This exciting new book, created to get kids and families outside exploring the natural wonders of Humboldt County, is now a reality. Hiking Humboldt Kids by Rees Hughes is the next book in the “Hiking Humboldt Series,” and is the result of a dynamic collaboration between Backcountry Press and First 5 Humboldt.
First 5 is an organization that provides advocacy and support to pregnant people, children from birth through age five, and their families. Executive Director, Mary Ann Hansen and Community Engagement Coordinator, Jennifer Gonzales created the vision for this new hiking book. The journey began as the pandemic overtook our lives. Together they envisioned new approaches to engaging kids with nature and recruited local author Rees Hughes to help.
The Book’s Creation
Hughes and Gonzales then elicited the help of Michael Kauffmann, Co-Founder of Humboldt County’s own Backcountry Press, to join them in manifesting Hiking Humboldt Kids. He contributed to aspects of local ecology, teaching pedagogy, and publishing prowess. “This is the perfect collaboration and one that Backcountry Press has always dreamed of doing,” says Kauffmann.
The book is written in English and Spanish for kids and families to get outside and experience the wonders of Humboldt’s nature. “The book is a compelling way to reach families in uncertain and changing times. It offers nearby destinations for families across the county to get out, explore, and share new experiences,” notes Gonzales.
“My time spent in nature as a kid shaped me as a person and helped me gain a much greater understanding of the world around me,” observes Hughes. With his kids grown, he had the time to help create this guidebook. “I know how important being active outdoors was to me and my family. I hope this resource will encourage families with young children to take advantage of the amazing outdoors too. Get out there and have fun together!”
“In most cases, there is no admission fee, no special equipment required, and no special skills needed for each of these adventures. We have included a wide range of hikes, many close to urban centers,” notes Hughes.
An Inclusive Approach
When creating the guidebook, Hughes and Gonzales were intentional about making the hikes inclusive for people with a range of abilities and resources. To do this, they included a number of hikes that can be accessed easily by walking from town or by public transportation. With Spanish translation on every page, the book invites and encourages enjoyment by a wider, more diverse audience.
In the spirit of inclusivity, First 5 Humboldt will distribute free copies of the book to families with young children up to age five through playgroups, a library tour, and other events. Gonzales and her five and seven years old children field-tested many of the trails in the guidebook. They noted all the restrooms, assessed stroller accessibility, identified nearby public transit, any relevant user fees, and all other features that are important to users of Hiking Humboldt Kids. These details are found in the book, with descriptions for each trail as well as a list of essentials to bring along.
Gonzales strongly believes in the power of experiences in nature. “Studies show that shared experiences in early childhood are beneficial and have positive effects on the health and well-being,” she says. Additional research has shown that spending time in nature calms the stress response system, decreases depression, and lowers heart rate and blood pressure..
Coming out of the pandemic Gonzales noted that we, as a community, are experiencing a build-up of toxic stress. “This book connects the benefits of being in nature with an easy-to-use guide that will assist you in creating lasting memories with your children,” she said.
Hiking Humboldt Kids includes information about 25 hikes which are grouped into four geographic regions in Humboldt County, California. This guidebook includes descriptions of each hike, driving and walking directions, and custom maps by Arcata artist Ben Selman. There are also engaging and fun activities for kids that will help them explore the environment, learn about the flora and fauna, as well as highlighting interesting historical and cultural features. Incredible pictures decorate the book, sourced from a variety of local photographers.
Allison Poklemba, co-owner of Backcountry Press and a life-long environmental educator, also contributed to the project and shared that “this book was a joy to produce! We are excited to see it in the hands of families when we are out on our amazing local trails.”