2017 Holidays in the Parks

Even though Pullen Park’s Holiday Express has been sold out since July, there’s still plenty of other Holiday happenings in local parks. If you can’t make it to an event, explore a park soaking up Raleigh’s inevitable sunny winter days (remember Christmas Eve two years ago when it was almost 80 degrees). Grab coffee (and goldfish) to go and meet friends at a park, meet a friend for a bike ride or run on the greenway, or take a solo walk around a lake. Here’s a list of several indoor and outdoor programs sure to keep the kids busy (and the parents sane) happening across different parks through New Years including First Day Hikes.

City of Raleigh Programs 

  • Wednesday, 12/13 (8-10pm) – Skywatching at Dorothea Dix Park – join volunteers and staff from several local astronomy clubs and the Morehead Planetarium to watch the Geminid Meteor Shower of 2017; Free; Meet at the Big Field
  • Thursday, 12/14 (5-6pm) – Creative Crafts Throughout the Holidays at Hill St Community Center: create a Christmas-themed craft; Free; program barcode #210494; ages 5-12
  • Friday, 12/15 (5-7pm) – Holiday Pajama Party at Greystone Community Center: bring the entire family dressed in your pajamas for a holiday movie, cocoa and cookies; $2 per participant; program barcode 210518; all ages, not many spots left
  • Saturday, 12/16 (7am-noon) – Christmas Bird Count at Walnut Creek Wetland Center: stroll along the greenway looking and listening for birds. 2016’s Christmas Bird Count netted 49 different species. Please bring your own binoculars, or you can borrow a pair of our children’s binoculars. Free; ages 12+; registration required; program barcode 217570
  • Saturday, 12/16 (10am-12pm) – Snacks with Santa at Chavis Community Center: enjoy holiday games, arts and craft activities and story time with Santa. Bring your camera to capture a photo with Santa. Please bring two nonperishable food items for this event; Free; ages 12 and under; program barcode 211028
  • Saturday, 12/16 (1-2:30pm) – Gingerbread House Decorating Competition at Method Rd Community Center: they provide the gingerbread houses and supplies and you build; $20 per family; program barcode 211845
  • Saturdays in December, January and February (11:30am-12:30pm) – Yoga at the COR Museum – bring your yoga mat and water for a free yoga class instructed by yoga studios from around Raleigh

Wake County Parks & Recreation

  • Sunday, 12/17 (2-3pm) – Family Feature: Winter Wrap Up at Crowder County Park: winter is a great time to explore nature at the park! Join a naturalist and learn how to identify tracks, explore conifers, and drink pine needle tea. Then, observe snow and ice through hands-on science experiments. Don’t forget to bring your scarf and mittens! For all ages; $1/person; Registration is required for all family members and children must have an adult accompaniment.
  • Dec 22 (10:30-noon or 2-3:30pm) Field School: The Ingalls Long Winter at Historic Yates Mill County Park – Learn what Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family did to survive one especially long winter and find out how the family celebrated Christmas. Taste an old-fashioned peppermint candy stick and bring home a home-made holiday craft. Feel free to dress in your best pioneer outfit! For ages 7 and up; $6/Child. Registration is required. This is a drop-off program but adults are welcome to stay – however, seating is limited.
  • Dec 30 (2-3pm) – FWS: Green and on the Scene at Blue Jay County Park – Join Blue Jay staff for an outdoor adventure hunting winter plants and trees that are green and on the scene. All participants must be independently mobile or in child backpacks. No strollers please!; $1 per participant; open to all ages though most appropriate for ages 5+

NC Parks

  • Sunday, 12/17 (2pm) – Holiday Sing-a-Long at Eno River State Park: Join a park ranger at the historic Piper-Cox House for cookies, hot chocolate and the chance to sing historic carols sung by the inhabitants of the Eno River Valley.
  • Saturday, 12/23 (2pm) – Happy Holidays to You & the Birds at Falls Lake State Recreation Area: meet at Shelter 24 at Beaver Dam Lake area to make bird feeder ornaments and decorate a tree in the park with wildlife friendly decorations.
  • Thursday, 12/28 (2pm) – Winter Wonders at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area: explore the nothern portion of the lake with a Ranger!  Observe bald eagles, winter birds and water fowl.  The deck is located approximately 150 yards from the gravel parking lot with the walk being very easy.  Dress for the weather as it’s usually colder on the deck. Meet at observation deck off Martha’s Chapel Rd.
  • Friday, 12/29 (2pm) – Winter Wonders at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area: explore the southern portion of the lake with a Ranger!  Observe bald eagles, winter birds and learn about the lake’s history.  Meet near the volleyball court at the Ebenezer Day Use Area.

