“Hey, Come Look At This!” – Our First ParkQuest, at Sandy Point State Park
“Hey, come look at this!” was shouted at least 50 times to draw attention to a tiny red berry in the grass, a rock sprinkled with glitter, the biggest dragonfly I’ve ever seen, and many more “discoveries”. And the fish. “Where the forest ends and the bay begins” started with a large puddle along the marsh edge – home to a frog and dozens of little fish. That puddle kept the girls entertained for about a half hour, trying to catch one of the fish in a water bottle; testing the softness of the ground with sticks; chasing butterflies and moths; and sneaking up on dragonflies.
The ParkQuest itself was secondary, just a structure to give us some direction to explore nature in a new setting. I almost had to bribe the girls to leave the puddle so we could follow the next clue and collect our last stamp.
That just opened up an entirely new world. A canoe awaited us at the end of the trail. We had earlier decided we would not do the “bonus quest” – canoeing around Mezik Pond. Since I’ve only been in a kayak once, I wasn’t ready to tackle that along with two young girls. But by the end of our first ParkQuest, the girls were over their distaste of dirt and the screaming whenever we saw a spider had ended. All of us were eager to try new things. But the canoeing will have to wait for another outing.
This trip was our first ever ParkQuest. Our family team , “Adventures & Giggles” includes my sister (not along for this trip), a niece (8 years old), and a neighbor’s child (10 years old). It was my first trip alone with either of the children and the first time they had met. It ends up they go to the same school, and they got along splendidly.
This ParkQuest was hosted at Sandy Point State Park and took us on a hike through sections of the park not visited very often. We followed a worksheet with clues leading us to the next stop, where we stamped our worksheet and read an index card of info about squirrels, deer, and other animals. I was very grateful that the clues were designed to be interesting & clever, yet the adult on the team (me!) was able to figure it out. Just in case …
The girls reading their first clue:
and we’re off and running!:
Stamping our clue sheet:
We followed a gravel & shell trail along the picnic area. One of our girls told everyone we passed, “Hey, do you know this trail is made of sea shells?!” She was fascinated by that. The next section drew us into the forest where the girls collected pretty rocks to take home, stared at uprooted trees, and looked for animal tracks in the soft ground.
Next, we came across that puddle at the marsh edge and then followed a boardwalk through the marsh. The trail ended with another short walk through a wooded section, ending at the pond’s edge and that canoe. By then we were hungry; our snack & ice cream were back at the car. The return trip was pretty quick, but included climbing and jumping on the big rocks edging the trail. We talked with a few other families about the ParkQuest on our way back.
Leaving a note in the stamp box:
As we ate in the shade under a tree, one of the girls said she could stay there forever. One of the things they liked best about the outing was the quiet. I didn’t expect to hear that; I was surprised that children of that age are aware of constant noise. But both girls have younger siblings, and one lives in a court with a lot of kids – both have noisy homes. They were thrilled to get away, have some peace & quiet for themselves, and were reluctant to go back home.
On our next ParkQuest, I’ll take food and extra drinks along with us so that we can stay on the trail longer, to linger and explore as much as we wish. And we’ll try to keep the rest of the day open as well, so we can stay at each park and see what else is there.
Every shout of “Hey, come look at this!!” and the question “Is there a ParkQuest we can do every day?” meant that our first outing was a success and we’re eager for the next one.