Mt. Hood family hike: Little Zigzag Falls

One of my favorite things to do as a family is head outside and walk around in the woods. Peeper, who is now 3 years old, loves it too—but she also loves to ride on Dad’s shoulders when she gets tired. (She’d be able to hike a lot farther if she didn’t ping pong back and forth on the trail so much: She’s like an overexcited dog who runs and runs and runs once she’s outdoors!)

The catch: If Eric doesn’t join us on the hike, I can’t carry her because I’m wearing Little Sister.

On a recent late-summer morning, though, we found a perfect compromise with a Mt. Hood family hike, without Dad. The girls’ grandparents and I took the kids to hike Little Zigzag Falls, just outside Government Camp, Oregon. It was the perfect short hike for kids.

Oregon's Little Zigzag Falls is short, easy and has a gorgeous waterfall: Perfect for kids and families on Mt. Hood! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Small effort, big payoff

When it comes to hiking with kids, you can’t just walk up a mountain, motivated by the faraway view at the top. No matter what that now-legendary marshmallow experiment says about kids delaying gratification, no small child will hike miles and miles for the promise of a long-off scenic outlook. (Well, at least mine won’t.)

Just a half-mile from the parking area, you'll hike to Little Zigzag falls: a hike perfect for kids & families on Mt Hood! Ten Thousand Hour Mama A half-mile hike to Little Zigzag Falls on Mt Hood is easy for kids and the whole family in Oregon. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

The Little Zigzag Falls hike was the opposite of that: The Mt. Hood family hike is short and quickly comes to a beautiful, impressive waterfall.

Kid-friendly hiking trail

Turn left on the trail at the gravel parking lot (which also has a porta potty: another bonus for kids). This begins the hike, which is just a half-mile long each way: a perfect length for little kids and recent walkers.

Even Kiwi, who started walking just a few months ago, hiked much of it!

The trail is level without a ton of roots to trip over. It meanders up within sight of the creek but not so close that kids can easily fall in—an important factor for children who are a little wobbly.

The path also weaves under and around tons of deadfall. Kids will love walking beneath a giant fallen tree and spotting logs in the creek. Ask them why no one has removed the trees “blocking” the creek—you may be surprised what they think! This can be a wonderful opportunity to teach about ecology, how different animals like different habitats, and our hands-off relationship with nature in parks.

Reaching Little Zigzag Falls

At the top of the trail, you’ll reach Little Zigzag Falls, which crashes down just over 40 feet. A rustic wooden bench off the side of the trail is a great place to pause for a snack and rest. Once kids have regained their energy, they can clamber over logs to a mini-beach just below the falls to throw sticks into the creek.

Tip: This spot just below the main viewing area is a perfect vantage point to shoot a photo of the group still in the main clearing. You can capture the entire falls and the whole family!

Looking for a Mt Hood family hike? Little Zigzag Falls is short with a big waterfall payoff. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

The falls marks the point where you turn back toward the parking area. Adults and older kids can hike up above the falls on a little off-shoot just down-trail of the bench. Be careful, though: This trail isn’t well maintained and has muddy spots. You can, however, see the falls from up above: pretty cool!

Little Zigzag Falls hike: Details

Directions: To get to the Little Zigzag Falls Trailhead, head east out of Portland and Sandy toward Government Camp on Highway 26. Turn left (north) on Kiwanis Camp Road, just west of Government Camp. You’ll reach the parking area at the trailhead after about 2 miles.

Features: Waterfalls, shade, small canyon, creek, old growth forest

Good for: Families, kids, babies in carriers, rugged strollers

Must-know: A picnic table just off the trail several hundred feet from the trailhead makes a great place for a snack or lunch.

A short hike—and a picnic!—will get you to Mt. Hood, Oregon's Little Zigzag Falls. Gorgeous! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Do you have recommendations for a Mt. Hood family hike? Have you ever been to Zigzag Falls?

Pure summer: How to make a wildflower crown

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free

Nothing quite says summer like strolling, picking wildflowers and weaving a crown. Don’t believe me? Make one and see for yourself.

Want to wear something DIY that's pure summer, either for yourself or your kids? Here's how to make a wildflower crown! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

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Portland kid friendly hikes: Camassia Natural Area

Camassia Nature Preserve lets kids and families explore nature (and wildflowers!) minutes outside Portland, Oregon. Ten Thousand Hour MamaImagine yourself floating in a sea of wild grasses and millions of wildflowers and you’ll get a pretty good sense of hiking at Camassia Natural Area in West Linn, just outside Portland.

The easy loop is perfect for families and little hikers. There is plenty to see—bridges! giant rocks! flowers galore!—as well as a self-guided information pamphlet pointing out uncommon plants and other trivia.

