Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

Our beloved Bear passed away just after Alex turned 1. We have always wanted a dog in our family but our hearts were not ready and it was easy to focus our attention on our wonderful one-year-old. This winter we decided that after the busy guiding season we would start looking, and last week, after hearing of a influx of puppies at the Conway Area Humane Society, we decided to get serious.

Puppies & Toddlers

Love at first sight?

We originally had our eye on a beautiful one year old Shepard mix named Sissy, but after our 2nd visit we were drawn to this 2.5 month old hound mix. He seemed so sweet and gentle compared to his feisty sister. It didn’t take us long to fall in love.

Puppies & Toddlers

Already good on a leash?

Once we got home though we started noticing we had upset Alex’s balance in his world… Suddenly it wasn’t 100% about him. And Echo would obviously be trying to figure out where in our pack he belonged. This would be by testing each of us through nips and rough play. It was crushing to hear Alex say “I don’t want a doggy” after being jumped on for the 3rd time.

There is a ton of advice on the internet regarding toddlers & puppies. We’ve skimmed and read much of what’s out there, but so far these have been the best tips we’ve followed with some success:

1) Set up some dog free/kid free boundaries. We want Alex & Echo to become best friends, but that can’t be forced. Some playtime together is important so they grow affection for each other, but so is personal space. Alex no longer felt safe playing with his toys on the living room floor, so I took our wood stove kid gate down and re-installed it to split the living room and dining room.

Toddlers & Puppies

This wall will come down, once proper pack order is established

2) 1 on 1 time, for both Pup and Boy. Michelle and I have been sure to spend some quality time with both Alex & Echo when it is just us. This time is so precious. Like when I took Alex for a swim at our nearby beach, just the two of us. Or Echo sitting in my lap last night at a backyard campfire while Alex read books with Mommy inside. We try to give each an hour of undivided attention every day.

Toddlers & Puppies

Solo doggie play

3) Together time. This is very closely supervised at this point until Echo learns he can’t jump on Alex. But with Echo in my lap Alex can sit and learn how to pet him gently. Alex also loves to help get the doggy food and water and sharing these responsibilities will help them bond.

Puppies & Toddlers

Chillin’ on the couch

Well it has only been 9 days since we brought Echo home, and I feel we are making good progress inducting him into our little family. Thanks to crate training house-breaking has gone pretty well considering his young age, and I feel we are on the right path to establishing the proper “pack order”.

Anyone have any tips that worked for them when adding a puppy to a toddler home? Please share below!



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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.



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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Just in time to start thinking about the Spring hiking season some great tips from Cragmama!

How to Make Hiking Fun For Kids.

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A couple weeks ago I asked colleague Jonathan Shefftz to chime in on a subject I am very new to… skiing with kids. With 5 solid seasons of skiing with his adorable daughter Micayla he has some excellent advice to share! Thanks Jonathan for all the great tips, Alex & I will be keeping this all in mind for our next day out on the slopes!

Skiing with Kids: A How To … and How Not!

Cautious turns down a frozen Left Gully in Mount Washington’s failing daylight, skiing around gaping crevasses off the summit of Mount Rainier, traversing above deadly fumaroles on Mount Hood, and of course avalanche danger in many places. Sure, I’ve stared down some tricky skiing situations, but all of the foregoing is mere child’s play compared to … teaching your wife how to downhill ski!
A blanket prohibition applies to teaching a spouse how to ski, yet it still commonly takes place. (Kind of like cooking in your tent?) I got away with that during the early years of our relationship, when I must have been held in higher esteem. Fortunately, my wife is now interested only in nordic skiing, and she last downhill skied when she was a week or so pregnant with our daughter.

The ensuing fatherhood has of course been accompanied by all sorts of emotions, desires, goals, and dreams. But for a skier, one overriding concern is always: how can I encourage my child to become a fellow skier? I know my father certainly had that priority for his two sons – and he certainly succeeded. (Thanks Dad, and I know you’re eating that pastrami sandwich in some ski lodge up there in heaven looking down on your two boys out there skiing now!) By contrast, Mom’s priority was to enjoy the peace and quiet with all three of us away from the house, but hey, that worked out too.