First Day Hikes on Monday, January 1, 2018

  • William Umstead Park (9am): meet at Reedy Creek parking lot off Harrison Ave exit on I-40 for a moderate 4-mile hike that will be a bit off trail, on the Company Mill Trail; highlights include two millstones in the woods that were never finished, the old Craggy Garden Scout camp and the biggest rock formations in the park. Please call the park for more info or to register.
  • Walnut Creek Wetland Park (2-4pm): Jump-start your New Year’s resolutions and join our staff for a scenic guided walk along the Walnut Creek Greenway. Be prepared to walk at least a mile. Strollers are welcome! Preregistration is helpful but not required. FREE; all ages; program barcode 209308
  • Falls Lake State Recreation Area (10am & 2pm start times) – Meet at the Rolling View Recreation Area for a hike on the kid-friendly Neuse Bend Trail; join a park ranger for an easy scavenger hunt/hike on the 0.75 mile Neuse Bend Trail in Rolling View Recreation Area. The Scavenger Hunt Hike is designed for ages 6-12 but all ages are encouraged to participate; Pre-registration is required and spots are limited: 919-676-1027
  • Eno River State Park (2pm) – meet at Fews Ford Picnic Shelter and choose between two hiking options: easy 2 mile hike or moderate 4-5 mile hike
  • Jordan Lake State Recreation Area Hike #1 (9-11am) – meet at the New Hope Overlook Recreation area and hike the challenging 2.7 mile Blue Loop Trail; no pre-registration
  • Jordan Lake State Recreation Area Hike #2 (1-3pm) – meet at the Ebenezer Church Recreation Area shelter #8 for an easy 1 mile hike along the Old Oak Loop Trail; great for families; no pre-registration

Summer 2017 Bucket List Follow-up

Phew! Where did the Fall season go?! It’s almost December, but the recent warmer afternoon weather makes me reminisce about our amazing summer adventures with family and friends. Even though we didn’t cross off everything from our 2017 Bucket List, we explored so many new (to us) places in the mountains and at the beach.

We kept the weekdays simple, yet fun, with pool time and swim team with friends, and spent the weekends mostly traveling around NC and VA. We had lots of ups – amazing travels meeting up with friends and family, fresh seafood, gorgeous waterfalls; but, we also had some downs – getting lost down a one-way road with the Winnie, late night kiddo fevers in the Winnie, Winnie electrical outages in hot July, and the Hatteras Island evacuation. So, when things got out of our control, we tried to stay positive and improvise knowing that things will come full circle, which they eventually did! We somehow turned Winnie around at the end of Little Buck Creek Rd, fevers magically disappeared, my sister saved our food (and sanity) during the great electrical outage, and we moved our family vacation to beautiful Emerald Isle at the last minute.

As a summertime bonus, we survived a major kitchen renovation that is finally concluding, we celebrated what would have been my mom’s 60th birthday, Claire turned 4 years old, we celebrated Labor Day weekend with a crab feast and lots of Hokie buds and their littles, and we witnessed a total solar eclipse. I don’t know how we’ll top the mix of relaxation and travel from this past summer!

