Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What to do after a hard summer.....

So, this summer hasn’t been the greatest, most fantastic, amazing recharging kind of summer. No...this has been of the “keep breathin’ ya’ll, it will get better eventually” kind of summer. And, it has gotten better, Deo Gratias. I see the boys outside right now trying to play as much ball as they can before it completely goes dark outside. This is the first time they have played ball together this summer....late at night...and it is August. The pertussis just took it out of us. We rallied a bit a few weeks ago, everyone was so sick of being sick, not quite great enough to do any heavy hiking, but desperately needing to be outdoors...without a lot of camp smoke, allergens, you get the picture, sterile nature walks?? Ha!  We headed two hours north of here and found an amazing state park that included the largest acreage of virgin forest in our part of the state. We didn’t find an allergen free forest, but the beauty here was the medicine we really needed. What drew me to this particular place was the fact the interpretive trail was PAVED. That means we could bring our stroller for a certain five year old who gets pooped out waaaay too soon, but there was no way anyone could carry her this time, so a paved trail was perfect for this convalescing crew.

We have been on a lot of nature walks and have tried to read interpretive trails before, but it always feels a bit forced or not too relevant to the kids’ experience.  The Hartwick Pines State Park did a terrific job of writing the trail map and historical markers. It flowed nicely through the forests, without belaboring points or overwhelming us with too much information, but enough to keep us wanting to get to the next stop to read about the next area. We all really enjoyed this part a lot and learned so much about new vs. old growth forests and many historical facts of Michigan’s logging history that we had no clue of until visiting here. There was a really neat cluster of buildings as part of the “museum” area on the trail....Lily and Gabe hung out for a minute, playing checkers in the building that was a replica of the house that all of the loggers stayed in while working the forest. It was a very interesting slice of history, with tables set up like it would be in a logging mess hall, and bunk areas to show what it looked like in the sleeping quarters for the crews. 

The wheel that helped carry out the 150+ft long logs was impressive. There was a gentleman that worked for the DNR that was an historical interpreter, he eagerly showed us around, including how this  large wheel set worked...very cool!

The nature center at the start of the trail had a great bird watching area and several stuffed animals like wolves, etc from around Michigan. Everyone enjoyed that and the gift shop! Speaking of birds, I saw this beautiful bird that was so striking red, but not a cardinal, I had never seen anything like you might be able to make out the “Scarlet Tanager” that I tried hard to catch with my camera. The bird books say this bird is usually in the canopy and often not seen closer to the ground! Not bad for a very amateur bird watcher, don’t you say? 

More “out to heal with nature” trips are planned for the next few months. Autumn here is absolutely gorgeous and we plan on taking advantage of a flexible homeschooling schedule to get out and enjoy it!