tick infested field and I won’t find one tick on him or the carrier. During tick season treating the outside of your shoes and the bottoms of your favorite hiking pants will do wonders.

I plan on adding a head net now that Alex is entering toddler hood. I’d be nervous about putting a head net on an infant, especially if hiking solo, due to possible strangulation, but if one is used just exercise extreme caution! There are also some great clothes and items like bandanas pre-treated with permethrin. You can see them, along with some other bug combat tools at this link.

What do you do to fight the bitey’s? Any products you would recommend to those hiking with kids?

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