Friday, August 13, 2010

Adventures in Orono

A friend of ours, Raj had to go back to India a little while ago as his Father and Uncle both passed away in the last few months and he had to go home ot settle estates etc. He has a son, Neel, a couple of years older than our boy Isaiah. Seeing as I am laid off at the moment I volunteered to watch him with my two, while he is in India, and his wife is working . So with three rambunctious boys around I am often looking for something to get the three boys out of the house. This last little bit the "go to" place for them to explore has been the Orono Crown Lands. What is ideal about this place is a) it is close to home, b) it is free (see above employment status) and c) the two oldest can hike or, ride bikes and I can still push the youngest in the jogging stroller as there is a fair amount of what you might call doubletrack along with the singletrack.

On one of our first visits with the three boys we ventured along the old railway bed to the bridge over Wilmot creek. There is quite a drop to the river, so it involved leaving the stroller and carrying the youngest down the slope to look at the creek. There is a little pedestrian bridge just by the old train bridge. It is made of cedar logs nailed together and it is quite the work of art. It isn't new by any means and I wouldn't recommend more than two adults at one time. When the boys got out in the middle and started bouncing I had visions of the whole thing collapsing. The water isn't very deep but I wouldn't want to be on a bridge of that type when it gave out. Luckily for us a large salmon or brown trout chose that moment to make its presence known. I say large meaning at least two feet long. That was enough of a distraction to get the boys off the bridge and chasing this "monster" fish upstream. Just by the train bridge there is a large rock on the edge of the water and we could look down on this fish from a distance of about three feet. Even Jake was excited saying FSHHH! FSHHH! over and over again. On further observing we realized that under the rail bridge itself there were probably twenty of these fish and the one we were looking at was the runt of the litter. The boys, myself included, got quite a kick out of those fish!

A small group of large trout or salmon(?)

After saying goodbye to the fish, we climbed the slope and as I was putting Jake back in the stroller I realized that he had lost a shoe!!! Oops! I ran back down the hill and did a quick, cursory search but couldn't find it. I wasn't even sure where we had lost it but as it was nearing lunch time and getting hotter we headed home. When Lianna got home from work I took the two oldest and went back with our bicycles. We returned to the same area and did a more thorough search. Still no shoe! Thinking back to the bouncing bridge I wondered if it had fallen in the creek. I carefully picked my way along the deadfalls etc for a hundred feet or more on the off chance that it had floated along and been caught up by one of the snags. No such luck! Instead I ran into a little stinging nettle, just on the side of my hand. I immediately grabbed a chunk of orange jewelweed and crushed that and rubbed the spot. It seemed to do the trick, just as I had been taught it would relieve bug bites. Anyways I made my way carefully back to the trail and was rewarded with finding a nice cluster of Great Lobelia in bloom. And then as I gave up on the shoe and made my way back to boys, at the base of the hill tucked deep in the vegetation I spied the errant shoe! Success!

Great Lobelia

Since that hadn't taken all that long we then proceeded to go mountain biking through some of the rest of the crown lands. For a five year old it is just gentle enough to be manageable and rugged enough to qualify as "mountain biking".

The explorers: Jake in stroller, Isaiah and Neel

Since that day we have been back a couple of times with various agendas. I tried to introduce them to the idea of map and compass work. They thought it was fun for a while but it was a bit beyond them.

Compass work!

I have tried teaching a little botany, mostly the identification and avoidance of poison ivy. They were quite interested in the wild cucumber that was very common near the entrance. Mostly they just like the act of exploration and hopefully seeing some wildlife, although more along the lines of a butterfly, than a bear, that they seem to think is behind every tree.

White Admiral butterfly

In the dog days of summer a trip to somewhere similar with your kids will always produce some good memories!!!

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