Compass, Orienteering, Utility Knife

Urban Orienteering for Four Year Olds

12.29.08 | 5 Comments

First things first you get yourself a good map! This is a map of our journey from Grandpa’s house in Mountain View via Cal Train to Redwood Trading Post in Redwood City. Our map is hand drawn with some fantastical cartography and lots of emphasis on TRAIN stations and other TRAIN elements. This map was drawn purely for four year old orienteering “buy-in”, and is definitely not to scale. Our goal was to get to Redwood Trading Post where we would purchase new puddle boots, Seth’s first pocket knife and a compass.

After a brief bit on Church Street we took a right on Bush Street. This takes us straight to the Mountain View Station. We had our sights set on catching the eleven o’clock train, and we were all business.

Why the train you ask? Well The American Boy’s Handy Book was first published in 1890. We wanted to get a taste for what it was like to run an errand in the days when there were no automobiles. People walked more back then, and we wanted to experience what it felt like (boy are we out of shape).

Turns out the “map” was far more important than I imagined. Seth checked it often to get a read on where we were in route. He used it to judge distances and gauge his pace. Ok, next time I promise I will have a proper map, but for today this crayon sketch proved sufficient.

Redwood Trading Post is around the corner from the Redwood City train station. However, you have to cross the Sequoia Station strip mall to “round that corner”. This proved treacherous on foot. We dodged shopping carts and cars. We finally stopped outside a burger joint to wolf down our sunflower butter sandwiches. Never underestimate the whine factor of a four year old who has not eaten breakfast and is “forced” to carry a virtually empty backpack…woe is me.

Fortunately Redwood Trading Post was only a minute from our lunch spot. I knew this, but the surprise of turning the corner and finding it there was worth the nondisclosure. Redwood Trading Post is one of those great businesses that despite big box stores manages to survive happily and prosperously. They carry all the things you really need for camping. The staff is helpful, funny and they all clearly like what they are doing. If you are going to blow cash on outdoor equipment do it here – we did, Merry Christmas Seth!

The boots were easy. I’m not sure when this happened but Seth is ready for a kids size 2. We flirted with the pink kitty boots with tails, but eventually settled on our old standbys fireman red. In Seth’s mind the boots were gravy, the real reason for our visit was the pocket knife. He marched over and gazed at the knife cabinet for about 5 seconds. Can you guess which one he picked?

Yep, it took him five seconds to decide he wanted the pink one. It’s probably for the best. The knife is smaller and more correctly proportioned for the size of his hand (at least this week). Not to mention that fluorescent pink is easy to spot in dried leaves or shallow water. Once this important decision was made we moved on to the compass. This took some consultation with the staff and we eventually decided on a glow in the dark compass with a really obvious north arrow. Since we didn’t know how to use the compass we got instructions right there at the counter and commenced using it the minute we left the store.

Seth discovered that they had “fish maps” similar to his “bird map”. Seth’s “bird map” is one of those laminated sheets that shows local species. The “fish map” was right up our alley because half of it was basically covered in Rockfish! Not only did it show him exactly what each type of fish looked like it was bath tub friendly.

Here is the sentimental moment I had been waiting for. All my anticipation paid off when Seth insisted that he open his new pocket knife and carry it in HIS backpack. Camera at the ready, I documented this sappy Boys Almanac moment just for you. I know all you craft moms and friends of Poppi are shedding a scrap booking tear in solidarity – Thank you <g>.

Well the trip back was pretty much the same as the trip there except we were doing it backwards. Reading a map in reverse is apparently fascinating to a four year old – go figure. I never expected the map would hold Seth’s interest for the entire trip. In fact, we veered off course to get ice cream in Mountain View and Seth asked me repeatedly to show him exactly where we were in relation to the streets marked on his map (what I would have given for a crayon at that point).

We made it as far as Mercy Bush park where we ran into cousin Rosa. By this point we were pretty tuckered. So we called it a day, ditched the packs and enjoyed the late afternoon sun from the SOUTH WEST.

The park filled up soon after we arrived. I noticed Seth had gone and fetched his new boots. he was wearing them around the park with the string still attached that kept them a pair. Needless to say, we cut the string with the SCISSORS on our new PINK pocket knife!

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