I'm a big believer that there is every bit as much to be learned outside of a classroom as in. So with that in mind I declared last week Hookie Week and let both of my boys ditch school to spend all day out and about with me. Each got to choose a cool activity and have there own day. This week's My Town Monday is about my day with my oldest son T. He is 8, and for his hookie day he chose the Wildcat Bluff Nature Center just a few miles west of Amarillo.
Here is a blurb borrowed directly from the nature center's website.
More than 600 acres of rolling grasslands are threaded with nature trails offering a sense of isolation and tranquility. Discover delicate wildflowers amidst knee-high grasses, huge cottonwoods, and a magnificent bluff. Slow down enough to spot a horned lizard cross the trail, a hawk circling overhead, or a quail's nest hidden beneath a bush. Picture the native people who camped here for centuries before settlers came through on their westward trek.
There is a place where you can reconnect with the timeless rhythm of the natural world and ponder the impact of civilization. At the same time, consider whether your great grandchildren will be able to experience first hand these same wonders of nature.
We started off inside, by checking out the various critters. Snakes, lizards, tarantulas, turtles, ferrets, fish, frogs, rabbits, and so forth. We took the time to read the placards and as always T had plenty of questions and observations. Such as ... "Dad, wouldn't it be cool if people shed their skin like snakes."
That turned into a discussion about sunburns and peeling skin and then the question of how come snakes and lizards don't get sunburned even though they live in the desert and sunbathe on rocks? For the record, no, I did not know the answer.
After reading and learning about the animals we headed outside to hike along the trails. The trails are well marked and very easy to hike as the majority of the land is rolling plains filled with natural grasses, flowers and mesquite trees.
Here is a shot of my son reading a sign giving direction tot he varying trails. You can see how close to town the area is by checking out the horizon and spotting the buildings of downtown Amarillo.
The Bluff trail culminates atop a natural bluff, imagine that, which overlooks Amarillo creek, and the Gregg-Marcy trail which was a branch of the famous Sante Fe Trail. The remnants of the Gregg Marcy trail are still evident today. You can click on the pictures to enlarge if need be.
Another of Wildcat Bluff's trails is called the windmill trail. And at the end of that trail you will find a ... you guessed it, windmill.
And down by the creek, on what I'm not really sure is a trail although it is evident others have hiked there, my son and I found a massive cottonwood tree before turning back around and going the way we were supposed to.
The roots of this tree were very cool. My son is three or four inches better than four foot tall so use that as a reference on the gnarly base of that tree.
All in all we had a great time. We hiked about 2.5 miles and spent some great time together.
Wildcat Bluff isn't the kind of challenging hiking environment that the serious adventured covets, but it does provide a nice leisurely stroll among nature, and it does provide a great backdrop to teaching kids about the great outdoors. And for only three bucks for adults and two for kids it is a very inexpensive family activity.
For the record, my six year old son chose to go turkey hunting. We managed to see a few gobblers but his dear old dad missed the only shot provided to us, but as a consolation prize we got some fishing in on a couple of small ponds and young Z did quite nicely there. Maybe I'll share a few of those pics alter in the week.
As always check back throughout Sunday and Monday to discover great blogs and read about their neck of the woods. and if you have something to share about your town simply write a post and then leave me a comment so that I can add your link.
MY TOWN MONDAY LINKS
Jenn Jilks - Muskoka, Ontario, Canada
Maria - Vienna, Austria
Debra - Village of Peninsula, Ohio
Chris - Hong Kong, China
J Winter - Cincinnati, Ohio
Kathy Ryan - New York City, New York
Clair Dickson - Brighton, Michigan
Barbara Martin - Toronto, Canada
Mary - Olmsted Falls, Ohio
Cloudia - Honolulu, Hawaii