  1. Enjoy a low country boil (with the in-laws over Memorial Day weekend)
  2. Survive having two kids on summer swim team (it was touch-and-go at some points)
  3. See some waterfalls (Tom’s Creek & Roaring Fork Falls in western NC, Catawba Falls in Pisgah National Forest)
  4. Swim at a lake (Jordan Lake & Falls Lake Recreation Areas)
  5. Discover new & easy campfire recipes (garlic broccoli and potato pockets, french bread pizzas, rocky road dessert)
  6. Go blueberry picking (the farm was closed so we discovered nearby Kelly Rd Park instead)
  7. Discover new hiking trails on our travels (Hughlett Point Nature Preserve in Kilmarnock, Va, Emerald Isle Woods Park)
  8. Catch fireflies (Jordan Lake campsite and backyard)
  9. Try a new ice cream place (Sweet Spot in Emerald Isle, Fudge Factor in Beaufort)
  10. Visit a new museum (Museum of NC Minerals on Blue Ridge Parkway, Swannanoa Valley Museum in Black Mtn, NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort)
  11. Perfect my mojito making (muddle 8 sprigs of mint with slice of lime cut into quarters and spoonful of sugar, add 2 Tbsp simple syrup, add 1.5 oz of white rum, fill glass 3/4 full of ice, add enough club soda or La Croix to cover ice)
  12. Start composting (Bill put the nix to this idea)
  13. Have a water balloon fight (backyard sister fun)
  14. Read a long book together as a family (Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame)
  15. Enjoy Winnebago camping as a family (5 trips under our belt this summer)
  16. Visit a new brewery (Deep River Brewing Co in Clayton, Sierra Nevada & Wicked Weed in Asheville)

Top 5 Raleigh Parks for Partial Solar Eclipse Viewing

Months ago we planned one last Winnie mountain trip before the end of summer. We purposefully planned it to coincide with the solar eclipse so we could get close to being in the path of totality (words I never thought I’d hear myself saying). Not knowing the solar eclipse would become so popular we’re glad we booked our campsite so far in advance!

We’re heading to the small town of Whittier, NC for camping, hiking and playing. On Monday we plan to drive an hour south to Andrews, NC for their big eclipse festival. If we stayed in Raleigh, we’d plan a picnic get-together with friends at a local park. Triangle residents can expect to see a partial solar eclipse beginning around 1:16pm, peaking at 2:44pm and ending at 4:06pm. 

Here are my suggestions for the Top 5 Raleigh Parks for viewing the solar eclipse:

  1. North Wake District Landfill Park
  2. Dorothea Dix Park’s Big Field – GPS coordinates for accessing big field: 35.766883, -78.663255
  3. Spring Forest Road Park
  4. Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve Park
  5. Annie Wilkerson Nature Preserve Park 

Be sure to bring your eclipse-approved safety glasses or go old school and make your own pinhole camera from supplies you have at home. Happy Viewing!

Upcoming Fall 2017 Dorothea Dix Park Events

Dorothea Dix ParkHave you visited Dorothea Dix Park lately? Located just south of Downtown Raleigh, its rolling hills and grassy open fields are the perfect spot for a picnic, skyline photos (mine are courtesy of the super talented MasonDee Photography), or attending a City of Raleigh event or program.

The City of Raleigh purchased Dorothea Dix Park two years ago from the state of NC to develop a destination park. Though construction is still years away, master planning is underway. I’m super excited to begin my workgroup involvement in the master planning of the park this fall. I know the city will look for lots of public input into the park and now is the time to visit!

Whether you’re looking for child-friendly events, volunteer opportunities, or historical walking tours here are some of their upcoming park events:

