Hike, Dine, & spend a night in Jail

Midwest Traveler: Taylors Falls, the little town that could

  • Article by: KELLY JO MCDONNELL , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 2, 2013 – 4:14 PM

Description: http://stmedia.startribune.com/images/630*387/ows_137012600252744.jpg

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A paddleboat floats down the St. Croix River through Interstate State Park near Taylors Falls, one of the most visited parks in Minnesota.

When you travel into Taylors Falls, you’ll notice a sign that reads population 976. But don’t let this little village on the river fool you. The population swells to 5,000 plus during peak seasons — especially as the fall foliage puts on a show. What do all these people know that we don’t? The answer: Taylors Falls may be small, but what it offers is huge.

Taylors Falls sits right on the St. Croix River, surrounded by bluffs and high cliffs. The scenery is stunning, especially in the fall, and the area’s geology is intriguing. Geologists from all over the world come to visit the area; 10 lava flows are exposed in the area’s park, along with distinct glacial deposits. One thing is for sure: Mother Nature was busy in this area.

WHAT TO DO

This time of year, there’s one logical place to “leaf peep” in Taylors Falls — Interstate State Park. The park was jointly founded by Minnesota and Wisconsin in 1895, since it straddles the border. During early fall, the hiking trails resemble a postcard. While the visitors’ center is now closed for the season, the park recommends taking the 1.25-mile River Trail to the “Glacial Pothole” area, and it proves to be a good choice. Trails are well maintained, and have several lookout areas over the St. Croix. This time of year, the views offer their own beauty, with a palette of green, yellow and brown. On the return journey, try the Railroad Trail, which is a 1.5-mile hike along the path where the old railroad used to run. This trail ends near the Sandstone Bluffs Trail. If you’re not afraid of a few hundred stairs, it’s worth the 1-mile journey for the views. There is also canoe rental and rock climbing in this park. There’s a good chance you’ll spy some rock climbers during your visit (www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/inter state/index.html).

While the government shutdown briefly halted boat excursions in Taylors Falls, and the tours are now closed for the season, Wild Mountain’s Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours were up and running just in time for some fall trips. Owner Amy Frischmon, whose family owns and operates all the Wild Mountain properties, had to play catch-up once she got approval from the government to operate her boats again on the St. Croix. Weather-permitting, during the season there are daily excursions on both the Queen and the Princess. Visitors can also view the glacial potholes from the water, and a licensed boat pilot and tour guide point out rock formations, including the Old Man of the Dalles. A seasonal note: When the snow flies, the action switches over to Wild Mountain, the area’s ski and snowboard resort (www.wildmountain.com).

While it’s not located on a mountain, Wild Mountain Winery is picturesque, and located just 8 miles from Taylors Falls. It specializes in cold-hardy grapes from grower Elmer Swenson. All the grapes are locally grown, the wine locally produced, and the winery itself is also locally operated, which gives the scene an overall homey feeling. Wandering through the vineyards in the fall offers a chance to see the picking process. The vines, full and heavy with grapes, are being harvested all fall. The wine tasting room, which used to be the greenhouse, is cozy and offers samplings of Prairie Star, Frontenac Gris or the ever-popular Elmer’s White, which is wonderfully fruity and aromatic (www.wildmountainwinery.com).

Visitors can also just walk along the river and enjoy the charming shops in downtown Taylors Falls. The shops are locally owned, including the Newbery House, a gift shop that also doubles as an art gallery featuring works from local artists (www.delarosegallery.com). If natural art is more your style, try the GLG Jewelry and Rock Shop, which designs and creates “Earth Treasures” from rocks and minerals. Both adults and kids will find a rock treasure in this shop (www.glggemstonejewelry.com).

WHERE TO STAY

Why not spend the day in jail? No, it’s not what you think. And the Old Jail Bed & Breakfast, right in downtown Taylors Falls, is the perfect place to feel right at home — even if it used to be a jail. It’s the first licensed bed-and-breakfast in Minnesota, with three suites that have a private entrance, private bath and kitchen. The “overlook” room is just that — overlooking the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. To experience the “lock up,” book the “Jail Cottage,” complete with the original bars. But guests seem to clamor for the “Cave.” This former location of the town saloon is roomy, and has the original stone arch leading to a “cave” where there’s a full bathroom (www.oldjail.com or 651-465-3112).

