Finding Fun During Quarantine

The world these days is full of confusion, uncertainty, and turmoil. Travel and vacation plans might be on hold but you can still find fun during quarantine and explore your local area. Hiking is a great way to discover new places and get some exercise (I might have added the Quarantine 15 ugh). My children and I decided to explore different parks and trails in our state, including some treasure hunts! 

Our first weekend we decided to head up to Swatara State Park to check out Bordner’s Cabin, a cabin that was built in 1939 by a local teacher and his students with materials they found nearby. They built it right by a waterfall which adds to its beauty. The waterfall is called Aycrigg’s Falls and is a little over 40 feet high but plenty of room to climb in and up along the rocks carefully.

The trail itself is about 3 miles and is mostly gravel with a bridge so it’s easily accessible. My child of no fear instantly was up the waterfall when we got there before I could turn around while the rest of us sat and relaxed.

Our trip back to the car took a little longer as we went off trail and climbed on rocks.

Our next trip with our first treasure hunt from Uncharted Lancaster, a website started by a local man who pretended to be an explorer off on great adventures. You can locate his website at https://unchartedlancaster.com

It’s full of history, adventure, hikes and lots of fun. My middle son and I decided to try out the Tunnels of Enola Adventure, a 4 mile round trip hike through tunnels, along railroad tracks, up and down hill in search of clues that you need to unlock the location of the treasure! There’s 2 different paths you can take, the easy path or the hard one. Of course my 12 yr old had to choose the hard one so off we went. You start in Conestoga, Pennsylvania at the Shenks Ferry Wildlife Preserve and go all the way to the Safe Harbor Power Plant. You will need to print out the instructions as we lost cell service in several places but that didn’t stop us.

The trail will take you through four tunnels, one of which you have to bend down and one you have to sit in the stream to get down and up from. Each tunnel has a clue that you have to look for and then you have to match the clue to a page in the diary on the website. Once you figure it out, you’ll be given the location of the treasure and have to hike to find it.

We had so much fun that we decided to do another one with all my kids: the Haunted Indian Gold Adventure. This treasure hunt is about 3 ½ miles long and is on the opposite side of Conestoga. Pay close attention to the beginning part of the trail as we walked right by it the first time and had to retrace our steps. Once again, you have to locate four clues that will give you the password needed to unlock the treasure’s location. We walked along the Enola Low Grade trail and up to the Safe Harbor Overlook Point. From the Point, you can see beautiful views for miles.

If you’re hiking with a younger child, like my 6 yr old; make sure to take breaks and lots of water. But it was worth it to see his face when we unlocked the treasure! If you haven’t heard of Uncharted Lancater, please check them out both on the website and on Facebook. You won’t be disappointed!

Our latest hike was this past weekend. I only have my two youngest so I let the boys pick where they wanted to go off the AllTrails App. They decided on the Shades of Death trail in Hickory Run State Park, about 2 hours north of us. Yes you read that right, Shades of Death. The app said it was only a 2.2 mile trail in and out and was along a creek with waterfalls. We packed up some lunch and changes of clothes because well kids will be kids around water; then headed up. If you do decide to hike there, please get there early as the parking does fill up fast.

The boys loved the trail with rocks to climb up and over and trees to act like they’re Tarzan swinging on.

The good behavior lasted until we came across the creek! From that moment on, they were wet. And loving it! There are some deep spots so be careful but for the most part you can walk in the creek. The waterfalls were so pretty and we couldn’t resist getting close but oh boy was that water cold brrr! Make sure to wear good shoes as the trail goes up and down, sometimes smaller paths and even a stone staircase.

As we walked back, we stopped to rest at the one pond on top of the first waterfall. Even with how cold the water was, they were both in it completely. It was a perfect trail and made their brother and sisters jealous when we told them all about it.

Even when everything starts to open back up and we can get out of our state, we’ll keep planning these hikes. We have lots more treasure hikes with Uncharted Lancaster to do and an whole app of trails to explore. Maybe we’ll even turn some weekends into a camping trip to explore. Who knows? Our only limit is our feet and our desire. Have any of you explored your local areas or hit up any hiking trails? Please share with us where you’ve been, I can’t wait to hopefully get some more ideas. Stay safe, stay healthy and stay active!

Visiting the American Helicopter Museum

Have you ever had a helicopter ride? Or have you seen a helicopter from very close? We had an amazing experience last week while visiting the American Helicopter Museum. My 6-year-old son Chase and I were invited by the museum and honestly, it blew our expectations.

