National Forest Foundation

A Family’s Mission To Explore Public Lands – Melody Forsyth

Your National Forests Magazine

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Published in Summer/Fall 2020 Issue
By Hannah Featherman

Preparing for any outdoor adventure can be challenging. Preparing for an adventure with kids adds an extra layer of work.

For Salt Lake City mom Melody Forsyth, there are a few extra steps involved when her family visits our public lands. Melody’s youngest daughter Ruby was born with an adventurous spirit as well as Down syndrome. After seeing other families with special needs visit public lands, Melody was confident her family could as well. When Ruby was not yet a year old, Melody and her family began exploring National Forests, Parks, and Monuments, forging an incredible bond between mother and daughter and creating a lifetime of memories for their whole family.

What inspired you to explore our public lands and National Forests with such earnest passion?

We first started our mission in National Parks. We quickly learned that there were national monuments, historic sites, forests and so many different places to explore. In our own backyard we discovered and fell in love with the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. These locations are less populated but just as beautiful, and we felt drawn to them. Our mission has broadened to include these public lands to feel like we have truly explored our diverse country.

Photo by Melody Forsyth

What is something that might surprise readers to know about your family’s outdoor adventures?

We can never get out the door on time. No matter how early we say we want to get on the road, it takes us at least two extra hours. People assume because we road trip and travel so much that we are organized but we aren’t. We try to be but it never fails that every trip, we forget something. Most of the time it’s something small, like a toothbrush. One time we forgot Ruby’s hiking backpack. Needless to say, there were some very sore backs from carrying Ruby that trip.

How does spending time outdoors benefit your family?

Being outdoors has brought my family together in ways I never imagined. Our goal to hike all of the National Parks and explore more public lands has unified us. We have a purpose as a family. We have created some amazing memories, and I hope to leave those memories as a legacy to my family.

I hope they remember the laughter, the jokes, the mishaps, the disasters, being crammed in a car, the fights and more. I hope they don’t forget the sounds, the smells, the majesty and the views that we have also experienced. We have seen all of our children come alive in the outdoors. Ruby, our daughter with Down syndrome, thrives in the outdoors and connects with the trail in ways that we don’t see at home. Her connection to nature inspires us to continue exploring.

Photo by @zionadventurephotog

Where has been one of your favorite visits to a National Forest?

We were absolutely amazed when we visited the San Juan National Forest. We experienced part of the Colorado Trail and one day we would love to go back to do a thru hike. We were able to feel the cold river water, hear the trees in the wind and see amazing wildflowers. The kids loved all the rocks and pretended they were climbers. I saw two snakes and I freaked; the kids thought it was hilarious. We can’t wait to explore more National Forests!

How do you make an outing to our public lands inclusive and enjoyable for your whole family?

It’s so important to plan. We include the children in planning our next adventure and ask them where they want to explore and what activities interest them. We make sure that there are accessible trails. We always have a map to follow. We look for picnic and camping areas where we will be safe. We are always sure to pack enough medical supplies like oxygen and thickening agent, which Ruby requires. We don’t count on small towns or stores carrying those supplies so we always overpack to ensure Ruby will have what she needs. As a nurse, I have CPR and first aid training, and we make sure that we have first aid supplies for most injuries. Being prepared allows us to enjoy the adventure.

What tips would you give to parents wishing to get outdoors more as a family?

Just do it. Don’t be intimidated. Ask questions. That is what we did. We just jumped in. Some parents feel they need to know everything about survival and the outdoors before going outside and that is not true. You just need to get out and do it. Start small and build to those grander adventures. Yes it’s important to be prepared but by asking questions to other parents on the trail, we were directed to great resources and learned what we needed to get outdoors.

We are learning all the time. The kids don’t expect perfection. The time you spend together and where you are spending it…that’s where the magic and adventure lies.

Melody Forsyth shares inspiring stories on Instagram, encouraging all individuals to explore their public lands.
Follow along with Ruby and Melody’s adventures on Instagram at @downwithadventure.



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