Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Staycation Adventure, Week 1

(Since last Monday was July 4th, Monday, July 11 was the first vacation day I've taken this summer--making it Week 1 of our Staycation Adventure. My plan is to take each Monday off to have a fun and learning adventure with my daughter. More about our summer staycation plans here).

Discovery Pond: My daughter and I had two adventures last week. On Monday, we visited Discovery Pond at the Tacoma Nature Center. Adding to the specialness, my daughter's daycare teacher has decided to join us for each Monday's adventure, so all of her friends are coming along. Discovery Pond is a play area for kids designed as a natural environment that includes rocks to climb, caves to explore, a pond (with fish!) to rock-hop across, a treehouse to hang out in, and an old-fashioned water pump. A staff person told us that they were amazed that the fish have survived since Discovery Pond opened last year. They were sure that either the fish would die or the raccoons would get them, and neither has happened.

The kids had a ball in the play area, followed by a picnic lunch. We also visited a little of the inside of the Nature Center, and the kids got to see frogs, turtles, snakes and lots of bugs! As a follow up, I asked my daughter what she wanted to learn more about, and she said turtles, so we checked out a few books from the library about them.

Tiptoe through the Tidepools: I learned that day that Metro Parks Tacoma and the Nature Center were sponsoring a free "Tiptoe through the Tidepools" event at Titlow Beach on Saturday (yesterday), one of several they've held this summer. My daughter and I visited and it was fascinating. I learned a new word, "estuary," which is an area where salt water and fresh water come together. The Puget Sound is one of the world's most prolific estuaries, replete with sea creatures that are most visible at low tide. Estuaries are also perfect habitat for salmon, which is why this area is known for them.

My daughter and I were able to see and touch a variety of crabs--and watched a poor kid get pinched by one :( -- along with seaweed, barnacles, starfish, and the most amazing 20-legged sunflower sea star (see pic below). We're following up by reading more about tidepools here in the Northwest.

I'm really starting to appreciate the natural environment here in Washington, and probably will even more so after we visit Mt. Rainier, which is the most prominent mountain in the contiguous US (prominence is the measure of the distance from a mountain's lowest point to its summit), and one of the world's potentially deadliest volcanoes.

I never thought anything could compare to the breathtaking beauty of a New England fall, complete with apple picking and scrumptious apple cider donuts. But I'm learning that Washington state has a unique beauty of its own.

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