WHERE TO EAT

If coffee or cappuccino is on your mind, be sure to hit the Coffee Talk in downtown Taylors Falls. It sits in a renovated Victorian house on the north side of town, and the locals who work the coffee bar are the perfect folks to ask about the best local stops. There are also fresh baked goods each day (www.taylorsfalls.com/coffeetalk.html). Rocky River Bakery, owned by Bill and Beth Hughes, is full of fresh baked pastries and breads, and this time of year a visitor can find the “Croixnut” — a cross between a doughnut and a croissant. But ask ahead, as the Croixnut tends to sell out fast (www.rockyriverbakery.com). While it has seasonal hours, Tangled up in Blue is worth the visit. The interior is simple and perfectly lit for either a dinner for two or a party of 10. The food is fresh, and the chef often visits your table to check on your dining experience. The beef Wellington is one of the house specialties, and for good reason — it’s a hand-cut filet topped with mushroom duxelle and enclosed in a puff pastry. Local wines from nearby vineyards are also offered (www.tangledupinbluerestaurantintaylorsfalls.com).

IF YOU GO

For more information about visiting the region, go to http://www.ci.taylors-falls.mn.us/ or http://fallschamber.org/

Little green school

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 Go green! Everyone has heard the slogan. Even my tween son knows the term, and better yet, he understands it. When his classroom was in charge of “Earth Day Celebration” ideas at his elementary school, he proudly organized a pick up trash hour in our neighborhood (with his mother leading the expedition, of course). It was a great lesson, and I hope that my son and his class will think twice about littering because of that experience.

But how about thinking bigger? Perhaps going green with—of all things—your child’s actual school?

It’s not such a far-fetched notion. Just ask Kirsen Kinzler, director of the Natural Science Academy in St. Paul Park. “Science is all around us, and it’s how we understand our environment,” stresses Kinzler. “When kids say they aren’t that good at reading…they still have to read. When kids say they aren’t good at science, well, the science is all around them. It’s how they are going to understand their environment, and it’s what happens in our world. Children need more of that in their background.”

The Natural Science Academy is a local environmentally focused charter school that opened in 2007 in Woodbury with an enrollment at 38 students. The school re-located to St. Paul Park after two years, and student enrollment holds steady at 55. “We’re a small community,” explains Kinzler, “so our biggest challenge is letting folks know that we’re here.”

Science, science, science is the name of the game at the Natural Science Academy. Kinzler says in other schools, children are lucky to be able to explore the topic once a week. “We do science every day, at least 45 minutes or more,” she explains. “In our school, that’s the focus. Biology science, earth science, and natural science.”

Nature is tough

When I tagged along during one particular class, the second and third graders were heading to the outdoor classroom to play a game that involved wolves and rabbits and deer. No, not real animals. Each child was issued a tag for their coat that labeled them as Deer, Wolf, or Rabbit. As the teacher was explaining the class activity—“do wolves always catch prey the they are after?” I noticed a group of boys already fist bumping that they were “wolves”—the top of the food chain in this game. The “wolves” were to hunt the deer and the rabbits; they could catch a deer with two hands, and rabbits with one. When the teacher blew the whistle, I’ve never seen so many “animals” scatter so fast.

“They know how hard it is for wolves to catch their prey,” says teacher Laura Ferguson, “and we are talking more about wolves for the next week. They’ll also learn about what happens if wolves don’t get their prey, and what happens if something happens to their habitat.” When I was leaving, I noticed the pack of boy-wolves looking a little disgruntled; hunting turned out be harder then they thought, perhaps. No more fist bumps for these wolves. Nature is tough.

A quick look into the kindergarten room (otherwise known as “the owls”) showed that the class was learning about different animal tracks. When the teacher asked how the bunny track was made, one enthusiastic little boy jumped up and began hopping around the classroom. Soon, the entire classroom was putting on coats to find and view real tracks outside.

You won’t find these kids looking out the school windows longingly. Their classroom is outside a lot of the time. “We go outside at least one hour a day: it’s part of the classroom,” says Kinzler, “and on top of that, we go outside for reading, or journaling.” She says a new feature for this school session is their official “outdoor classroom space,” which includes paths, shelters, and gardens. The kids will help with the upkeep during the changing seasons.

