Friday, April 29, 2011

Into the Woods

We live smack in the middle of metropolitan Philadelphia. Our home is surrounded by concrete and pavement. And yet, we have seen some of the most fascinating bits of nature within our city limits. We were once awed by a pair of bald eagles we spied on a hike at John Heinz Wildlife Refuge, and also amazed by the raccoon and Peregrine falcon we spotted in our own backyard. But what we discovered last week at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education took the cake for me: the remnants of a turtle.

The turtle was mostly gone, except for a leg and of course, the shell--though when we flipped it over, we discovered most of the famous box pattern falling off in sheets. Fifi had lots of questions about the turtle, which she entertained on the ride home. It was sort of convenient to have this unknown turtle be the symbol of death, so we could talk about the circle of life without the usual emotional component.

The woods are a good place to enjoy the life part of that circle. But while I love, love, love a good hike, my kids are less zealous about the activity. Having friends along--especially pals they adore as much as their good friends Vladimir and Olaf--significantly increases their enthusiasm. Trail mix also helps.

But then, once the snacks have been eaten and the woods start becoming mundane, it's always good to have an activity to re-engage them. I brought along some paper bags and a scavenger hunt sheet. I thought I was being pretty simple with my list of things sought: bark, rock, seed pod, etc. I knew the feather would be elusive. But I didn't realize pine needles and pine cones would be impossible to find. It's probably helpful to know in advance if you're hiking in a deciduous forest. No conifers, no cones.

Bark, on the other hand, was a much easier matter.

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