The AHMEC (American Helicopter Museum and Education Center) is just outside West Chester, Pennsylvania and it was very easy to get there as they have access from several major highways.

It opened to the public around 20 years ago with the beautiful purpose of making a “tribute to the man and women who pioneered the development of rotary-wing aircraft”. They have been improving the public’s experience thanks to the contributions and donations, and as you can see, they make a huge effort to make it interesting and fun, not just for the kids but also for everyone young and old.

They’re open from Wednesday to Sunday, but on Sundays, they close before five, so if you’re visiting them make sure you arrive early. It’s also recommended to check closings on their website but it’s always better to give them a call before heading out there.

At the museum entrance, there’s a great exhibition showing the AHMEC history, how they got to settle in Pennsylvania,  where and how are they taking place with research and developments, and lots of more interesting facts. There are other very nice exhibits like the Dragonfly DP-4, the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) and the Pioneers of Helicopter Innovation. Chase really enjoyed this last one, they use graphics, movies and interactive models about helicopters engineering and building processes.

The outdoor area is fantastic. They have the biggest helicopters out there and it was awesome to be able to be that close to these incredible machines. I took lots of pictures because my son asked me to, he was so excited and wanted to save these moments forever. They also have a Rotorcraft Models Exhibit that shows many of the world’s more important helicopters and some future concepts too.

Apart from the amazing experience that brings the fun for kids to climb in the cockpits and try the controls, they also have lots of educational activities, workshops and also school groups of all ages. The length of each program is about an hour and people can learn about aerodynamic characteristics of helicopters, history, demonstrations and much more. They also have summer camps and a special program for girls called ‘Girls in science and Technology’.

We wanted to stay for longer but it was time to go back home, the experience was great and we’re planning to visit them again very soon. If you’d like to go check out their website (http://americanhelicopter.museum/) for more information or to book a visit in case you’re planning on going on big groups. Let me know if you head out there so we can share our memories and maybe plan a visit together.

Camelback Resort Snow Tubing

What comes to mind when you first think of winter? Snow, cold, days off school? If you live in Pennsylvania, your winter thoughts include sledding, ice skating, hockey, skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing just to name a few! Even though we haven’t had much of a winter down where we live, my sister and brother-in-law bought my children and myself snow tubing tickets for Christmas and this month we headed up to Camelback Mountain Resort in the Pocono Mountains to have some fun.

Camelback mountain resort

Camelback Mountain Resort offers skiing, snowboarding, a gorgeous resort and even an indoor water area called Aquatopia! But that’s for another time (as much as I wanted to go). You can find their website at http://www.camelback.com to check out everything they have to offer and to purchase tickets. Their snow tubing section is as soon as you turn into the resort at the bottom of the hill with parking there on the right. Their hours change with the seasons and also with the weather so it’s always good to check before you head out there. If you’re at the resort for other fun and decide to go snow tubing, there are shuttles that will take you down. The tickets do sell out fast on busy days so make sure to purchase them ahead of time and they are only good for 3 hour sessions. You’ll have to sign a waiver once you get there as well for each adult and you can include any children on the form you fill out.

They offer two different hills, one for slower rides and one for faster rides. Each section has 20 lanes so the wait goes by fast. And it’s so awesome that they have a magic carpet (moving sidewalk) to get to the top of each section. My 6 year old was a little scared stepping on the carpet the first time but he slowly got the hang of it. He was a pro by the time we left for the day. You can ride down solo or you can ride in a group by holding onto each other’s ropes that are on the tubes. Our first trip down, he was a little scared and had me hold the rope to ride down together. He screamed the whole way down but jumped up at the bottom and yelled that he loved it and let’s go again. After the third time down, he got brave enough to go by himself and that was it, he was loving it.

If you need a break from the tubes, they do have a small lounge area with bathrooms, a small shop and a small café that sells hot drinks and some food. It’s a good place to sit and warm up before going back out. 3 hours might not seem like a long time but believe me, you will be glad they have the lounge area. Even though it was a Sunday, we were the first session and thankfully wasn’t too busy. The kids lasted about 2 hours in before they were ready to leave. We finished out our fun day with lunch, thanks to my sister and brother-in-law for the treat, and were ready to head home. It was such a peaceful drive home as all the kids fell asleep. If you’re looking for a great winter activity, I highly recommend Camelback Mountain Resort. We definitely will be going back again!