Incorporating “green”

The little green school idea is something more schools should consider, but if it isn’t an option, perhaps other “green” actions can be incorporated. How about encouraging your child to join a green-focused club or committee? If your child’s school doesn’t have one, how about starting rallying the troops in a parent-volunteer effort around an issue such as recycling or composting food waste in the cafeteria? Your child can also volunteer with the building operations, such as helping with the recycling or trash pickup around the school. Another option is consulting with the teacher. It may take a bit of creative thinking, but to repeat what Kirsen Kinzler said earlier: “Science is all around us.” So how can that be incorporated into everyday teaching? In art—could it be using eco-friendly art materials or employing a focus on recycling paper through a collage project?

Or what if it’s just you, making a difference with your children? If they have to give a speech in school, for example, could it be on a topic related to the environment? What about when they need to write an essay of their choice? How can you direct your child to incorporate a little green school into the schoolwork he or she does?

For older kids, taking on a service learning internship can be ideal. The Twin Cities area has a wealth of nature centers and arboretums. In our backyard in Lino Lakes, there’s the Wargo Nature Center, which my son is already interested in contacting for some hands-on experience.

“I just see what the outdoors does for kids,” says Kinzler, “and getting them out and into those experiences. Those are the things that they remember. They need to be literate and know their math, and be successful and get jobs…but it’s just adding that other piece in. It helps them to know where they come from, and what’s around Minnesota. Our state is great for that, because we have all the seasons and different sports. Those are some of the best experiences.”

Little green school…fist bump.

 

Resources

Natural Science Academy

naturalscienceacademy.org

 

Eco-friendly art materials

dickblick.com/green

A tale of two bridges

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In Hastings, Minn., history and natural beauty

If you’ve driven on Hwy. 61 into Hastings, chances are you’ve heard the Tale of Two Bridges (not to be confused with Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities”). A new, four-lane bridge — which was built off-site and floated into place — will replace the old two-lane bridge by the end of the year, and two lanes on the new structure are already open. Don’t let orange cones deter you from visiting this river town, with a downtown lined with historic buildings, river views and a roaring waterfall.

If there ever were a true river town, it’s Hastings. Set along the Mississippi, St. Croix and Vermillion rivers, it’s one of Minnesota’s oldest communities, established in 1857. And while this area has had its share of progress, the scenery still remains steeped in its history.

Why go now

The Afton Apple Orchard, just outside of town, does double duty. In addition to apples, you can pick your own pumpkins beginning this weekend (651-436-8385; http://www.afton apple.com).

WHAT TO DO

Downtown Hastings has 35 buildings built between 1860 and 1900 that make up a historic district along the banks of the Mississippi. Shops include Mississippi Clayworks, which sells locally made pots and Pueblo pottery (651-437-5901; http://www.mississippiclayworks.com); Second Childhood, a toy store with a resident cat named Slinky (651-438-7949; http://www.secondchildhoodtoys.com) and Reissner’s Meats & Grocery, a classic third-generation butcher shop (651-437-4189). Locals claim that items in Hastings antique stores cost as much as 15 percent less than in other river towns. More information at http://www.hastings downtown-mn.com and http://www.hastingsmn.org.

Spring Lake Park Reserve, also known as Schaar’s Bluff, is a hidden gem in this Upper Mississippi River Valley area. Don’t let the cornfields fool you as you drive to this Dakota County park. The landscape changes quickly from farmland to bluff country. And once you hit the trails, the views are spectacular. This part overlooks the Mississippi. Its trails include the Schaar’s Bluff Trailhead, where views stretch to the Twin Cities. Locals say it’s the premier place to catch a sunset.

Trails at the park pass over rocky hills and through woods, grasslands and fields of wildflowers. Paved paths overlook the water. Once the snow flies, trails are groomed for cross-country skiing. The park includes Schaar’s Bluff Gathering Center, an airfield for model planes and picnic shelters (952-891-7000; http://www.co.dakota.mn.us/parks/parksTrails/SpringLake).

The Alexis Bailly Vineyard has been growing grapes since 1973, when the family planted the first vineyard in Minnesota. Today, second-generation owner Nan Bailly continues the family heritage of producing wines in a difficult climate.

First-class wine connoisseurs stand behind the sampling counter, ready to pour. The building, with oak barrels lining the walls, is inviting. Outside, visitors can play bocce ball or stroll through the sculpture park.

