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Saturday, July 19, 2008

A short hike with the young'uns

For more shots from this hike see the Picasaweb album.

Thrilled that my four-year-old nephew Dylan was anxious for more hiking with me, and that my sixteen-(going on thirty)-year old daughter Morgan was happy to join us, I hiked in with them from Ingalls Corners Road. They were both in shorts and sandals, so we were quite careful about identifying the plants growing over the trail throughout the hedgerow. To the best of my knowledge there was no poison ivy.

With a little help from me the sandalled youngsters enjoyed the climb down the stone stairs. Then the real fun began. A flash of motion drew my eye to the tiniest frog I've ever seen, but I lost it. While searching for it my eye caught a moving speck of white. It turned out to be an egg sac on the back of a spider that was smaller than a peppercorn. I lost her while utterly failing to find the frog. But then we saw a snail, and after that we couldn't stop seeing snails. They were vigorously foraging about in the rain-dampened leaf clutter. Dylan enjoyed allowing a few of them to explore his hand while I told him about the snail's foot and the way it uses its protective slime to move around safely.

My goal was to show Dylan the quarry because, like most four-year-olds, he's almost terminally fascinated with construction equipment and anything associated with them. I held Dylan on my shoulders so that he could get a better view of the quarry, while Morgan took some pictures with my camera. She favors black and white photography, and she thought the tree and the old concrete structure made a good composition. I have to admit that it wasn't until I saw the shot in black and white that I saw exactly what she meant.

On the way back I once again saw movement, and this time I didn't take my eyes off the wee frog. It was quite energetic in its sincere desire to be nowhere near us, and I fear we upset it quite a bit trying to corral it for a good shot. You be the judge of whether it was worth it.

On the way back along the hedgerow I got several more chances to explain things to my delightfully receptive nephew. I told him about the woodchucks that made the holes he was so curious about, and told Morgan about what good eatin' those woodchucks are. The raindrops highlighting the contours of funneled spider web gave me the perfect chance to tell my nephew how the spider hides in the tunnel until a bug lands in the web, and then jumps out, paralyzes it, and wraps it up in its web so that it can eat it later. And when we walked through the bloodroot patch I told how native Americans used the red sap of the roots for dyeing - and how I wasn't showing it to them because the plant is rare and protected.

I count myself blessed to have such opportunities to share the wonders of the natural world - a phrase that shouldn't sound like such a cliché - with two generations.

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