Today’s post on nature outings in Orange County (for adults!) is written by my friend Michele of NaturePlayTrips.com. I love the reminders of how therapeutic a nature outing can be for all ages – not just our children. Here is what she writes…
Why Adults Need to Go Out and Play
by Michele Whiteaker, Nature Play Trips
It’s obvious, isn’t it? Because we feel better when we go out on a walk!
Rich Louv, author of The Nature Principle, wrote an excellent blog post about the “Ten Reasons Children and Adults Need Vitamin N.” He sites all sorts of research about how your time out in the wilds of Orange County will make you feel better, unleash your creativity, and help you feel a part of your community.
I get outdoors a lot with my kids, but there are some special places where I go to be alone and take in the quiet. Check out “Where Mommies Dare to Play” for a few ideas. We just need to make it a habit to go to some of these outdoor places rather than our regular Target or Starbuck’s rut!
On Jen’s Free Daily Charge Ideas list, I was happy to see playing outdoors appear more than once. Jen is awesome at giving ideas on WHAT to do and I’m really good at knowing WHERE.
So let me fill you in on some amazing places you can visit for nature outings in Orange County. Some of these will require you to pay to park – so they aren’t exactly free. But if you carpool with a friend it should only cost $2.50 each and that’s worth a little sanity!
Ideas for Nature Outings in Orange County
Make a plan to meet up with a girlfriend and leave from school drop off to make it simple. Salt Creek Trail is a favorite “with a friend” walk in south county. San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary fits the bill for central county in Irvine. Yorba Regional Park is a beautiful option for north county with lakes and tall trees. All my walks tend to be “nature walks” because wherever I am, I find a cute little bluebird or see a white egret flying over.
2. Take a walk on the beach.
Don’t make this too complicated or you won’t do it. I usually pick my “walking beaches” based on ease of parking. And remember you don’t have to do this for exercise, you can do it for fun and still get benefits. Let your toes get wet in the waves and be on the lookout for dolphins in the surf. Seal Beach Pier beach is my north county pick. Parking near Balboa Pavilion on the Peninsula is a great spot to walk by the Balboa Pier and down to The Wedge in central county. Montage beaches feel especially luxurious for south county, but parking can be a pain. So I usually go with Capistrano Beach Park.
3. Meet a friend for a hike or nature walk.
You can visit the regional OCParks.com parks site if you want some ideas on where to go. Click hiking trails on the map and then click on one of the pine tree icons for ideas. Most have a “map PDF” where you can see the trails.
4. Go to the library.
“Go to the library” was on Jen’s list and I know it’s not officially outdoors, but I’m in love with libraries so I need to weigh in here. Oh, Mission Viejo Library is such a find for grown-ups. The Newport Beach Public Library off Avocado near Fashion Island has a nautical theme and park outside for wandering. Yorba Linda Public Library is a reading oasis in north county.
5. Take a bike ride.
I like to ride on off-street paved paths. Off the top of my head, I’d pick parking at the San Juan Capistrano train station and riding down to Dana Point Harbor. Balboa Peninsula to Huntington Beach has a LONG and flat path that goes right along the ocean. Orange also has an off-street paved path. You can get an OC Bikeways map by contacting OCTA. This school year, the kids and I are riding to school one day a week. Then I’m riding home by myself. I’ll pick them up later in the day via car (or if it’s cool enough out then I’ll ride my bike back to get them after school).
Hope that empowers you to get out and actually DO some of the ideas on the list.
Are you doing the Daily Charge Challenge? Here are 15 more relaxing things to do outdoors for the rest of the month and beyond.
Sit on the beach and rub your toes in the sand.
Grab a handful of beach rocks and see if you can find sea glass.
Eat a meal outdoors.
Walk somewhere in bare feet – feel the textures beneath your feet.
Swim – float on your back and feel gravity go away.
Walk around a plant nursery and pick something green to grow in your garden or in a container on your porch.
Visit a nature center and chat with a ranger.
Pick a nature spot and sit. What do you see? What do you hear?
Draw. Keep a nature journal and take the time to sketch something.
Write a poem or a song.
See if you can still do a cartwheel. (Stretch first!)
Spin in circles and get dizzy, then “all fall down.” (People might think you’re nuts, but who cares!)
Look up. Do you see the way the sunlight or the wind hits the trees? Are there birds? Clouds?
Hug a tree. Really. It will make you smile.
Michele Whiteaker @natureplaytrips is a writer, mom, and Certified Interpretive Guide. NaturePlayTrips.com eases families into the outdoors with travel ideas, kid-friendly nature activities, and play-infused parenting tips.