Guest favorites include the Country White, a full-bodied table wine made from University of Minnesota grapes La Crescent and Frontenac Gris, and the Voyageur 2010, a red that ages in oak barrels for 12 months. The vineyard is just a mile from Hastings, off Hwy. 61 (651-437-1413; http://www.abvwines.com).

WHERE TO STAY

The Classic Rosewood Inn and Spa is a piece of Hastings history, and it looks the part. The B&B’s building is an 1880 Queen Anne landmark, and it’s just four blocks from downtown.

Owners Dick and Pam Thorsen stress, “slow the pace and snuggle in.”

The atmosphere is easy, even allowing guests to set the schedule for breakfast, which they can have at a private table in the dining room or in their room. Never a small affair, the breakfast during my stay was a three-course feast that included an egg and hash-brown bake, fresh fruit and a baked apple pastry. The Rosewood also offers massages in a room on the main floor. There’s another bonus: a charming “help yourself” pantry for midnight snack attacks.

Rooms include “Spring Lake,” which has two levels with marble steps leading up to the whirlpool and bathroom; and the “Solarium,” with 15-foot walls of glass that overlook the town (651-437-3297; http://www.classicrosewood.com).

WHERE TO EAT

Locals and tourists alike line up outside the Onion Grill, where great onion-inspired dishes are only part of the draw. Owners Mike and Wendy Agen have created a fun atmosphere, with a model train circling the restaurant’s interior and big picture windows that look out at the river’s edge downtown (651-437-7577; http://www.theoniongrille.com).

Looking for the best steak sandwich around? Head to the Bierstube for fabulous German food. The wiener schnitzel, bratwurst platter and sauerbraten (marinated roast beef) are highlights of the menu. It’s a big local hangout, and the “Larry’s Special Steak,” named after the restaurant’s founder, Lawrence William Yanz, is a favorite (651-437-8259; http://www.thebierstube.com).

At the Busted Nut, peanut shells cover the floor like carpet. The restaurant serves casual fare like “big kids” mac and cheese and homemade pizza and has live music year-round (651-438 -6887; http://www.thebustednut.com).

 IF YOU GO

http://www.hastingsmn.org

http://www.ci.hastings.mn.us

MN. Parent Magazine-Sept. Issue – Weekend hikes, near and far!

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Hiking with kids is a great way to keep them connected to the outdoors, but it can be challenging for the parent planner. Take our advice: don’t choose anything too long or strenuous for your first couple of outings. For kids, the hike is about adventure. Pick a trail that has some features, whether it’s a waterfall, cliffs, or a stream. It gives them a goal to reach. Kids are natural explorers, so plan plenty of time for it—you’ll be traveling at the child’s pace. Making the hike fun is key to success. Oh, and pack lots of snacks. 

Choosing your hike

Choosing a destination can be the trickiest part of the whole process. Luckily, we Minnesota parents are sitting on a gold mine of parks and forests. Minnesota has a wonderfully diverse state park system: over 227,000 acres in 73 parks and recreation areas. (That comes down to 1,030 miles of hiking trails.) The trick for us is narrowing it down. 

“Each Minnesota park has unique characteristics,” explains Kaija Helmetag, information officer with the Minnesota State Park and Trails, “and all of them have great hiking and, for the most part, have family friendly trails.” 

She suggests checking out park websites first. “All have links to PDFs with maps, so you can see the trails, the trail mileages—it’s a great resource. There are also blurbs at the beginning of each page that give you an overview of the park, as well as its natural and cultural history. You can get a quick snapshot of what the park is all about.” 

For beginning hikers, keep it simple and close to home. Here are just a few of the gems: 

Fort Snelling State Park 

Location: West St. Paul

Nice touch: The historical aspects of this park make it a good day trip for many reasons: after hiking, you can explore the fort, which dates back to 1820. There is also excellent birdwatching due to its proximity to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

The trails link to Minnehaha Park and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The summer hiking trail is 18 miles long, and is easy to moderate. It offers an array of things to look at, which with kids’ ever changing attention spans, is perfect. (I’d suggest just doing part of it.) The trails lead through wooded areas, but also along rivers and lakes. Pack a lunch and use one of the sheltered picnic tables near the visitor center, then go inside for the interpretive exhibits (and a bathroom break) afterward. 

Interstate State Park 

Location: Taylors Falls

Nice touch: Glacial potholes (the world’s deepest) and a waterfall! Bonus: watch for rock climbers on the cliffs that line some of the trails.

