Category Archives: Nature walks

Nature studies galore at Estes Park

After our adventures at DetCon1 last week, we met up with my wonderful in-laws at the YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center, where they were cabin-camping with the kiddo (hence letting us have our first kid-free vacation in many years).

I had no idea a place like this existed.  It was simply mind-blowing, how big this family camp is and how many activities they have.  I only wish we hadn’t been so tired and eager to get home, as we could have enjoyed it even more.

Many of the activities were free classes, and plenty of others charged a reasonable fee.  There’s also a day camp for kids age three and up on weekdays.  Free classes included things like tree art (gather your own twigs, leaves, pine needles, etc. and glue them to paper), photography, exercise classes, you name it.  The complex had a pool, tennis courts, craft center, mini golf, pony and horse rides, exercise track, picnic areas, miles and miles of hiking trails, restaurants, lodges, cabins… I could go on and on.

We had two wonderful days of watching a little girl take in nature.  We went hiking around a high mountain lake in Rocky Mountain National Park just a few minutes’ drive away.  We hiked around the huge YMCA campus, and attended a cookout.  Precious treasures were collected, in the form of sparkly pebbles, a ceramic horse she painted herself at the craft center, and countless twigs and dandelions.

Wildlife sightings included deer, hundreds of blue dragonflies, a baby rabbit, chipmunks, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, ants, roly-polies, deer, birds, and fish.   We ended each day exhausted by both the hiking and the high mountain air, and thoroughly enjoyed it all.  I love watching my little budding scientist at work, discovering the world around her.  If time off and budget permit, I would love to go back for a full week next summer and let her experience the day camp.

Where is your favorite place to experience nature?

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Filed under Geek crafts, Nature walks

Good Old Fashioned Fun

Today was the kiddo’s end-of-school-year picnic.  They hold it at a lovely local park every year, and it’s some really good fun.  It’s a very small Montessori school (pre-k through 3rd) and the teachers are wonderful.  For the picnic, I appreciate that they keep it simple and classic.

For the first hour, the kids were free to roam the huge playground while the parents mingled and the potluck is set up over at the picnic pavilion.  The second hour was an old-fashioned field day.  The preschoolers competed in a foot race, hopping race, and skipping race.  The older kids also had a sack race and egg-and-spoon race.

Several parents commented that at most schools these days – especially public schools in California – such things are probably not allowed anymore.  Sack races are probably just asking for someone to get stitches.  They’re also seriously fun, though.

The third hour was a potluck lunch and more running around time for the kids.  These kids all have great, active imaginations and it’s fun to get to watch the interactions between ages two all the way through ten.  One of my favorite things about Montessori is the mixed-age classrooms, where kids learn to get along and interact with kids outside the standard cookie cutter arrangement of only being with their age-mates.

I loved watching them all play with a long stick that quickly changed from sword to wand to hobby horse to baseball bat to stylus for drawing in the dirt as it changed hands in a rapid-fire fashion.  Better than any professional improv group can do with a prop.

It’s sad that such events are so rare now.  I try to get her more outdoor time and more time to just run around and play, but it feels like this sort of thing is going the way of the dinosaurs.

Maybe I need to start a play group dedicated purely to letting the kids run around with absolutely no structured activities – just imaginations, dirt, sticks, and a whole lot of letting them be themselves.  Don’t worry, I’ll bring the first aid kit, too… after all, I am fully aware of how much she inherited my klutziness!

What are your favorite outdoor activities to do with the kids?


Filed under Nature walks, Opinion pieces

Now That’s a Nature Walk!


My little geekling and I took our usual routine weekend nature walk ‘on the road’ today with a 10k race along the ocean.  This is the view from the parking garage – the starting line was down at the far end of the boardwalk. I love doing these races with her (we usually do around couple per year ranging in distance from 5k to half marathon), but I think we’re at the point where we’re going to have to figure something else out because she’s gotten way too tall for our old, faithful, beat-up jogging stroller.  Time to start taking her on those 1-mile family fun runs and working our way up from there, I guess!  At least that way at the end we won’t have a kid who’s been sitting still and a mama who is exhausted.

Our wildlife observations today included many, many seagulls, at least two dozen dogs, several other kinds of sea birds, and the surfers.  We also got in some top-quality people-watching.  Races are always great for people-watching.  I think the highlights for her were the two Amtrak trains and the highway patrolman who waved at her – not things we get to see on our usual route!  Oh, and of course a finisher’s medal to add to her growing collection.  That’s how I bribe her to behave herself in the stroller throughout the longer races – snacks, coloring books, leaves, rocks, flowers, and the shiny finisher’s medal at the end are a surefire way to get us through even a half marathon.

Short post today because I’m exhausted and the laundry is calling.

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Filed under Nature walks