How to give some structured fun or goals to walks & bike rides?
May 20, 2020 9:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm working from home and going for lots of walks in my neighborhood these days. I generally bike commute but haven't been on my bike much lately at all. I've been thinking it would be nice to have some low key things I could do on my walks or a bit further afield on my bike. Sometimes I take photos of flowers or interesting things. Sometimes I'm with my partner or my dog, and sometimes both. But it would be great to have some sort of fun goal or structure to give a bit of interest and get me moving in some new directions or for longer walks. Any ideas?

I live in an in-town neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, though I don't think this question needs to be specific to my neighborhood. I could do something like walk every street or visit every park within a certain radius but that's not terribly interesting, and just being completist doesn't really do it. One time I took photos of only white flowers, which was mildly interesting. When I'm with my partner we often talk about the flowers and trees we see.

I saw someone through my work had an idea to do a neighborhood scavenger hunt, but then you were supposed to come up with the ideas for the scavenger hunt, so that's not so much fun for me. My partner and I also talked about riding our bikes to get takeout and then eating at a park. But that's about as adventurous as our ideas get.

Do you have any suggestions to help me add something interesting to my walks? Or, if I go a few miles away, bike rides?
posted by bluedaisy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (25 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
What if you try to "collect" flowers for your neighborhood. Each time you see a new one take a photo, take it home and identify it and then create a scrap book (virtual is fine). As you wander new places, you will come across new flowers. You can also mark the locations on a map. As season progress, new flowers will come into bloom so it will be worth it to back again to the same routes.
posted by metahawk at 9:32 PM on May 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

... Pokemon Go? Hatching eggs is satisfying.

Zombies Run? It's for running, walking, or jogging. And I think there are more games like it?
posted by stormyteal at 9:50 PM on May 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

You could check out Geocaching. There's an app. There's a free and a paid version. We needed something with a destination for my daughter and I so we are very new at it. I ended up going for the paid version to "unlock" more caches. It's a surprisingly good app and we've had some fun with it. For the most part, I recommend sticking with public areas/parks because I've occasionally felt odd poking around residential spots. Micro-caches are common (and so far the only kind we've found) which is generally just a really small container with a log book. Bring a pen and your phone (for GPS). Larger caches, I've heard, sometimes have little toys you can take one, leave one. Treasure hunt. While doing this, I've definitely seen people catching Pokemons so that's still a thing!

Also, you could get inspired with some books. "Walking with Ramona" is a great book and could give you some focus. Also, if you don't have it already, "Portland Stair Walks," is really good and has history and interesting facts as well. I saw a copy at New Seasons today in their little gifty area. On that theme, also, "Portland Hill Walks."

You could also search out some urban farms. We've enjoyed finding yards where people have chickens, goats, turkeys, ducks. I don't know where you can find this info but you could start with your local neighborhood Facebook groups or Next Door. Or what about all the murals around town? If you're on Facebook and want an invite to a group I'm a part of which seems to have a huge love for murals, memail me and I'll connect you. :) There's lot of new ones going up!
posted by amanda at 10:03 PM on May 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

Scavenger hunt ideas could be simple, like X number of trees, Y number of birds (seen or heard), Z things that start with a certain letter, various colors, a different one each day. Can be a particular type/species if you want to get into the identification game (can use Merlin Bird ID or PlantSnap). Or even count how many waves you can get back from people (not sure how that would play out in your neighborhood). Bring binoculars, a magnifying glass, or microscope?

Geocaching is classic. Could you collect flowers, leaves, acorns, etc. or do crayon rubbings to put in a scrapbook with a short journal entry? Or design a stamp or put a sticker for each park you visit, like a pilgrim credential or passport (like the national parks or Philly gardens). Pick up litter if you have a good way to do so?

Word games with your partner - I Spy, observational rhymes, Simon Says, interesting questions. Don't step on the sidewalk cracks. Flip a coin to decide left, right, or straight at each intersection. Bring along a small teddy bear or similar to pose and take fun pictures. Interval training especially on the bike.

If you're open to using a smartphone on your walks, listen to a set number of chapters of an walk-designated audiobook , a specific album or playlist, or podcast episode(s). You could also try story-driven The Walk (made by the creators of Zombies, Run) or gamification/AR apps like Wokamon, Fitness RPG, Pokemon Go, Harry Potter, Ingress, Charity Miles. Or just call up a friend?

Go at different times of the day if possible for various sky events. Look up local routes and maps for self-guided walks. Here's an older book with 50 treks if in reach. Happy walking!
posted by eyeball at 10:13 PM on May 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: (Hey, I appreciate the answers so far! I did play Pokemon Go when it came out a few years ago and should be clear that while I'm up for using my phone for photos or navigating, I'm not looking for anything that's really phone-or app-based. Trying to focus more on what's around me in the world and get a break from screens. Thanks!)
posted by bluedaisy at 10:21 PM on May 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Get a native plant guide, or just notice different plants, give them your own personal names, and watch them move through the season (grow, flower, seed).