An easy walk to the water will reveal paddleboats and kayakers. There’s the self-guided Sandstone Bluffs Trail (one mile), and the River Trail is two miles. The four-mile hiking trail is more rugged, with countless steps. Skip that one for now. There’s commercial and individual rock climbing permits offered at Interstate, and kids have fun watching the experienced climbers scale the boulders. This park has naturalists galore, and in September and October activities include prepping for a fall hike, Autumn Adventure Scavenger Hunt, and Leaf Art—all with their on-staff naturalists. 

“All of our state parks have tons of free interpretive programs that are aimed at families,” reminds Helmetag, “So if you are in the park and plan in advance, you can attend all kinds of naturalist-led activities.” 

William O’Brien State Park

Location: Marine on St. Croix

Nice touch: It’s along the banks of the St. Croix River and is a migratory pathway as well.

There’s a self-guided wheelchair accessible trail that begins at the picnic grounds (Riverside Trail) that is about 1.5 miles, dotted with interpretive signs. The other trail, 12 miles, ranges from easy to difficult at times, as it winds through wooded areas as well as wetlands. Dogs are permitted, as long as they are on a short leash. There are also a variety of programs offered year-round, such as a Voyageur Encampment Weekend the end of September, and Starlight Starbright and Geocaching101 activities (October).  

Lake Maria State Park

Location: Monticello

Nice touch: It’s a good place to see the “Big Woods”—maples, oaks, and basswood forests—one of the few remaining ‘stands’ of trees.

The hiking trail is 14 miles in length, and winds through wooded and rolling terrain. The fall colors are magnificent. There are two self-guided trails—Zumbrunnen and Forest Shadow—each is one mile each in length, and feature signs, a boardwalk, and observation points. One more thing: 2013 marks the 50-year anniversary of this park, so watch for anniversary events and special drawings throughout the year.

Afton State Park

Location: Hastings

Nice touch: Afton doesn’t disappoint with the scenery, as it offers prairies, deep ravines, and bluffs that overlook the St. Croix River. 

There’s a 20-mile hiking trail; however, there are shorter choices, such as the .75-mile self-guided tour that begins at the visitor’s center or the four mile paved bike trail. Afton is about 40 minutes from downtown Minneapolis, so close enough to be handy, but far enough away that your family will still have that ‘in the middle of nowhere’ feeling. 

Bunker Hills Regional Park

Location: Andover

Nice touch: After you’ve made the kids hike, there are plenty of other options for entertainment, including swimming and water slides, and horseback riding.

Miles upon miles of paved, limestone aggregate, and natural surface trails are offered in a large loop, with additional trails shooting off the main area for an additional easy workout. They are multi-use trails, so walk, bike, or rollerblade to your heart’s content on this 2.5-mile beauty with stretches of sun, coupled with shade from the impressive oak stands.

The North Country Trail

Location: Thomson, about 10 miles southwest of Duluth

Nice touch: Considered one of the best-kept “secret” trails, it wanders 4,600 miles and stretches across seven states!

The goal is not to hike the whole thing, of course, but sections of this trail are great for families. The trail enters Minnesota near Jay Cooke State Park, where the Superior Hiking Trail begins. You can choose the area and the scenery, as this path really offers it all. Even the City of Duluth’s leisurely lake walk is part of this trail!

RULES AND REGULATIONS REMINDER: 

Year-round state park permits are $25, and one-day permits are $5. The year-round permit provides unlimited access to all 76 Minnesota state parks for a full year from the month you purchase it. (And if you needed more incentive, by purchasing the permit, you help maintain and improve the programs at the state parks.) You can get the permits from the DNR, the MN DNR License Center, or at any of the state parks, which have self-serve kiosks or front offices. Note that regional parks will have separate fees.

 10 THINGS TO BRING

(Besides your kid, and your patience!)

  1. Water bottle (.5l-.75l). Something small to carry and to keep hydrated. Keep them drinking water to prevent heat exhaustion, which can occur even in the balmy days of fall. 

2. Hiking shoe. It doesn’t have to be latest and greatest, but something that can grip in loose dirt and mud will keep the trail walks going.

3. No cotton clothing. When cotton gets wet it stays wet and nothing ends a trip faster than a cranky kid. Synthetic shirts and pants dry fast and protect even when wet.