  • Sun., Aug 13 from 2-6pm: Recess Raleigh – attend a free annual summer cookout to benefit Helping Hands Mission of Raleigh. Summer cookout features food and drink prepared by Capital Club 16, games, activities, music and art; FREE; all ages; Dix Park Athletic Field
  • Wed., Aug. 16 at 12pm: Urban Design Center Talks: Bold Ideas for Dix – visit the City of Raleigh Museum and listen to a monthly lecture series highlighting bold ideas, issues, and topics important to the development of the new Dorothea Dix Park. Each monthly lecture features a different presenter covering topics such as inclusivity, ecology, access, arts and culture, history, transportation, economic development, and connectivity; FREE and open to the public; registration not required
  • Wed., Aug. 16 at 1pm: Explore Dorothea Dix Park: Water Wonders – meet in the big field and explore activities and games featuring water! Ages 2+; free; pre-registration is required
  • Wed., Aug. 23 from 6-8pm or Tues., Sept 12 from 5:30-7:30pm: Explore Dorothea Dix Park: Guided Walking Tour – go on a 2 hour, 3.5 mile walking tour to learn about the history, current use, and future plans for the Dorothea Dix park; FREE; all ages; pre-registration is required
  • Sat., Sept. 9 from 9am-12pm: Explore Dorothea Dix Park: Volunteer Invasive Species Removal – round up your friends and neighbors and volunteer your time removing invasive plants threatening natural habitats of the park; FREE; ages 16+; volunteers under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult; registration information via Cervistech
  • Wed., Oct. 18 from 12pm-1:15pm: Trolley Tour of Dorothea Dix Park – go on a 1.5 hour tour of Dorothea Dix Park and learn about the history, current use and future plans for the park; FREE; pre-registration is required

 

 

James Mill Scottish Factor Store & 1755 John Mitchell Map (Urbanna, Va)

With Fourth of July a week away, it’s only apropos that I recount last month’s trip to the historic Middle Peninsula area of Virginia. Not only is it full of small port towns vital to early trade, it’s also the home of the “most important map in American history.” But, before I get ahead of myself, I have to provide some background on why and how we visit that area.

About five years ago my mom visited my uncle’s permanent waterfront trailer at the Grey’s Point RV resort in Topping, Va. Grey’s Point is the last stop before crossing the mammoth bridge over the Rappahannock River into Irvington and Kilmarnock. The river is extremely wide at this point and is close to where it joins with the Chesapeake Bay. Grey’s Point sits high above the river bank, offering amazing sunsets and views of the river. Needless to say, my mom fell in love with the area and idea of having a low maintenance waterfront retreat. So, she bought a permanent waterview trailer where my siblings and our kids made fun memories with her before she passed away. Since her passing, we still try to visit a few times each year, especially during the summer. The kids fell in love with the pool and golf cart rides, while Bill and I fell in love with the views and slower pace of life.

Town of Urbanna, Va

When we visited the area back in May, we took a day trip to the nearby town of Urbanna. Urbanna is a historic colonial port town with unique shops, art galleries, and marinas. In 1680, the House of Burgesses ordered Urbanna to be set-up as a port town for trading. The town was officially named Urbanna in 1705, meaning the “City of Anne” after England’s Queen Anne. We parked near the intersection of Cross St and Virginia St and walked around town checking out the shops. I purchased a handmade mortar and pestle at If It’s Wood & More before we walked to Urbanna’s Museum & Visitor Center. 

James Mill Scottish Factor Store

DSC_0064

Urbanna’s Museum & Visitor Center, officially called the James Mill Scottish Factor Store, was built in 1766 and once served as a tobacco warehouse. Tobacco planters exchanged tobacco at the store for cash or credit towards imported European goods. They stored the tobacco in large barrels called hogsheads that weighed about 1,000 pounds. When the English ships arrived, men gently rolled the full hogsheads down the adjacent road to the port below. Imagine standing at the bottom of the road making sure the hogsheads didn’t fall into the water? Uh, no thank you!

Starting in the 1960s a preservation group renovated the James Mill Scottish Factor Store. Then, in 1997, the Town of Urbanna bought and refurbished the building. The museum exhibits highlight the town’s historic tobacco ties, its booming oyster industry, and the 1755 John Mitchell Map. The museum is small and not very kid-friendly, but the girls enjoyed touching the oyster shells, standing next to life-size colonial men cutouts and admiring the port and warehouse diorama. The diorama truly captured the tobacco trading operation!

1755 John Mitchell Map

DSC_0072The friendly museum worker shared her personal upbringing in Urbanna and the importance of the 1755 John Mitchell Map. John Mitchell was born in 1711 in Lancaster County, and went on to study medicine in Scotland. He practiced medicine in the Urbanna area for a few years before relocating to London. According to The Unlikely Story of the Map that Helped Create our Nation, the Earl of Halifax commissioned Mitchell to create a map of the British and French North American territories. Mitchell finished the map in 1755 (after the start of the French and Indian war), thoroughly detailing territories, colonies, forts, geography, distances, and towns. Though the map had a slightly British view, it became known as the “most important map in American history” after the American Revolution ended. During the 1783 Treaty of Paris, negotiators used the map to determine boundaries between Canada and the United States.

