Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Elm Fork Nature Preserve

We took a completely impromptu nature walk today. I had to go to another town for an errand and on the way back I noticed a sign that mentioned the Elm Fork Nature Preserve in Carrollton. I've always wanted to check it out and the two kiddos always love being outdoors so we went!

Fortunately, I did happen to have some bottled water in the car already from another excursion and I always have snacks and such with me to keep the wild beasts at bay. And of course I had my camera so we were more or less prepared.

There is a little building at the entrance to the preserve that I believe is a nature center but it wasn't open while we were there.

We stopped to look at some signs along the way. Nicholas can read just about anything these days so he read it aloud to us. It told us about the history of the property as well as proper etiquette while out on the trails. Nicholas already knows how to behave in nature but it was good for Rachel to hear it again.



We saw a lot of trees with these nice identity markers. I really liked it because at this time of year the trees haven't grown their leaves back which makes it harder to identify them.



The kids had fun just running along the path, stopping to look at interesting things along the way.



Nicholas used his magnifying glass (Cub Scouts always come prepared) to look at some tree bark.



We were relaxed and having fun until we saw this sign. Nicholas didn't even take time to read it and simply freaked out at the picture of the red snake.



I must admit that although I'm always aware of natural dangers such as snakes when we go out in the woods, it was particularly unnerving for me to see such a bold sign warning about a poisonous snake habitat!

Rachel, however, wasn't bothered by the sign or the snake warnings. She decided she would just charm the snakes with her Goldfish crakers...



I knew this piece of the path followed the river and the sign was over on that side of the path. So we talked again about rules out in nature, particular to stay alert and don't walk off of the path. We were out of that area pretty quickly but I thought it was really sweet how Nicholas held on to Rachel to keep her safe and close to him.



Nicholas and I were relieved to get away from the river and Rachel was too busy eating all of the Goldfish crackers to care about feeding any of them to snakes. She also tried to read the signs along the trail. She pointed to the letters and said, "ABCDEFG...." with just the same rhythm as if she were reading words aloud.



Nicholas always brings me little wildflowers he finds when we are outside. It is still too early for flowers so Rachel decided to bring me a giant leaf.



I asked her to help me pick out a few more leaves and then we talked about the differences in sizes, shapes, and colors of the various leaves.

Nicholas found a cool leaf that he could see through. We talked about possible causes for the damage on the leaf. We looked at what appears to be spots where pests have eaten from the leaf but also pointed out the spots lower on the leaf which could be signs of distress or disease. I'm not sure what the actual cause for this effect is but it does make for a neat looking leaf.



We spent a lot of time at the pond at the back of the property. I loved how the water calmed Nicholas. He just stood there watching and looking at fish hitting the water, birds flying overhead and bugs all around.



Even busy Rachel stayed still for a while as Nicholas talked to her about what he was looking at.



I'm so proud of how he appreciates and loves nature. I know he's picked it up from me but it was all inspired from my mom and that book she sent me when Nicholas was just a newborn - The Last Child In The Woods, by Richard Louv. Thank you, Mom, for realizing the importance of getting kids connected with nature at such an early age!



As we were about the leave the pond area, Nicholas discovered a spider web and as he looked more closely he found a dragonfly caught in the web. And it was still alive.



Well, my little nature lover got upset and tried to rescue the dragonfly. We talked about the purpose of the web and how the spider might be hungry if we take away his food. Nicholas said that we had to rescue the dragonfly anyway. So we worked together and gently got him out of the web. It was neat watching him while he got his bearings before flying away.



We eventually stopped at a bench to pull out some water and take a break. Nicholas was quick to notice that the plaque on the bench said that it was made by an Eagle Scout troop. He thought it was cool that Scouts had contributed to a small part of our nature walk.



Rachel didn't care to sit on the bench for very long. Instead, she decided that it would be fun to poor out her water out just so she could watch it soak into the ground. I tried to stop her but she was too quick. Note to self, always carry extra water or put Rachel's in a sippy cup so it can't be poured out just for fun.



We found several neat things to study on an old tree stump near the bench. There was fungus and bugs and rotten wood, just to name a few.



We found more neat leaves. I like the polka-dot heart shaped leaf the best.



And when it was time to head out of the woods, Rachel decided that she would be the namesake for Louv's book and truly be the last child in the woods.

Nicholas said that this "see through" leaf was his favorite of all.


That girl wanted to stay and play with leaves, pick up sticks, and dig in the dirt all day! I tried the old trick of pretending to leave and telling her "bye" as I walked away. It didn't register with her at all. She was content and she wanted to stay.



But it was getting hot and humid and near lunch time. So Nicholas and I did a little sweet talking with the girl and finally got her to head back towards the car.



I think I've got two little nature lovers in the making!

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