4. Backpack. Something your kid can load some of his or her own stuff into (i.e., snack and water, plus a treasure found on the path) to contribute to the family trip.

5. Sunscreen. When you are out for a day/weekend a sunburn makes it harder to enjoy. 

6. Hat (brimmed or baseball). Something for a little more sun protection.

7. Rain gear. Conditions can change quickly and being prepared will keep everyone calm and happy.

8. Snacks. A simple granola bar or even a Clif for Kids snack will keep the youngsters fueled for the next leg of the trek.

9. Magnifying glass. Something to explore leaves and bugs with.

10. Bug net. Find butterflies and fire flies and get a closer look by catching and releasing.

Alt 1. Walking stick. If they are tired or need a little more leverage on an incline/decline a collapsible walking stick will keep the trek moving forward to the next spot. 

Alt 2: Binoculars. Best way to see birds and other critters up close.

 — Andrew Clarke, Sports Manager at Joe’s Sporting Goods, St. Paul

Top of Form

 

Go wild

Go wild

July 1, 2013-MN. Parent Magazine
By: Kelly Jo Mcdonnell
Reconnecting your kids with nature

My son has a fort. It’s wedged between two evergreens in our backyard, and houses such treasures as slabs of wood and other knick-knacks. An old green army tarp hung by bungee cords serves as a wall. And while I sometimes sigh loudly at the amount of items that find their way into my son’s fort, I leave it alone. A few years ago my father told me that a boy’s fort in nature is his sanctuary and refuge. “Treat it as such,” he warned.

I would never argue that point, as my own childhood memories are steeped in the great outdoors. Many of the most cherished recollections I have involve either a vacation up north or my own fort nestled in a thicket. I want my son to have those memories, too, but I worry the experience won’t be the same. And I’m not the only parent thinking this. There is a growing disconnect between our kids and nature.

According to Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, it’s a phenomenon—and not a good one. It was Louv who first came up with the term, “Nature deficit disorder” when his Last Child in the Woods book came out in 2005. His hypothesis is basically that people, especially children, are spending less time outdoors.

Why is this happening? The reasons are myriad, and a few, obvious. One I can relate to is “stranger danger,” or as Louv calls it in his book, the Bogeyman syndrome. “Fear is the most potent force that prevents parents from allowing their children the freedom they themselves enjoyed when they were young,” he explains. “Fear is the emotion that separates a developing child from the full, essential benefits of nature. Fear of traffic, of crime, of stranger-danger—and of nature itself.”

My boundaries growing up included the entire town. Admittedly, my son’s boundaries are tighter. In a 2002 survey by TNS Intersearch for American Demographics magazine, 56 percent of parents in the U.S. said that by the time they were 10 years old they were allowed to walk or bike to school, but only 36 percent of those same parents said their own children should be allowed to do the same.

Restricted access

The loss of wild surroundings is another factor. In more and more cities and suburban neighborhoods, it can be tough to find green. But it’s worth looking for: a team study by researchers in Sweden, Australia, and the U.S. found that when children played in an environment dominated by play structures rather than natural elements, the kids established social hierarchy through physical competence. But by offering a grassy area with a few shrubs, and the kids engaged in more fantasy-style play, and their social standing became based less on physical abilities and more on language and creative skills. And a bonus: open play also provided greater opportunities for boys and girls to play together in egalitarian ways.

Even if you find a park or nature preserve, kids are seeing more restricted access. “Do not walk off the trail” one sign recently warned me at a neighborhood park. Everyone understands that the natural environment must be protected, but Louv questions the cost of that protection in some instances, and the direct impact it has on a child’s relationship with nature. Even environmentalists and educators, he points out, say, “look but don’t touch.” But sometimes that’s the only way to learn, especially for kids.

And a third obvious cause, of course, is the increased draw to spend time inside looking at screens, including computer, video, and television. The average American child spends 44 hours a week with some form of electronic media.

The effects of this are sobering. Our kids have a limited respect for their natural surroundings. Louv points out that this will be an even bigger problem down the road. “An increasing pace in the last three decades, approximately, of a rapid disengagement between children and direct experiences in nature…has profound implications, not only for the health of future generations but for the health of the Earth itself.”

Then and now

Research has shown that people who care about the earth now spent time in the natural world as children. GreenHeart Education stresses that we owe it to our children to give them unmediated time in nature, so that, as one native elder explained, “the land will remember them.” That is, they will feel grounded and have a sense of “home” that they care about.