The Town of Urbanna purchased this first edition map in 1979 for $7,500 not fully realizing its importance. Later valued at more than $500,000, the town properly restored and safeguarded this national treasure. Preserved behind glass, visitors can closely inspect the map details or take in all 24 sq-ft from a nearby bench.

Lunch on the Water

DSC_0080We worked up an appetite after taking in so much history, so we drove a few minutes away for fresh seafood on the water at Shores & Roark Seafood. Bill enjoyed freshly caught fish tacos, while the girls and I shared a dozen steamed local crabs and oysters. The food tasted fabulous and the restaurant’s waterfront atmosphere provided amazing views of the river. The restaurant is part seafood company, so you can watch your live catch before it reaches your plate!

I’m looking forward to spending my first Fourth of July weekend in our Winnebago in such a historic area. The towns of Urbanna and Irvington organize annual parades and celebrations and Grey’s Point will be busy with fun activities, too.

Later down the road I’d love to visit the nearby National Historic Register colonial plantations of Ralph Wormeley’s Rosegill and Christoper Robinson’s Hewick, and attend the Urbanna Oyster Festival.

Thumbs up: breathtaking river views, small-town charm, area’s rich history, local seafood, beautiful places to stay

Thumbs down: nothing to report

2017 Summer Bucket List

Over a decade ago, my mom dubbed Bill and me as the traveling gypsies (she had a unique way with words). Having moved away from home after college, we travelled more weekends than not, and she routinely asked, “Where are the traveling gypsies headed this weekend?” We visited friends and family in VA and MD, and explored exciting new cities across the US and Western Europe. Bill and I still have the traveling gypsy bug (let’s call it wanderlust to sound more romantic) and want our kids to experience it with us. And, we want to create adventures that are more outdoors and immersed in nature.

So, we bought a small pull-behind Winnebago (cue up the Randy Quaid Christmas Vacation quotes) and planned out several weekend family trips around NC this summer. It might sound a little crazy, but the girls seem super excited, and we think we’re in the sweet spot of traveling with them right now – high curiosity, good sleep patterns, and easily distractible. We want to keep things simple, yet comfortable and imaginative – similar to the gypsy caravan from Wind in the Willows:

 

He led the way to the stable-yard and there, drawn out of the coach-house, they saw a gipsy caravan, shining with newness, painted a canary-yellow picked out with green, and red wheels. “There you are!” cried the Toad, straddling and expanding himself. “There’s the real life for you. The open road, the dust highway, the heath, the common, the rolling downs! Here today, and off somewhere else tomorrow! The whole world before you! And mind, this is the finest cart of its sort ever built.” The mole followed him eagerly up the steps and into the caravan. It was very compact and comfortable. Little sleeping-bunks – a table that folded up against the wall – a cooking-stove, lockers, bookshelves and pots, pans, jugs and kettles of every size and variety.

– excerpt from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Even though our Winnie isn’t a canary-yellow caravan with green and red wheels, we’re excited to hit the open road. Finally, whether we’re out on the open road or back in Raleigh, we still have some summer bucket list items for 2017:

  1. Enjoy a low country boil (Memorial Day weekend)
  2. Survive having two kids on summer swim team
  3. See some waterfalls (Tom’s Creek & Roaring Fork in western NC)
  4. Swim at a lake (Jordan Lake recreation area)
  5. Discover new & easy campfire recipes
  6. Go blueberry picking
  7. Discover new hiking trails on our travels
  8. Catch fireflies (Jordan Lake campsite and backyard)
  9. Try a new ice cream place
  10. Visit a new museum
  11. Perfect my mojito making
  12. Start composting
  13. Have a water balloon fight
  14. Read a long book together as a family
  15. Enjoy Winnebago camping as a family

 

2017 Mother’s Day Reflections & Raleigh Events

water lilies at NC Art MuseumOver the past two years, I’ve learned that Mother’s Day is all about the balance for me. After losing my mother so suddenly in 2015, I realize I yearn for more reflection and relaxation (aka alone time without kids) to counter my natural tendency for wide-open family fun and adventure. I’ve consciously let the reflection and relaxation needs run their course because I know later that day, that week, or that month I’ll be a less crazy better mom and wife. 