Taking our daughter out skiing at first was very easy, especially since she didn’t have much of a choice in this (or anything else for that matter). When she was only four days old in late December, I put her in a Moby wrap on my chest, wore a jacket over both of us, and nordic skied onto the golf course behind our house, while she promptly fell fast asleep. (Note that this is far better than isolating your child in a typical external frame baby carrier backpack, as the various “baby wearing” options keep your child warmer, and also make the load more stable for skiing.)

The second winter was also fairly easy, for a total tally of 32 ski outings with her. And at the beginning of the season, when she was only 11 months old I even got her to balance by herself – however briefly – on skis and poles, before she ever walked or stood on her own.

Skiing with kids

Jonathan & Micayla

Then in the spring, once she could walk, I got her out on skis again, although she mainly just played with her ski poles.

Skiing with kids


The third season was more difficult, as by then I had to carry her on my back, which meant I couldn’t keep her warm with an oversized jacket over both of us. (I also had to buy xc skate skis sized for the combined weight of both of us.) And often when I skate skied down a hill, at the bottom she would be laughing, for some reason unknown to me … until I realized that she had tossed away her hat and gloves way at the top of the hill. She also liked to exercise her newly found two-year-old independence by insisting on getting out of our Beco carrier to use my carbon fiber race pole for – as we call it in the avalanche world – snow penetrometry.

Skiing with kids

Yes, ski pole time! Has 145cm of high-modulus carbon fiber ever provided so much amusement for a toddler?

The fourth season started off okay, and I had high hopes for her to ski on her own. But after we tallied up seven ski outings on my back, she didn’t want to go out anymore after mid-February. Although my own ski season was going strong, and would eventually crack over half a million earned vertical feet, I was distraught that I seemed to have lost my little ski buddy. With hindsight, one factor is that although her snow jacket and pants still seemed to fit okay when standing up, when fully flexed on Daddy’s back the jacket arms and pant legs shortened up significantly, so she might have been too cold on a few days, and kids can be slow to shed bad memories. I also capitulated to her demand to wear only thin knit gloves, when I should have insisted on bulkier mittens.
Yet then one day she accompanied me downstairs to the ski work/storage room, and inquired about a very small pair of skis (amusingly adorned with high-end adult race ski graphics). “Those are *your* skis!” She proceeded to shuffle along the basement rec room floor. Hope!

Then, as if on cue, we received a late-March snowstorm in southern New England, just enough to shuffle around the neighborhood. Victory!

Skiing with kids

Micayla looking stoked!

This fifth season has been going well, at 11 ski outings under her own power as of January 12.

Skiing with kids

Always more fun with friends!

Partly we’ve been fortunate with decent snowfall in southern New England – at least by southern New England standards – while northern New England suffers. And partly maybe I’ve figured out what I’m doing? So here are some tips … although remember that despite all my PSIA, USSA, AIARE, NSP, and AAA credentials related to skiing, I have no qualifications whatsoever to dispense parenting advice!

Start them off nordic: Even if your ultimate goal is lift-served downhill skiing, start your child off with nordic skiing. Your child will immediately be able to shuffle along a little bit, and nordic skiing will build great balance skills for downhill skiing. And since the typical “magic carpet” beginner area at a downhill area has less pitch and length than a nordic ski area, all a downhill resort really offers for a little kid ski outing is more expenses, more crowds, and more general hassle.

Use “real” boots and bindings: Those “universal” bindings that “fit” regular snow boots are fine for a few strides in the backyard, but that’s about it. Your child needs regular ski bindings for more than even just a few minutes of skiing. Otherwise, you are setting up both of you for long-lasting memories of frustration.

Dress yourself inadequately: If the temperatures are cold, dress yourself so that you’re on the verge of shivering. If the weather is very snowy or otherwise possibly wet, wear only marginally water-resistant clothing. This way you’ll be more in tune with what your child is experiencing – which will always be colder and wetter than you, no matter how well you try to dress your child.

