There is something fundamentally healthy about being outdoors. For children, it can give them the freedom to run, jump and play. And while physical activities like these are good for their health and physical development, it also allows them to explore their natural environment and adventure.
“To this generation, it is imperative that kids be full of the memories of hiking, camping, swimming, storytelling around the campfire, boating, exploring and understanding the grace
of nature and big sky country,” said Al Ewing, County of Los Angeles, recreation services leader, “as opposed to walking through life fixed on a tiny screen and shooting aliens in a 10-by-12 bedroom as a matter of lifestyle.”
Scouts BSA is a year-round program that provides fun, adventure, learning, challenge and responsibility for youth with a plethora of outdoor activities for everyone’s interests, according to Jeff Shrewsbury, district executive for the Western Los Angeles County Council.
“Every weekend, they try to get together, whether it be a hike at a local park or swimming,” Shrewsbury added. “We have several hundred merit badges that cover every outdoor activity you could think of. We’re super active.”
Shrewsbury considers Scouting a “staycation,” where not only do they offer almost every sport, but they also offer a variety of other outdoor adventures, including sailing, scuba diving, rock climbing, fishing, white water rafting and camping.
Nearby, Scouts also have Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island, which Shrewsbury said is “one of the best summer camps in the United States.”
Like Scouts BSA, Girl Scouts offers every girl a chance to practice a lifetime of leadership, adventure and success.
Troops can visit various day camps, weekend camps and summer camps, with a variety of activities such as archery, zip-lining, paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking and more, as well as weekend adventures.
Through their outdoor offerings, girls face challenges and adventures in an all-girl supportive environment, which allows them to find courage, confidence and character, according to Anne Marie Hand, director of program and community engagement.
“Our mission is to provide girls opportunities of being outdoors, unplugging from technology and reaping the benefits of nature,” Hand said. “Learning how to preserve the environment and become environmental stewards while connecting with each other and with nature is important for these girls.”
Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles has also just launched a campaign to finish the rebuilding of Camp Lakota, a second overnight camp in the area, which will be open for summer camp season in 2020, according to Melanie Larsen, senior communications manager.
“It’s been a work in progress for many years, and we’re really, really excited that it’s finally opening next year for resident camp,” Hand added.
Coach Jen So, left, demonstrates how to draw and aim the bow for beginners Yuri Gumatay, 13, center, and his father Orlando of Canyon Country during the 2019 Olympic Day held at the Santa Clarita Archery Range in Canyon Country on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal
“We teach them how to shoot and they learn the rules of the range, safety rules, as well as how to command the bow,” Paguia said.
They also offer a six-week training course on Mondays and Wednesdays for people who want to learn more.
“They start with learning the basics, and if we see their motor skills are improving, we will then introduce them to more advanced shooting skills,” Paguia said. “The camp can also lead them to becoming competitive if they choose to later on,where they can participate in tournaments.”
Classes are open to anyone age 8 and above, and are taught by USA certified coaches, which means they follow a certain shooting process.
Placerita Nature Center
Every Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon, for example, families can go on an easy, hour-long nature walk to explore the natural area’s animals, plants and cultural history.
The center also offers an interactive animal presentation on Saturdays from 1-2 p.m., when guests can see, learn and ask questions about the live, native animals of the Placerita Canyon and surrounding Santa Clarita Valley.
Though the animals vary from season to season, they typically have a number of animals on the premises to showcase, including owls, falcons, hawks, snakes, tarantulas, tortoises, lizards, a skunk and an opossum.
Similarly, the center offers other monthly, hour-long walks, such as bird walks for birders of all levels, twilight hikes to learn about and discuss nocturnal creatures and the seasonal night sky, and blooms of season for those looking to see what is seasonally blooming year-round along the trails, or monthly community nature educational events in partnership with guest speakers related to all things in the natural environment.
The Junior Rangers Program has also returned to the park with Ranger Frank and his friends, covering topics ranging from fire ecology with Smokey Bear, local birds of prey and falconry, wild canines and felines, and much more. Junior Rangers should be at least 6 years old, so they can understand and appreciate the lessons, and parents and siblings are welcome too.
Placerita Nature Tots offers a similar program with explorations into the natural world for younger children, age 3 to 5, accompanied by an adult.
The 256-acre park not only has dedicated space for picnics, barbeques, hiking and group camping, but more than 70 animals in their barnyard, from an African tortoise to alpacas, as well as a herd of American Bison that roam the property, according to Ewing.
Throughout the year, Hart Park hosts various A Day at the Ranch events, each of which focus on various fun, educational topics, such as their upcoming event scheduled for Nov. 9 that will focus on celebrating one of the most important trees in the history of our state — the mighty oak.
Castaic Lake Recreation Area
Castaic Lake is the largest state water project reservoir in Southern California, with more than 11,000 acres of parkland and open space habitat.
The lakes are open to various water activities, including boating, fishing, wakeboarding, jet-skiing, swimming, kayaking, sailing and more.
On Saturday evenings once every few months, the local astronomy club will have telescopes set up in Vasquez Rocks Park free of charge. The group can also help to get a personal telescope up and running. Their next star party is scheduled for Oct. 26.