After our traditional Nags Head trip with friends last year (aka the fun and adventurous side of things) I walked solo around the NC Museum of Art’s Museum Park while listening to music and my favorite parenting podcast, Atomic Moms. It helped me clear my head, process things, and feel grounded. This year, I’ll probably head to a similar place after getting home from our Nags Head trip. 

So, if you’re around in Raleigh this week/weekend and are looking for a special way to celebrate the special wife or mom in your life, look no further than this list of upcoming organized events in the local parks and my personal mix of outdoor outings to balance adventure with relaxation.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there and cheers to making memories and searching for finding balance.

Organized Programs

  • You are my Sunshine Mother’s Day Craft at Buffalo Road Athletic Park (Tues., May 9 at 11am) – Join the super fun Fit4Mom Midtown Raleigh Stroller Strides group after class for a Mother’s Day footprint craft. All ages welcome & all supplies will be provided. Meet by the playground and we’ll make sunny feet under the shade at the picnic tables; all ages welcome; FREE
  • Dorothea Dix Guided Walking Tour at Dorethea Dix Park (Tues., May 9 from 5:30-7:30pm) – Take a 2-hour, 3.5 mile tour that covers the history of the buildings, land, and legacy of Dorothea Dix, the current use of the area as the headquarters of the Department of Health and Human Services and the steps the City will take in planning a future park; pre-registration required; FREE
  • Moonrise Stroll at Falls Lake State Recreation Area (Tues., May 9 from 7:30-8:45pm) – join an easy 1.2 mile hike to watch the nearly full moon rise over Falls Lake; start location – Beaver Dam Recreation Area, Duck Cove Trailhead; all ages; FREE; hikers are encouraged to pre-register
  • Birds & Nests at Annie Louise Wilkerson Park (Wed., May 10 from 10:30-noon or Sat., May 13 from 10:30-noon) – go on a bird hunt, make a craft, and meet Mama and Papa bluebird and take a peek in their nest box; $3; ages 3-5 with parent; course # 205486, 205487
  • Gifts for Mom at Worthdale Community Center (Wed., May 10 from 10-11am) – Make a special gift for Mom; $8; ages 2-5; course # 207187 
  • Mother’s Day Crafts at Hill St Community Center (Wed., May 10 from 5-6pm) – create a special Mother’s Day Craft; ages 5-12; FREE; course # 197397
  • Mother’s Day Tea Party at Greystone Community Center (Thurs., May 11 from 10-11:30am) – do you want to make Mom feel special? Come and enjoy time with your mom/caregiver at our Mother’s Day Tea Party. This workshop will give children an opportunity to create a special gift for their mother. Enjoy tea/juice and cookies; ages 18 months to 4 years with parent participation; $9; course # 205695
  • Photography walk at JC Raulston Arboretum (Thurs., May 11 from 2-3pm) – let mom explore the close-up world in the garden and achieve strong compositions and fun abstracts; $10 members/$15 non-members 
  • nature play space at Durant Nature ParkNature & Sensory Play Day at Durant Nature Preserve (Fri., May 12 from 10-noon) – come check out Durant’s Sensory and Nature Play Garden! Enjoy self-guided activities to delight the senses and encourage nature play. Although registration is not necessary, it is helpful for preparation; all ages, with parent participation; FREE; course #205363 
  • Wee Wetland Walkers at Walnut Creek Wetland Center (Fri., May 12 from 11am-noon) – this program is designed to move at a toddler’s pace: Run. Stop. Pick dandelions. Run. Climb on a rock. Find an interesting leaf! Join others for an easy-paced hike around the greenway, accompanied by one of our naturalists. Registration is not required but is helpful for planning; FREE; all ages; course # 203539
  • Parents’ Evening Escape at Millbrook Exchange Community Center (Fri., May 12 form 6-8:30pm) – Mom and Dad deserve a night out! Let your child join us for a fun-filled night of games, activities and pizza. Participants will create a Mother’s Day gift while you’re out; $15; ages 5-10; course #205154
  • Nature Scavenger Hunt at Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve (Sat., May 13 from 1-2pm) – Exploring the preserve, and learn about nature while uncovering the hidden nature-themed treasures! Make an afternoon of it and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy before or after the hunt; ages 4 years and up with adult participation; $1; course # 206618
  • Weekend Family-Friendly Tours: Bon Voyage at NC Art Museum (Sat., May 13 or Sun., May 14 at 10:30am) – Discover all the places art can take you as you travel the world without leaving the Museum walls; FREE; half-hour tours for ages 5-11 with their adult companion
  • Are you my Mama at Blue Jay Point County Park (Sat., May 13 from 1-2pm) – Create great Mother’s Day cards while learning about different styles of mothering in the animal world; $1, all ages but most appropriate for ages 5 years+, pre-registration required  
  • Mommy & Me Tea Party at Eastgate Park (Sat., May 13 from 2-4pm) – Celebrate Mother’s Day with a spot of tea at an afternoon tea party for mothers and daughters of all ages. We will enjoy tasty treats while sipping steaming cups of tea or ice cold lemonade. Mothers, grandmothers, daughters and other significant women in your young lady’s life are all welcome; $10 per person; all ages, course #205100

