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July 21, 2010

We *heart* nature

IMG_4937  so much so that we finally decided it was time for a camp.  Despite the fact that there are oodles of day camps in the area, I couldn't justify spending the money for a regular camp.  If I found a specialty camp, that would be one thing, but we have the neighborhood pool across the street and so much to do in the area.  Then I noticed that the nearby Nature Center was having a week-long half-day camp for those ages 6-10.  

I hemmed and hawed and finally came to the conclusion that it might not be a bad idea.  Only Kelsey could attend, but perhaps she would meet future class (or school) mates and if nothing else, have a bit of a break from the siblings for a bit.  This would then (theoretically) give me less of a complex about unpacking during the day...or at least fewer kids to worry about while unpacking.

IMG_4939  We had not been to the Nature Center in ages and I forgot what a gorgeous, treed area it is.  Since our last visit, they have added a "Nature Playce" with a short trail for kids.  Kids (and parents) can grab a guide that lists nearly all of the wildlife and their habitats.  There is a special garden designed just for the purpose of attracting butterflies and there was no shortage of them while we visited.  

IMG_4941  Kelsey and I journeyed there Monday afternoon to learn more about the camp and find out if spots were still open.  They were, but Kelsey spent the entire time lamenting "camp" and  being a bit grouchy about the whole thing.  Kelsey kept muttering under her breath, "I don't want to go, I don't want to go!"

To her credit, the director who gave us a tour remained unfazed.  I think she assumed Kelsey would complain, I would drop my encouragement and that would be that. Kelsey asked when we left if she "had" to go.  I offered she could try it for a morning, after all, it had to be more exciting than watching me unpack. Lo and behold, the idea grew on Kelsey and while I was doing dishes that night, she ran into the kitchen, gave me a big hug, and said, "I think I am going to like Nature Camp!" 

Off she went Tuesday morning.  She was a little nervous, but between taking a hike, meeting two "damaged" (rescued) owls, and learning more about butterflies, she had a fantastic time.  She ran up to us when Nicholas and I came to get her and extolled the many virtues of the camp.  I began to feel a bit guilty last night as Nicholas started to beg to go to nature camp.  Not really a possibility for the under-three, still trying to get out of diapers set.  Then I received an email...

IMG_0155 IMG_0162   It was a reminder of a playgroup meet-up.  I dismissed it at first, thinking that I should stay home and unpack (even though I likely wouldn't get that much accomplished).  I then realized it was not only going to be held at a nature center, but there would be kids Nicholas's age, and it would be another opportunity not only to get him out of the house and rediscover local outdoorsy spots in this area.

Score a point for Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington!  The Nature Center isn't huge, but has a cozy play area with puzzles, a little clubhouse section, toys, and books.  The front room has several aquariums with snakes and frogs, and a fish pond is off to the side.  If one happens in at the right time, there may even be an opportunity to feed the fish.

IMG_0159  The best part?  Long Branch not only has a paved trail around a viewing pond, but a path down to Long Branch Stream.  It is a very easy walk down to the stream, though it will feel like a bit of a hike on a humid day like today.  Little Guy was appropriately attired in his crocs and spent the next 20 minutes running around in the flat bed of the stream, climbing up boulders (in his mind), wading through the deliciously cool water, and throwing rocks.  He was not along in this fun, as all of his new playgroup buddies wanted part of that action.  Had we not had to pick up Kelsey, I am fairly sure we could have happily spent the afternoon there.

IMG_0160  Not only did we have much outdoorsy fun, but I ended up several friends that I haven't seen in quite some time (well, one a few weeks and another 7 years...). It also gave me the opportunity to meet other parents at the playgroup that I had heretofore only chatted with online.  Had I stayed at home, I am sure I would have unpacked a box or two...but would have missed out on friends (for both of us), the nature center and stream, and that reaffirming feeling of accomplishment for having done something that makes the soul so very happy.  With next Tuesday looming in the distance like a grumpy black rain cloud, I am so glad I made the effort to get out.

Notes regarding Long Branch:  it is about 400 feet back from the street, down a long, windy road.  It is a "two lane" road, but really only room for one car at a time (with a few small pull-off areas).  Parking can also get tight and you may want to back in (good advice, D.!) if possible.  If it's a warm day and you visit the stream, don't forget your hats (we did *sigh*), sunscreen and water shoes.  An Ergo or carrier might be a good idea if you have a sleepy toddler, but strollers can easily make the trek to the stream.  

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That is awesome! I remember some of those types of programs with fondness - it's good to do something different every now and then :)

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