Story by

Marlene Lin

December 15th, 2015

When deciding where to adventure as a family, we usually search the web to find nearby places of interests. They can range from museums to national parks to beaches to historic buildings to factories to local parks. Everywhere our family goes together becomes a learning experience. New experiences prompt questions and discussions that are a natural part of our children's education.

Today we decided to explore a small section of a 433-acre piece of land the US Army previously used to protect the Puget Sound in Washington State. Nowadays it belongs to Fort Worden State Park and is accessible to all.

Our hike today led us to hidden bunkers built into the hillside overlooking the sound. Old, run down military buildings were scattered about as we walked.

When hiking with the kids, we need to remind ourselves to slow down and to stop rushing them. The journey is just as important, if not more, than the destination.

Our littlest one loves to stop at each and every puddle on the trail. After a rainy Washington day, there was plenty of splashing to do. If we didn't slow down, we would have missed these little moments that make our children so happy and fill their (and our) hearts with happiness.

The extensive system of large, abandoned bunkers at Fort Worden is available for exploration.

As soon as we reached the top of the hillside, questions spilled out of their mouths. "Why is everything painted green?" "Why are the bunkers built into the hill?" "Why were there cannons here?" "Can we go down there?" All questions that would have probably never come up had it not been for our conscious effort to discover something new together as a family.

After walking around the top of the bunkers for a bit, the kids were ready to get down into the bunkers themselves. "Let's go this way," they screamed as they ran past us with wide eyes.

Armed with flashlights, the kids were ready to explore the dark rooms of the abandoned bunkers.

When some of the rooms were too dark for the kids' tastes, we were at their sides, cheering them on. Just knowing that they were not all alone gave them confidence to push through their fears.

Every so often, some of the rooms were just a little too spooky. (Even for me.) I feel like being truthful about my fears helped the kids' overcome their own a bit. Acknowledging that we all have fears to overcome is a normal part of growing up and normal part of adulthood too.

On today's hike, I made sure to have my phone charged up in order to do some geocaching. Thanks to a free geocaching app that I downloaded to my phone, the kids were able to locate one of the many geocaches at the park. It's like a treasure hunt for the kids, and they love trying to be the first to locate the hidden geocache.

Geocaches are not only found in state parks. They are located in every type of location imaginable.

Each geocache comes with a logbook where the kids can sign their names and peek at the names and dates of those who located the hidden spot before them.

In addition to the logbook, there is usually a selection of geocache prizes that you are welcome to take in place of something you leave behind. The kids didn't feel like trading one of their teeny toys for the ones in the geocache today, but did take advantage of a stamp someone left behind.

The places we explore together don't have to be far-off, exotic destinations. There are tons of places like these scattered throughout the country, preserved for us and for future generations.

The hardest part is sometimes just getting out of the door, especially with three kids. But in the end, the conscious effort we made to explore as a family is always worth it.

I think the kids would agree, too.

Thanks for following along, Marlene

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