Home Grown Adventure & Relaxation

A Tribute to Ripken

IMG_7506Losing a furry friend never gets easier, especially when he becomes a part of your kids’ memories. A week ago Ripken suffered from uncontrollable seizures and we said goodbye to our sweet friend. Unlike our first Boston, Jerry, who also suffered from seizures, Ripken’s seizures started intensely and suddenly on Friday night, so we had little time to prepare for saying goodbye. The ER vet at Quail Corners was so compassionate and I felt so taken care of as he shared personal stories about his Boston Terrier who also recently passed away from seizures. The similarity in our stories was very scary.

IMG_2225.JPGRipken was special to say the least – his tongue always hung out of his mouth, he was wall-eyed, had one prosthetic eye with forthcoming cataract surgery in the other, and had disproportionally large private parts. And, to say Ripken wasn’t full of behavioral issues is just straight up lying. All who met Ripken over the years know his crazy – if he never peed on your blankets, humped your dog, chewed up your grill cover, projectile vomited in your backyard, or dined on your cat’s poop, then you didn’t really experience Ripken.  But, what Ripken gave us in craziness he made up for in sweetness and love. He relished snuggling and head scratches, tolerated the girls as they nearly pulled his legs out of socket during hand shakes, loved walking in the neighborhood, and worked hard years ago to pass his Canine Good Citizen test (really, that happened). As we looked through old Ripken pictures this week, we’re reminded of all the fun and silly times we had with him. Thank you to all our friends and family who let him into your lives and romp with your pups.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….  

– Author unknown

2017 First Day Hikes

2017 First Day HikesLace up your hiking boots and head outside on New Year’s Day for an organized hike in a local park.  Every state park in NC (city parks are catching on, too) organizes 2017 First Day Hikes to encourage fitness and reconnecting with nature in the new year. Last year we visited Murrells Inlet, SC for the first time, but this year we’re staying close to home and hope to discover something new (weather forecast at publication: a little chilly and dry)! 

