Hike it Baby Executive Director Jessica Carrillo Alatorre shares her story of discovering that a local nature refuge offered just as much comfort and wellbeing to her family as it does the animals, plants, and other outdoor life it protects.
One afternoon, I packed up my girls and took them to Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. I had heard good things about the refuge from other families, and we had just moved into our new house that was about 15 minutes away. They were hosting a guided hike for families and I knew my girls loved interacting with and learning about nature. We all needed some fresh air after a week of unpacking.
Arriving at the Wildlife Refuge
When we arrived, I appreciated the large parking lot, away from the busy highway, that offered a safe place to get out and get ready. We walked into the large and beautiful welcome center to use the restroom. Everything was bright and welcoming, including the volunteer at the desk. There were interactive displays about the refuge and the bathroom was clean. This was definitely a place we would visit again.
We walked over to where the hike was meeting and met the staff person leading us. She was also very welcoming. Once the group was complete, we headed out. We stopped often to get a little tidbit of information about the local wildlife, ecosystems, and to see nature in action. My girls loved hearing the indigenous story about how the Douglas Fir offered its pinecones as a shelter for the mice of the forest during a fire. You could still see the mice’s back feet and tail sticking out all over the cone. The hike was the perfect length and really felt like a gentle walk along the wide, well-maintained trail.
When we got back to the start, we had a snack at one of the benches overlooking the pond and got to see a Bald Eagle sitting in a tree. Both girls made sure we used the boot brush before leaving, to brush seeds off of our shoes, and avoid taking home foreign species. It was fun and they felt like they were doing something useful.
“Can We Make the Whole World a Refuge?”
On the way home, my 4-year-old daughter got very sad when we drove past a spot where they were cutting down trees and clearing land for more houses. “Why are they killing Nature?” she cried. We talked about how they were making room for more homes and people and that we also needed to take care of the nature we still have. We also talked about how the refuge is a safe place for nature, where people can’t destroy it or build there. She asked if we could make the whole world a refuge.