CRPS Awareness Day

Today’s blog post is going to be a little different than our usual traveling and having fun posts but it deals with being a mom and with November 4th. My son Jason is 15 years old and is a typical teenager with the attitude and not wanting to hang out with his mom. But he is also a very strong and brave person. He’s been diagnosed with Asthma, Costochondritis and Hemiplegic Migraine Syndrome along with one more condition. The last condition he was diagnosed with is the most painful chronic pain condition known to man. Jason was diagnosed almost 2 years ago with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome I or CRPS. Just looking at him, you would never think that anything is wrong with him or that he spent months in horrible pain and now has severe weakness in his left hand. November 4th is CRPS Awareness and Wear Orange Day to bring awareness to this little known condition.

 

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome can develop from illness or injury but there is no known answer to why some people get this and some people don’t from the same illnesses or injuries. Type 1 is from an injury or illness that didn’t directly damage the nerves in your limb. Type 2 is from direct never damage. It is also known as the suicide condition as there is no known cure for it and many treatments to help the pain and other symptoms don’t help for long. Some sufferers have also willingly amputated their limbs to get some relief. CRPS affects the nervous system through the entire body, it can start in one part of your body and spread without rhyme or reason to any other part of the body. While medical documents state that the average age of diagnosis is 42, many are children and the youngest that has been diagnosed was just 18 months old. CRPS is also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RDS), Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy (RND) and Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS).

Some of the symptoms for CRPS are burning or throbbing pain in the affected area, sensitivity to touch or temperature, swelling, changes in skin color and texture, joint stiffness, muscle spasms and weakness, decreased ability to move or use the affected area, muscle atrophy, nail and hair changes including loss of, and changing in how you process the temperature for instance Jason feels cold when the rest of us are saying it’s hot inside. He has the skin color change, muscle weakness, sensitivity to touch and burning/throbbing pain in his left wrist and hand. Symptoms change from person to person and no two people will be affected the same way.

Jason broke his wrist during gym class in January 2017. After the 6 weeks of healing and x-rays that showed the bone was healed, he still had horrible pain. We saw our family doctor, a sport medicine specialist, an orthopedist, and finally a rheumatologist between March 2017 and January 2018. The rheumatologist was the one who finally figured out what was wrong with him. While there are many different treatments, Jason’s started with more x-rays and an EMG test (electromyography) which measures the muscle response to the nerve’s stimulation. Thankfully he passed so there is no nerve damage at the moment. He was then send to physical therapy which helped a lot with the pain. He sees a rheumatologist every 6 months to check on his progress. Another great thing that helped with his progress was belonging to a group called the Ferocious Fighters, a group for children and their parents that have been diagnosed with this monster of a condition. They sent him a care package and have sent several more letters since we joined them. Please be sure to check them out on Facebook and at their website https://www.ferociousfighters.org. If you feel moved at all to donate, all donations go to help provide care packages to kids going through this fight so they know they aren’t alone.

While this can be a rehabilitating condition, I’m so thankful that Jason is currently in a remission state. His pain is very minimal but it’s looking as he will never regain the strength in his hand that he once had. We can only hope that it stays this way for a long time but with CRPS, you can never tell. Any small injury can trigger the spread and my son loves playing sports so every line drive and run down between bases makes me catch my breathe. But I love how he won’t let his conditions stop him from living that is the biggest thing. He knows his limits but still tries with 100 percent of his heart. He inspires me.

If any of your children are fighting through a condition or illness, your child is a super star and you are a super star as well. Never give up the fight for answers for your child. CRPS has no known cure and hardly any research done on it as scientists and doctors don’t really understand it. But that doesn’t mean that we will stand by and let it take over our lives. Stand tall and stand proud CRPS fighter, you got this!!

Clip ‘N Climb Courage

Being the youngest of 5 children means my 6 year old son Chase gets to try so many new things and discover new places with his older brothers and sisters. His newest adventure was trying the Clip ‘N Climb at Spooky Nook Sports.

He’s never tried anything like this before but was so excited to try. His older brother was doing an event with the Young Marines at Spooky Nook so Chase and I decided to check it out. They have 10 climbing walls including a Leap of Faith (which he was too scared to try). Some were very hard but he tried, his favorite was this circle one

He made it almost to the top! So proud of my little man. We only did the half hour session but we will definitely be going back to have more fun! If you’re ever in Manheim Pennsylvania, be sure to stop by Spooky Nook Sports at 75 Champ Blvd. They offer so much from climbing, batting cages, a Ninja Warrior course and so much more!

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