For long bike rides there’s no reward like a pastry and cappuccino from a fabulous bakery at the turnaround point! Those places are all open for takeout around here. We also like to ride up big hills to fabulous viewpoints; the hard work and reward is the goal.
posted by amaire at 10:22 PM on May 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

Ooh, what about reading about some urban foraging and then see what you can find?
posted by amanda at 10:27 PM on May 20, 2020

Cat points game
posted by alygator at 11:58 PM on May 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Try Alphabet Scavenging? Traditionally done collecting the things, but you could photo or just notice them. Start with A and work your way down - you could continue the next time or do a new category of things to notice. Bonus: also works as a word game for long boring speeches.
posted by london explorer girl at 2:09 AM on May 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

What about just trying to walk or bike on every street in town?
posted by saladin at 4:57 AM on May 21, 2020

Wear gloves and pick up trash!
posted by juliapangolin at 5:04 AM on May 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Use Map My Ride or Map My Walk to draw a picture. I’ve done it before and it’s pretty fun. You wouldn’t be looking at your screen. You work out a route that might make a picture, open the app in your pocket before you leave, and it traces the route while you walk. I don’t know how straight the streets are in your area, but the more convoluted they are, the better picture you can make.
posted by raisingsand at 5:21 AM on May 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Pay attention to all the houses you walk by, trying to decide which one would be your choice if you could pick one to become your own house. You could have a top choice for each street or for each day's walk and an overall top choice for the whole area.
posted by Redstart at 5:34 AM on May 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Get a copy of the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker's Companion (used bookstore copies will do).
Start at "Springer Mountain," mile marker 0.0
Keep track of your neighborhood walk mileage and note where you would be if your were on the trail.
Celebrate when you "hike" to the GA/NC state line at Bly Gap, 76.4 miles away.

Continue tracking your "hiking miles" until you get to Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine (no alcohol on the the summit, please). That's approximately 2,100 miles. Enjoy the feeling of completing a goal, even if you didn't need a sleeping bag or a backpacking stove.

Get a copy of the Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago....
posted by TrishaU at 6:17 AM on May 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Download the Seek/iNaturalist app, and you can literally ID and collect plants & other organisms like Pokemon by taking photos.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:45 AM on May 21, 2020 [6 favorites]

I came here to recommend Seek! I literally just described it to a friend as “like Pokemon Go, but with nature.” I set myself a goal to be able to identify every living thing I see on my walks. It took about two weeks, and you use your phone more in the beginning, but now I walk down the nature path and can name 90-95% of the plants that I see, without the help of the app, and they were all an indistinguishable green mass before. When I do see a new plant, or I get close enough to a bird to snap a picture, I get so excited it’s like I just found five dollars. Totally transformed my relationship to being outside. The app can feel a little persnickety at first, and it’s not the greatest at identifying trees, but overall it’s completely magical.
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 7:01 AM on May 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

When I was younger, my daily meditation was "walking" a specific hike and trying to visualize every detail, ideally, the meditation would take exactly the same time as the real walk. That also meant that I had to actually walk that same path many times again and again and pay close attention to everything I saw and heard and smelled. I found a lot of peace and joy in the combination.
posted by mumimor at 8:42 AM on May 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Do a Color Hike. Get some paint sample strips (or cut swatches of color from magazines, or whatever) so you have five or six blocks of color each. On your walk, find things that match those colors exactly and take photos of the swatch and the item. (Here, for no good reason, is a photo one of my Girl Scouts took without my noticing, when she used my arm as the match to one of her paint swatches.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:34 AM on May 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Clipping flowers that are in the right of way, or on abandoned areas has been yielding me with plenty of fun, pretty flowers to press. A flower press can be pretty easy to make with things around the house; two boards, two pieces of cardboard, some paper towels and something heavy to weigh it all down works well enough. I've been using wood clamps, but I had those around from the Before.

I almost have a journal of whats flowering when based on what I'm pressing. It's nice.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:37 AM on May 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, and depending on exactly what neighborhood you're in, there can be lots of alleyways that aren't normally traversed. My kid and I have been exploring lots of them lately, and they're a side of Portland I've not really dug into.

Get ready for blackberries. Everywhere.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:38 AM on May 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

notice different plants, give them your own personal names, and watch them move through the season (grow, flower, seed).

Also, you can do comparative phenology -- for two plants that have similar timing, are they in synch everywhere? Can you guess what separates them when they differ? Does one of them run ahead in sunny spots, or another last longer when humans water it?
posted by clew at 10:59 AM on May 21, 2020

A friend of mine on Twitter does weekly scavenger hunt lists that are intended for people to do by bike. This is an Ottawa, Ontario-based thing but looking at his past couple of lists he keeps them pretty generic so anyone can do them. The idea is that you go out over a number of rides OR all at once and check off things on the list.
posted by urbanlenny at 11:09 AM on May 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Learn to do wheelies? ;-)
posted by Wild_Eep at 4:37 PM on May 21, 2020

I just came across this list of Portland Heritage Trees. Some of the listings have photos and I believe that some trees also have plaques either on them or nearby. Here's a photo of truly massive tulip tree at 1403 NE WEIDLER ST. The notes on this listing say:

George Nicolai built a house on this lot for his new wife and planted the tulip tree after construction was completed, in the late 1880s. The use of this lot has changed over the decades since the tree was planted, resulting in some construction damage to the roots. However, this tree thrives along busy NE 15th Ave.

Neat! (Maybe?) Hope you found some cool things to see/do these past weeks. :)
posted by amanda at 1:37 PM on June 9, 2020

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