Another impact of nature deficit may be the development of attention disorders. Louv suggests that going outside and being in the quiet and calm can help kids. “It’s a problem because kids who don’t get nature-time seem more prone to anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit problems.” As a mother of an ADHD son, this research is worth watching. Some tips include encouraging your child to play in outdoor green spaces, study or play in rooms with views of nature, or plant and care for gardens and trees at your place of residence. Louv explains that although the impact of nature experiences on attention disorders and on wider aspects of child health is in its infancy and easily challenged, it’s not to be brushed over. “Yes, more research is needed, but we do not have to wait for it. If, as a growing body of evidence recommends, contact with nature is as important to children as good nutrition and adequate sleep, then current trends in children’s access to nature need to be addressed.”

Childhood obesity is another issue, and about nine million children ranging in age from six to 11 are overweight or obese, according to The Institute of Medicine. It’s time for kids to move more, which means getting off the couch and heading outside and away from screen-time. Blogger Marc Bekoff of Psychology Today says it may be an uphill battle for parents, but “we need to rewild our children before it’s too late.”

While my generation may have been the first to experience Atari and MTV, we also played kick the can, fished in creeks, and had more free-roaming boundaries outside. While some good works are already taking root, such as an environment-based education movement, a simple-living movement, and schoolyard greening, there’s always more work to be done.

With luck, our kids will realize their sense of purpose in this cause. After all, I can only hope that, someday, my son will want his own children to have an outdoor fort. A refuge, a sanctuary. Army tarp and all.

 

GET OUTSIDE!

Here are some fun ideas to get things going with the cause.

Got dirt? A truckload of dirt costs about the same as a video game, so how about buying a load and throwing in some plastic buckets and shovels?

Plant some native plants, or maintain a birdbath. Invite some native flora and fauna in your kid’s life.

Revive some older family traditions. Collect lightning bugs at dusk, and release them at dawn. Collect feathers or leaves. How about crawdadding? (Tie a piece of bacon on a string, and drop it into a creek or pond. Wait until a crawdad tugs.)

Encourage kids to go camping in the backyard. Put up a tent (you can rent them inexpensively through REI) or help them make a canvas tepee and leave it up all summer. (For some other great ideas, go to nwf.org.)

Tell your kids stories about your special childhood places in nature, then help them find their own. Encourage kids to build a fort, hut, or tree house.

Combine tech with nature and go digital—with nature photography that is. Digital cameras save money on film, and are decreasingly expensive.

Go on a moth walk. It sounds weird, but it’s worth it. Mix (in a blender) overripe fruit or wine, and blend in honey, sugar, or molasses. Go outside at sunset and spread the goop on a few trees or untreated wood. Go back when it’s dark, flashlight in hand, and see what you’ve lured. With luck, you’ll probably find moths, ants, earwigs, and other bugs.

It’s Minnesota, so in the winters build an igloo or snow cave, or go sledding, snow tubing, or snowshoeing. Stay outside!

Zanesville, Ohio

History, pottery, and a bridge that’s shaped like a Y. Located in Muskingum County, the city of Zanesville, Ohio has all of the above and more. To find this little-known Ohio gem, follow the rivers to Zanesville, Ohio.

The Basics:photo-4

In the 1790’s, Colonel Ebenezer Zane, a Revolutionary war veteran, was sent by the U.S. Congress to blaze a trail into the Northwest Territory, and the forests of the Ohio Valley. He was trying to establish ferry crossings at three major rivers including the Muskingum. His settlement on this river quickly grew, and in 1801, was named Zanesville in honor of Colonel Zane. Some other prominent Americans have called Zanesville and Muskingum County home, including Astronaut John Glenn and author Zane Grey. Zanesville even served as the temporary capital of Ohio from 1810 to 1812.

