Kids Discover Nature with NWF’s Hike & Seek at Seneca Creek State Park
After three days of torrential rain, the bright morning sun was welcomed by NWF’s Hike & Seekers at Seneca Creek State Park on Saturday. The air was crisp and clean, perfect for a hike in the woods to discover the wonders Mother Nature had waiting for us.
Families were warmly greeted by Ranger Rick and ushered to the registration area at base camp. By start time at 9 a.m. the kids anxiously awaited the go-ahead to begin their outdoor adventure. Armed with trail maps and nature guides we were off!
Shortly after crossing a bridge at the bottom of the hill, and checking for trolls, the kids made it to the first Stop and Study Station, where they learned all about trees and how to identify trees by their leaves. Stencils of various types of leaves and crayons gave kids the opportunity to create a colorful picture for the frig.
Then it was up a small hill but it didn’t seem to slow these enthusiastic nature hunters down. By now some of the babies in backpacks were settling in for their morning nap, rocked gently by mom or dad’s gentle footsteps over the trail.
Listening for Wildlife
“I think I just heard an owl” cried one girl, but as we rounded the corner we spotted the next Stop and Study station playing a recording of bird calls for the kids to match up with colorful pictures of local birds. The naturalist at the station reminded the kids that often we can’t see birds high in the branches but we can identify them by their call. So being quiet in the forest and listening can tell you a lot about the featured friends watching over you as you hike along.
As the kids wondered if we might see any lions or tigers or bears, a chipmunk scurried across the trail to excited screams and a conversation among the children focused on where he might be going. They all agreed he was probably looking for food and how he wouldn’t be disappointed in this beautiful park full of seeds and nuts and acorns.
Learning About Animal Tracks
The Animal Tracks Stop and Study station had the kids guessing what animals made which tracks drawn on large pieces of paper. The clues were really helpful and the naturalist as this station said you often won’t see an animal but can identify it by the tracks it makes in the dirt or mud.
The first clue with one track said it had a bushy tail and we all thought it must be a squirrel track, but after a few more clues we knew the answer was a red fox. I shared a story of how there is a family of red foxes living in a big forsythia hedge at the edge of my property. Every spring the mother fox brings her new kits out onto our lawn to give them a sun bath which they love.
Where Wildlife Meets Water
At this point on the trail we could see a shimmering blue lake ahead on the trail beckoning us to the Water Stop and Study Station. Here the kids learned how much water it takes to keep different species of wildlife alive and what a precious natural resource water is. While the kids fished for photographs of different aquatic wildlife, they talked to the fisherman throwing their lines into the lake from the shore. “Can you catch any sharks in this lake?” one little boy was heard asking. “Just some blue gills” was the reply.
Definitely a Dinosaur Bone…
The sun is now getting hot and everyone is shedding their jackets and sweatshirts as we head toward the home stretch. All of a sudden I heard a commotion ahead on the trail and found a group of kids hovering around a boy who found a bone on the trail. He was convinced it was a dinosaur bone, buried for millions of years, but the other children said it was more likely a rabbit bone, or maybe a chicken bone that fell out of someone’s lunch bag!
Nuts, Berries–or Children?
The last Stop and Study Station was just up ahead where the children learned all about what wildlife eats. They were happy to learn that almost no wildlife is interested in eating little children but would rather choose from the natural gourmet treats available throughout the park’s wooded areas.
Hiking to the Finish
We’re almost back to base camp where rumors of snacks and drinks being offered are spurring everyone on to the finish line. But the snacks played second fiddle to the amazing range of wildlife displays awaiting the kids at base camp.
Nothing like being up close and personal with a coral snake or baby alligator. The kids were entranced by the raptors provided by the Virginia Raptor Society; a screech owl, peregrine falcon, and an eagle. All the children agreed it would be very cool to have the x-ray vision these guys do at amazing distances.
The joy of seeing children discover nature’s gifts made this a very special day. And the fun of seeing families connecting with each other along the way made it an even happier occasion. Hike and seek and you will learn, laugh, and love being in the great outdoors!
Hike & Seek in Seattle October 16
National Wildlife Federation will be in Seattle’s Seward Park on October 16, 2010 for one last Hike & Seek event of the year.
By Mary Burnette