List of organized First Day Hikes at parks and greenways within an hour of Raleigh:

  • Durant Nature Preserve – enjoy a family-friendly guided nature walk (at least 1 mile) followed by hot chocolate and discussions with staff about what you saw; 2-4pm; start location: 8305 Camp Durant Rd (north entrance); pre-registration is suggested but not required; prepare for natural surface walking; non stroller-friendly; event information
  • Walnut Creek Wetland Center – enjoy a family-friendly guided nature walk (at least 1 mile) followed by hot chocolate and discussions with staff about what you saw; 2-4pm; start location: 950 Peterson St; pre-registration is suggested but not required; wheelchair and stroller-friendly; event information
  • IMG_5058Falls Lake State Recreation Area – scavenger hunt with hike along Rolling View Track Trail (0.75 miles); start times at 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm; pre-registration is required; prepare for natural surface walking; event information; my 2015 First Day Hike review
  • Jordan Lake State Recreation Area – 2.7 mile hike of Blue Loop along New Hope Overlook trail; start location: New Hope Overlook by boat ramps; 9am start time; event information; my 2012 review of New Hope Overlook trail
  • img_4160Umstead State Park – 1.3 mile hike along Pott’s Branch Trail; start location: small parking lot by Pott’s Branch trailhead (Hwy 70/Glenwood Ave); 9am start time; event information; my 2014 review of Pott’s Branch Trail
  • Eno River State Park – options of 2 mile or 4 mile hikes; start location: Fews Ford Access; 2pm start time; arrive early as this is a popular event and parking can be hard to find; event information
  • Raven Rock State Park – 2.5 mile easy hike along Raven Rock Loop Trail to the park’s centerpiece, Raven Rock; start location: picnic shelter at Raven Rock Loop trailhead; 2pm start time; event information
  • Kerr Lake State Recreation Area – 1 mile nature hike; start location: park office (6254 Satterwhite Point Rd); 1:30pm start time; event information
  • First Walk Cary at Morris Branch Greenway – bring the family for a walk along Cary’s Morris Branch Greenway; parking location: 115 Allforth Pl and follow signs for walk start; 10am start time; stroller-friendly; event information 

If the above times or distances don’t work with your schedule, visit a park and explore on your own. Check out my list of previously reviewed trails in the area.

Campfires & Fireflies in the Parks

campfire
S’mores with cousins last summer

Several of my summer memories growing up involved sitting around campfires and chasing down fireflies in the backyard.  Here are some great upcoming programs going on in the Greater Triangle area and beyond that involve either a campfire or firefly fun!  Bring your family, neighbors and friends and explore the outdoors at night!

Firefly Watch at Prairie Ridge Ecostation (Saturday, June 4, 8-9:30pm) – Collect and observe fireflies while learning more about the dwindling firefly population, ages 8+, FREE but pre-registration is required – please contact Chris Goforth at chris.goforth@naturalsciences.org or 919.707.8882.

Crowder by Night at Crowder District Park (Friday, June 10, 7-8pm) – explore the park by night with campfire s’mores, animal observations, and nature stories, Wake County course #5693, $3/person or $5/family, all ages

Fun with Fireflies at Durant Nature Preserve (Friday, June 10, 8-9pm) – Make a firefly catcher and see the fireflies up close, ages 5+, City of Raleigh course #188956, $2, adult must register and accompany children

Centennial Campfire Celebration at Chimney Rock State Park (Saturday, June 11, 12-1:30pm) – Celebrate National Get Outdoors Day with a campfire, hotdogs, and some Cherokee Native American stories, cost is the admission into the state park

Campfire Cooking at Goose Creek State Park (Friday, June 17 at 5pm) – Savor a meal cooked over the campfire, call to pre-register (252) 923-2191, meet at Campground Amphitheater, all ages

Yates by Night: Summer Tales at Historic Yates Mill County Park (Friday, June 17, 7:30-9pm) –  Hear some tall tales then share a few stories of your own while roasting s’mores around the campfire, Wake County course #5736, ages 6+, $3/person or $5/family

Firefly Hike at Pilot Mountain State Park (Saturday, June 11 or June 18 9-10pm) – Meet at the campground amphitheater for an easy walk around the amphitheater to look for and learn about the unique natural history of fireflies, meet at Family Campground area

Storytime by the Campfire at Falls Lake State Recreation Park (Saturday, June 25 at 7pm) – Join a park ranger for a reading of Dr. Seuss’ classic, “The Lorax”, discuss what it means to be a steward and roast marshmallows, meet at Holly Point Amphitheater