The best time to visit is in the spring, when the purple-hued camas is in full bloom (hence the name of the preserve), but there’s always something beautiful for the whole family to see, no matter when you visit.

Camassia Nature Preserve lets kids and families explore nature (and wildflowers!) minutes outside Portland, Oregon. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Celebrate summer with messy painting

Art, at its best, is a full-body experience—at least according to my kids. And with summer here (happy first day of summer!), it’s the perfect time to get outside for some messy painting.

On a recent afternoon, Peeper, Kiwi and a few friends did just that. I squirted paint onto plates of shaving cream, and the kids dove in: Within minutes, we were all messy. And within minutes, we were all having so much fun.

After all, we often tell kids to be neat. Use a napkin. Don’t spill. Wash your hands. Keep your hands to yourself. 

With the weather warming up, though, it’s a great excuse to play outside. And with a little set-up—and a lot of shaving cream—you can let your kids’ creativity go wild. Come on, color outside the lines!

Summer Fun Messy Painting Play Date - Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Raising two kids: It gets easier

Last weekend was full—in the best way.

On Friday night, a high schooler who lives across the street babysat the girls while Eric and I went to the opera. We dressed up, met up with friends, had a fancy schmancy drink and enjoyed the Portland Opera’s The Magic Flute. We hadn’t been to the opera—something I truly love—since last Valentine’s Day.

Portland Opera The Magic Flute - Ten Thousand Hour MamaOn Saturday we met up with a friend and his kids for a round of disc golf and swimming in the river at Milo McIver Park. Then we went to my brother’s house, where we played corn hole and let Peeper plant cucumber and lettuce seedlings. To round out the day, friends and their baby came to our house for dinner.

Parenting gets easier riverFinally, on Mother’s Day, we drove up Mt. Hood for a hike along the Salmon River.

Parenting gets easier family hikeOn the drive back home, I reflected on the packed and truly fulfilling weekend. It struck me that we never could have pulled off all those activities—some planned, some impromptu—just a few months ago.  Read more

4 ways to smile through your toddler’s cold

It seems as if Peeper *just* got over a cold, but here she is, snotty and congested and sneezy all over again.

Being sick is rotten, and I wish I could take away my munchkin’s discomfort. Since I can’t, though, I’m looking on the bright side. Here are my top four reasons to smile in spite of—or because of—Peeper’s cold.

1. Happy! She’s no Pharrell, but much of the time she apparently feels like a room without a roof, if you know what I mean. Sure, she gets cranky and clingy, but for the most part she’s like this, drippy nose or not:

Happy! from Catherine Ryan Gregory on Vimeo.

2. Story time. Peeper always loves a good book, but when she’s sick, we spend long stretches cuddling and reading. These days her favorite books are ones that have pictures of everyday objects. I name everything for her—over and over and over and over—and her pointer finger gets a real workout.

Reading and dog cuddles - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Finn, not to be left out, joins us, too. And this week we were in luck: My aunt sent a package of books my cousins (the oldest of whom is now in college—what?!) used to read. Thanks, Aunt Anne: You’ve doomed me to page through My First Word Book a million times a day for the rest of time.

3. Laughter. When you don’t know how to blow your nose and adults are constantly swiping at the snot collecting on your face, a sense of humor definitely helps you get through the day.

Sick toddler - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

We do just about everything we can to laugh, including wearing pants-hats.

4. The outdoors. Eric’s dad abides by the philosophy that few things can’t be improved by getting outside and blowing the stink off ya, and I couldn’t agree more. Fresh air and a little exercise may not typically be prescribed for a cold, but we think it’s a pretty good Rx.

Sick toddler - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

When you look on the bright side of being sick, what do you see?

We won’t let the bugs win

I’m a big fan of letting Peeper get dirty. I have no problem with grass stains on her pants, hands covered in dust or tasting sticks and pine cones and tree bark.

I absolutely love the outdoors, and I want her to explore, too. But there came a point this weekend when enough was enough.

On Sunday, Peeper, Finn and I met a friend of mine from grad school for this hike on Sauvie Island (which is bigger than Manhattan, if you want to squirrel away that fact for trivia night). The 3-mile loop on the wildlife refuge stipulates that dogs must remain on leash, and I was more than happy to keep Finn on lockdown: Cows, and the poopy evidence thereof, were everywhere. Finn has a disgusting track record with hikes through pastureland.

(Sorry, TMI.)

The scenery was gorgeous. We caught glimpses of Mt. St. Helen’s—or maybe it was Mt. Adams, but I couldn’t be sure because the top was obscured by clouds. Birds swooped this way and that. Old barns punctuated rolling fields.

Catherine Ryan Gregory IMG_4174_2

Halfway through, we stopped for a picnic lunch. Peeper practiced standing on her own and chowed down on tomatoes. Finn waded in the lake. It was perfect.

Until I spotted the tick. Read more