Achieve economies of scale: We have only one child (though her independence streaks sometimes seem to cause enough trouble for a family of many more). To my pleasant surprise though, I’ve found that bringing along her nearly identically aged cousin from the next town over is in many ways if anything easier, not harder. (Well, except when they fought over space in their snow “castle” though a hastily built addition solved that problem.) Some aspects, like getting dressed, of course take twice as long. But once they’re out there interacting with each other, the burden on you can be easier.

Protect your back: This is potentially death by a thousand cuts. Or rather, back pain by many dozens of improper lifts. A kid down on the snow just looks so cute – unlike, say, a storage crate – and therefore is so easy to skip out on proper lifting techniques (especially if you’re fortunate enough to be free from any chronic back issues and therefore not worrying about such matters at the time). Fortunately I learned my lesson from some early warning signs this season. So for each fall – and your kid will have many, often deliberately, since that’s part of their fun – get down low with flexed knees, and no bending at the waist.

Think snowplay, not skiing: When I go on real ski tours, I’m admittedly rather intolerant of partners who want to fumble around. Skiing with our daughter is the exact opposite, as any amount of skiing is mission accomplished, no matter how brief. A typical snowplay outing starts off with skiing, then quickly digresses into general snow play, including making snow angels, digging in the snow with my perfectly kid-sized rando race shovel, hiding in the snow “castle” from monsters, and anything else that either of us can think of (even a Jay Peak roundtrip tram ride). Plus no matter what you think of the high prices and/or low nutritional content of ski cafeteria food, it will be worthwhile if it buys your child happy associations with skiing!

Insist on going out … but capitulate to going back in: About half our successful 11 ski outings so far this season have required some initial cajoling. Although I’ve given up on a few other planned outings entirely when she seemed to be a bad overall mood, otherwise I’ve persisted, on the idea that once she got over her initial reluctance, then she’d enjoy our skiing/snowplay outing. And indeed, that idea has proven correct. However, once we have been out for a little while, even it’s been only a *very* little while, and *then* she wants to go back in, well, in we go – often with no warning! (Especially on cold days, as she seems to go immediately from perfectly warm to “freezing” – and sometimes even both “freezing” and “chilly”!) Even though I want to encourage, push, nudge, cajole, etc. her if necessary into each ski outing, once it’s no longer fun for her, then I don’t want to create any bad memories.

Now what about the absence of sled/pulk recommendations for before your child is ready for self-propelled skiing? Until I learned about “baby wearing” I used a pulk for many outings with assorted nieces and a nephew. A pulk with a completely sealed canopy will shield your child entirely from wind and snow. For cold temperatures, the child will not benefit from your body heat, but you can easily pile on the blankets inside the pulk.

The disadvantages include being sealed up inside a little isolation unit, which some kids will dislike. In ungroomed snow, a pulk can be difficult to maneuver, even if you’re up to the workout. And a pulk can be yet another thing to pack into your car.

That said, the best pulk I’ve ever seen is the discontinued Ziffco model. The harness and crossed poles are excellent, and the pulk tracks exceptionally well, even on off-camber groomed high-speed turns. (Yes, I tested this when empty!) Search on eBay and Craigslist for used models. The Ziffco design has now been inherited by Kifaru (via an interim ownership period by Mountainsmith). Kifaru’s focus is on hauling gear, not kids, but a child canopy is still available.

Alternatively, some bike trailers have winter adaptation kits that essentially substitute skis for bike wheels. The advantage over a more traditional pulk would appear to be better glide, given that the entire pulk body is not being dragged over the snow. The disadvantage would appear to be the higher center of gravity, and hence compromised handling. However, I don’t any personal experience with these models. Probably best to try before you buy – too bad you can’t do that with the kid, also so far no desire to return her for a refund!

Jonathan Shefftz is a PSIA certified ski instructor (both alpine and nordic), U.S. Ski Association alpine race coach, avalanche instructor for AIARE and the National Ski Patrol, and governing board member for the American Avalanche Association. Jonathan patrols in Western Massachusetts at Northfield Mountain and Mount Greylock, as well as in his background in Amherst. He and Dave took their Level 3 avalanche course together almost ten years ago in January 2004, along with USFS Mount Washington avalanche forecaster Jeff Lane. Jonathan also organizes the NE Rando Race Series – both those in lycra and those more sensible are welcome!

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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.


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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