What to Do:

“Go to the middle of the bridge and turn left?’
The Y Bridge. The name says it all. The bridge was developed in 1812, and was to connect Zanesville with Putnam, Natchez and West Zanesville. (All three towns are now part of Zanesville) The brainchild of Colonel Zane, it opened to traffic in 1814. The brides have had to go through renovations and complete reconstructions through the years, and today the fifth Y-Bridge stands. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (To get the best view of the Y Bridge, head to the Putnam Park Overlook. It will also give you a panoramic view of the entire city)   740-455-8282

Yes, it really is a Y.  (Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/minnemom/, Creative Commons
Yes, it really is a Y. (Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/minnemom/, Creative Commons)

The town’s history is rooted in the Y Bridge, and Zanesville has no shortage of historical sites. There are several museums – hours vary at each location so check ahead. A few musts are the National Road/Zane Grey Museum, the John and Annie Glenn Museum and the Zanesville Museum of Art.  www.visitzanesville.com or 800-743-2303 (museums of Muskingum County)

Stroll downtown Zanesville, and you feel as if you have traveled back in time. There are buildings from 1840, and the church steeples (no less than a dozen of them) greet you as you stroll down the streets. Unique shops can be found from Fifth Street to Seventh Street, but also head down Market Street and check out the Freight Station, which is located in the railroad yard of downtown Zanesville. The community renovated the old station, and it houses many local businesses. The Olde Towne Antique Mall, right on Main Street in downtown Zanesville, offers three levels of rooms of historic treasure – including antique Buckeye bar glasses, pottery (Zanesville was once known as the Pottery Capital of the world due to its large number of pottery manufactures) glass and wonderful old books, many on the rich history of the area.  740-453-8694 – The Olde Town Antique Mall

Local artistic talent abounds, and numerous artist studios checker the downtown streets. There’s an Artist Colony’s “First Friday Gallery and Studio”, where on the first Friday of every month in downtown Zanesville the studios have an open house. Watercolor artist and local, Mary Ann Bucci is known for immortalizing Zanesville’s many stoic and historical structures, and her “Zanesville – A Community of Churches” painting captures the beauty of the town’s many church steeples.  www.maryannbucci.com

Cheetahs in Ohio?  At The Wilds, you bet!  (Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/becker271/ Flickr Creative Commons)
Cheetahs in Ohio? At The Wilds, you bet! (Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/becker271/ Flickr Creative Commons)

One might not think of giraffes and rhinos when roaming the hills of Ohio, but think again. The Wilds is a must-see spot while you’re in the area (although keep in mind it’s seasonal: The Wilds is open April through October) It spans 14 miles, and is a wildlife conservation center, housing endangered animals including cheetahs, giraffes, and camels.  740-638-5030

Where to Stay:

On the banks of the Muskingum River sits a wonderful piece of history that now operates as a B&B. The Buckingham House is in the Putnam Historic District and was built in 1819 by prominent abolitionist, Alva Buckingham. He had a specific purpose in mind for the house, which helped hide slaves as they made their way from the Plantation south toward Canada and freedom. The Underground Railroad was the only ride to the north, and the Buckingham house is one of a network of stops spread across the country. When guests get the tour of their beautiful, spacious room, owner Cassandra McDonald reveals the secret room that was added into one of the closets. Up a dark staircase that’s hidden behind a wooden panel, the attic space is big enough to fit 20 people. McDonald said at least 400 slaves passed through this home during a 15-year period.  1-888-204-4277

Where to Eat:

Hidden in downtown Zanesville, across the street from the site of the city’s original farmer’s market, is the staple eatery The Old Market House Inn. Complete with rich, dark woodwork, it has the instant feel of a comfy supper club. A 6 oz. Filet Mignon is the Inn specialty, and they also offer a Seafood Feast, including South African Lobster Tail, Canadian Sea Scallops, King Crab Cake and Orange Roughy.
http://www.theoldmarkethouseinn.com or 740-454-2555

Welcome to Zanesville!  (Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marada/  Creative Common)
Welcome to Zanesville! (Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marada/ Creative Common)

If you’re looking for a great river view while sipping a favorite microbrew, check out the Weasel Boy Brewing Company. It is the first and only brewery to operate in Zanesville since 1918, when the state instated Prohibition. The taproom is welcoming and cozy, and the House Specialties include The Albino pizza, the Carnivore and a spicy pizza called The War Dance. Fun micro brews include Ornery Otter Blonde and White Weasel Wheat Ale.  www.weaselboybrewing.com or 740-455-3767

Another local favorite is Adornetto’s Pizzeria, located right on Maple Avenue. Known for their fresh pizza dough and cheese adorned salads, you can either pick up and take out, or head inside to the cozy Tuscan inspired rooms. www.adornettos.com

If You Go:

www.visitzanesville.com
www.zmchamber.com