Saturday, May 25, 2013

Watershed Treasure Hunt! #1

I'm so excited about this Treasure Hunt, sponsored by Greater Elkhart County Stormwater Partnership. There are 50 signs placed in various places along the watershed in Elkhart County. To be eligible for the prizes, we have to collect the letters and fill in the puzzle. My 4-year-old understood the letter concept, but not what kind of sign. As we started looking for the signs, he found a sign and said, "Look, LETTERS!" He did this for many signs until he started getting used to the type of sign we were trying to find. He is reading very short Bob Books as he is learning to read and doing lots of "letter play", so letters are on his mind! We've used these to start reading with the other boys, too, and had great success as we helped them form the words without reading the books to them. We provide support, but allow them to read the simple books to us. They've all been early readers with them. I found some of our sets at garage sales, too, which is a bonus!

We started with number one with is in the southern part of the county in River Preserve County Park. We're not as familiar with this park (which is HUGE), so weren't quite sure where to start. We'd love more time to explore, but were on a mission, so did a quick walk looking to see what we could find. If you haven't been here before, I suggest finding a map as there are various places to visit along the river. We found one at a kiosk in the park.

Mulberries are forming. These will be delicious soon! There is plenty of water along the various parts of the park, along the river, and the canal. It looked like there were trails across the water.

We took a little time for some fun!

The boys found a secret path, so we split up and had my husband meet us at another parking place.

We explored nearby ponds. What beautiful greenery! A great blue heron was flying nearby. 

I liked that this Pond and Wetland section is managed by several groups working together, such as In. DNR Fish & Wildlife, Quail Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and Elkhart County Parks.

We went across the street to another section. We saw a couple of guys fishing. They didn't know anything about the signs, but my oldest son found what he called a "geocache". It was actually a letterbox, which is similar to geocaching but doesn't involve a GPS. We checked it out and put it back in its home. There was a unique, handmade stamp inside of a bird!

There was beautiful scenery along the walk. 

Plenty of room for boys to run!

Be still my heart! Cute boys becoming men!

We were actually ready to try someplace new, but my oldest son and I decided to walk a little more while the others took a rest.

There are plenty of nearby places to explore . . .

And picturesque scenes.

He even found a snake!

I love this guy. He showed me a "unique" leaf he found. It was rough on one side and fuzzy on the other. He insisted I took a picture of both sides! Cuteness.

And then he found a patch of garlic mustard . . . he knows what we do with garlic mustard at home and started at it! The county parks policy doesn't mention permission to take out garlic mustard, but I don't think they'd mind. Hmm. 

The 4-year-old spent time exploring his shadow!

I think we were along points #1, 2, and 3 on the map. Looks like a great place to explore in more depth!

With map in hand, we tried to find the next sign with a letter. This took us to Benton. It sounds like it's still part of the whole River Preserve County Park. I haven't spent much time in Benton. What do we need to know about it? Let me know if there are cool things to explore!

There is a small boat ramp connected to the river.

There are open spaces (great for playing games or kicking balls--we like to combine nature with recreation when we can!) and picnic tables.

And an entrance to a trail!

Our next stop was Shanklin Park in Goshen. We've been to the park numerous times and explored the trail along the river. See another review here. What a neat place! People were playing at the park, the baseball fields, riding bikes, kayaking in the canal, walking, having picnics, and more. This is truly a multi-use site! After the first sign taking so long to find, it was nice that this was an easy find. We used a QR app on my husband's phone to find a water tip! That's a neat feature of the signs.

More river! The walk along it is really nice!

So, after this, our route went several places. The kids wanted to play at the park, but we also knew there might be another letter nearby. It's kind of hard to tell with the map. We went across to Rieth Interpretive Center. We enjoyed a visit there before, as well as the Arbor Day celebration! A geocache is nearby, so we spent time looking for that, but didn't find it yet. Back to the park!

While the kids played, I walked along the canal looking for the next sign.

I didn't find the sign I was looking for, but did find this sign, notifying us of native plants in the area, sponsored by Cardno JFNew, a native plant nursery in Walkerton. Happy dance to find things like this!

Our last stop was the Mill Race. We're not as familiar with this area, but I read it was near Goshen's Farmers Market. Looks like a nice park with a cool sculpture! We did a quick grab and go so we could make it to our hike! It's great there are so many trails that are connected in Goshen! I'd say this journey certainly qualifies with our one little word for 2013: EXPLORE!