Who runs this OC Tiny Hikes newsletter?

I’m Michele Whiteaker, a writer mom and nature guide who has been promoting play and empowering OC families to prioritize outside time since I started my FunOrangeCountyParks.com blog in April 2008 when my kids were 6 and 2 years old.

These are my kids when they were 9 and 5. Now they are 22 and 18! And Mr. Play Parks and I have been married for 30 years now! That means I’ve been writing about parks in OC for half my marriage and the great majority of my childrens’ lives.

Sharing park tips and play trips on my blog, on social media, and through my regular Play Trips newsletter over the years quickly earned me the nickname of “The Park Lady” — because it’s pretty much my passion to serve as a free community resource for families wanting to explore the outdoors in Orange County, CA.

I would not be here without YOU. Whether you are already a longtime subscriber or a caregiver considering subscribing, you bring me so much joy and when you chime in on your experiences you also help keep this community of supportive park lovers going!

Thank you for being here and I hope you have fun with this new option!

What is OC Tiny Hikes about?

For 16 years, I’ve been maintaining, updating, and improving what I am delivering inside my:

  • Parks & playgrounds blog (FunOrangeCountyParks.com)

  • Orange County Playground Map with map markers that take you back to the blog posts

  • Regular newsletter featuring signature Play Trips which you could only get as a subscriber to my emails (pairing parks with restaurants, libraries, and simple nature hikes)

After all this time, I have quite an archive of Play Trips newsletters and notes about tiny hikes that get families out into nature.

It’s time for my OC Tiny Hikes to show up in a FEATURED way with my Play Trips rather than just a little footnote.

OC Tiny Hikes are a paid add-on to the free newsletter subscription. When you become a paid subscriber, you get a mini trail guide each week.

Free subscribers still get the park updates and play trips, but NOT the trail guides.

What exactly is a Tiny Hike?

I am always trying to explain my playful style of hiking-with-kids. “Tiny hikes” is the first time I’ve been able to put it into words that make sense the moment you read it.

It immediately tells you it’s something that’s:

  • outside.

  • not daunting or strenuous.

  • in or near nature.

  • short in distance.

  • manageable or at least worth a try.

  • a modification of a noun that typically represents as a big endeavor in terms of energy and effort.

  • bound to have some unexpected sights.

  • slower pace.

  • going to feel good & promote wellness.

  • maybe best suited for a tiny human?

If you take a toddler perspective — a walk from the front door to the car could qualify as a hike!

Have you heard the The Lemonheads song “Rockin Stroll?”

The lyrics go: “People’s knees and trunks of trees smile at me. Looking upward to the sky, moving forward all the time.” It’s a stroller ride, but I often think about this when I think of guiding you to hikes with a much smaller world view.

You should think about it, too. Consider: what is my child experiencing right now? Hopefully, your answer is: “a playful sense of awe & wonder.” That’s what I’m going for here.

And then I think . . . does the word “hike” even fit for this? Or is it a “nature walk” or “ramble” or “wander.”

There is an odd tendency to only rank it as a hike based on the walking surface. Have you ever thought about how absurd that is? If it’s dirt, it’s a hike. If it’s a paved path through a garden, it’s not. What??? Why not???

And why do we even need to justify that it’s a “real” hike? Maybe a hike based on distance and pace and elevation and reaching the summit isn’t a fulfilling experience for your family or child?

No matter what we call it, we’ll take our kids outside to see what we can see. Even if it’s a neighborhood walk on the sidewalk, we will see plants and trees and birds and rocks. Let’s call it a hike if we want. A sidewalk hike. A tiny hike!

Who should become a paid subscriber?

Best for those of you who live in South OC or Central OC only because I haven’t explored as much of North OC. Good for those with kids ages 2 to 7 (of course, appropriate for ANYONE who wants to get outdoors but doesn’t know where to explore & wander). Each trail guide has info on stroller-friendly options or modifications for different surfaces and trails. Most are free or low cost with some trailheads located where you have to pay to park.

The paid add-on subscription is NOT for you if you are already an avid athletic hiking family who wants to get outdoors for the fitness and adventure of it. The primary purpose of these TINY hikes is so you and your children can get out into nearby nature and PLAY along the way with no structure, schedule, or agenda to reach a destination.

If you are comfortable going to a playground with the children in your life, you will need a similar amount of prep (almost none!). Most tiny hikes come in between 30 minutes to an hour with suggestions for how to extend your nature exploration if you feel like it.

You will like these TINY hikes mini trail guides because:

  • They work for toddlers.

  • They work when you’re tired and don’t have the energy for an all-day, geared up adventure.

  • They might work for grandparents to come along.

  • They work on the sidewalk when you don’t feel like getting dirty.

  • They work when AllTrails.com is way too much information. When you don’t need the complication of elevations and focus on mileage.

  • They are especially written for families. I pay attention to different details than regular trail guides.

  • It’s something new that you will not find ANYWHERE else. (I make these up! Even if you know about the location, you will not get the details that I have or the format that makes up these easy trail guides.)

  • They always have suggestions for extending the play to nearby playgrounds or libraries nearby. You will also get restaurant or picnic suggestions.

  • They work because a Tiny Hike that allows for play time outside is all you need for the day.

Not ALL hikes will check ALL the boxes, but there’s a good ratio of tiny-ness to energy investment that will fit a lot of these + suggested modifications!

Subscribe to get full access to the newsletter and Play Trips archive + Tiny Hikes trail guides archive. Never miss a tiny hike from Michele!

What do you get?

You can subscribe now for $5 a month, or $39 a year (35% savings).

An annual subscription gets you:

  • Subscriber-only weekly OC Tiny Hike mini trail guides

  • Access to full Play Trips & OC Tiny Hikes mini trail guide archives

  • Post comments and join the community

Founding members will get the opportunity to join me on ONE in-person OC Tiny Hike per year (set up in a small group of adults).

I want this Tiny Hike newsletter to come to you as a super-simple hiking trail guide for families who want to get out in nature without worrying about breaking into a sweat, getting lost, or feeling like you have to push the kids to get to a destination. These are more for exploring and slow wanderings! For fitting nature in your family schedule.

Acknowledgments

I am a privileged white woman. My pronouns are she/her.

The land these parks and hikes are on is the unceded land of the Acjachemen, Tongva, and Kizh.

All children deserve play & nature. Safe, welcoming, inclusive opportunities nearby!

Play and access to nature is a basic human right. (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 31)

Childhood can’t wait for policies and playgrounds to catch up! We feel the urgency to share parks with each other to benefit every child. Respect and kindness are key.

Please inquire if you want, but cannot afford, access to the paid portion of this newsletter.

Stay up-to-date

You won’t have to worry about missing anything. Every new edition of the newsletter goes directly to your inbox. You can expect the same sort of park updates you would get every week with me. You ONLY have to pay if you want to get the featured trail guides. You can find me at FunOrangeCountyParks.com or @ocplayparks on Instagram.

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People

Michele Whiteaker

Writer mom and nature guide promoting play and empowering families to prioritize outside time since 2008.