Hitting the Trail

Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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Today Amanda is sharing a trip she took with her family to Hunting Island State Park. It looks like a beautiful and diverse spot that should be high on any nature lover’s list of places to go when visiting the gorgeous state of South Carolina.

From Amanda:

Hunting Island State Park (South Carolina)

Hunting Island State Park encompasses over 5,000 acres of a barrier island along the coast of South Carolina, not far from the town of Beaufort.  There is a large wooded campground located right along the beach, and that is where we decided to head for our annual fall beach trip this year.  It is a beautiful and well-protected area, a bit more ‘wild’ than many beaches, and quite lovely, I think, because of that.  There is a nice, easy pace to things on the island, and it is well worth exploring if you find yourself along the SC coast.

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Some Things to Know:

Location: Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina.

Habitat: barrier island/coastal plain/saltwater marsh

Favorite Plants and Animals: Our personal favorites were the nesting ospreys, brown pelicans, dolphins (seen from afar), deer, horseshoe crabs, and live sand dollars.  There were also many (very friendly) raccoon visitors around the campsite at night, so be sure to secure your coolers and food very well if you visit the park.  Alligators and bald eagles call the island home as well, but we did not catch a glimpse of either.   As for the flora, the saw palmetto, palms, loblolly and longleaf pines, and spanish moss were all a fun change of pace from our local plants at home.

*Endangered loggerhead sea turtles use this barrier island as a nesting place and the state maintains the beaches here as a hatchery.  The season officially ended the last day of October, with a  reported number of nests this year of 39.

Special Features: State Park campground, interpretive programs, fishing piers, lighthouse and nature trails.  The historic lighthouse is the only one in the state open to the public for climbing.  Additionally, there is a fantastic nature center with many wonderful exhibits ranging from pelts and skeletons and taxidermied native wildlife to hands-on ecology exhibits and even a preserved shark(!)

Best Time of Year to Visit: We prefer to visit the beach in the fall, when insect populations are lower but the water is still warm enough to play in, though there are surely advantages to visiting in every season.

 

Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful trip, Amanda!

More about Amanda:

Amanda Riley lives in a small town in Western North Carolina with her husband, their young daughter, a cat, a small flock of chickens, and many thousands of honeybees. They have spent the last few years making their house a home and cramming as much homestead-like goodness as possible onto their relatively small lot.  Depending on the season, you’re likely to find her in the garden, out exploring local trails, watching the bees, pressing cider on a homemade press, or tapping Sugar Maples around the neighborhood and boiling down the sap in the backyard.  Amanda likes thunderstorms and strong coffee, salty ocean air and the lonesome sound of train whistles at night, the smell of horses and the color grey.  You can find more of her photography and ramblings at Sweet Potato Claire.

 

Please let us know if you have a trail, nature center, or natural history museum you would like to share here on Mud Puddles. You can contact us at kidsandnature (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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Duncan’s Cove is located on the rocky coast of Nova Scotia near the entrance to Halifax Harbor. This seemingly barren landscape is filled with an amazing variety of plant species and hearty ocean dwelling mammals and birds. The trail is tucked away in a little community but it is well worth the effort to ask around and find the trailhead.

 

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Some Things to Know About Duncan’s Cove

Location: Just outside Halifax in the community of Duncan’s Cove

Habitat: Coastal scrub and rocky shoreline

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: The seals are a big attraction and the kids love watching them pop their heads up out of the water to survey the area. The ever favorite pitcher plants can also be found here in the summer, along with a wide variety of berries.

Special Features: After a fair amount of hiking trekkers can venture up to check out a bit of history in the form of WWII bunkers. It is a reminder of the way nature plays a role in human history. We talked a lot about the chosen placement of the bunckers and how the landscape factored into those decisions.

Best Time of Year to Visit: The most favorable conditions can be found from late spring to late fall. While it would be beautiful to visit in the winter caution would be needed as ice will form on rocks making some of the trails hugging the cliffs dangerous.

 

Please let us know if you have a trail, nature center, or natural history museum you would like to share here on Mud Puddles. You can contact us at kidsandnature (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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Kearney Lake Trails (Nova Scotia, Canada)

A good friend introduced us to this trail system and it has quickly become a favorite destination for hitting the trail. The kids love the wooden walkways, abundant wildlife, and lakeside play at our typical turnaround point. At one spot there is even a boulder with just the right angle to provide a wonderful naturally made slide. This is a big hit with the little trekkers!

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Some Things to Know About Kearney Lake Trails

Location: At the end of Saskatoon Ave. near the Maskwa Aquatic Club in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (More details can be found at this website.)

Habitat: Mixed woodland and lake shore with trails taking hikers along both Kearney Lake and Charlies Lake.

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: This area is known for bird watching and there are many different types of birds to be spotted along the hike. In late spring and summer wildflowers are abundant along the trail and lake shore, while late summer and fall bring a wide variety of fungi. Squirrels can often be seen travelling their pathways in the trees or sitting on a fallen tree nibbling on a cone snack.

Special Features: Along with the wonderful views that can be found at lookout spots, there are also paths lined with wooden walkways. These walkways not only keep feet dry and protect the habitat along the trail, but they also provide a little bit of fairy tail type magic for little hikers trekking along the trails.

Best Time of Year to Visit: While winter may provide a challenge for some parts of the trail the system is open year-round and certain trails are ideal for snowshoeing. Late spring provides many opportunities for wildflower spotting, while a dip in one of the lakes can be the perfect refreshment after a long hike on a hot summer day. The mixed woodland provides wonderful color in the fall, making it an ideal hike on an autumn day.

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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 Laurie ProvincialPark (Nova Scotia, Canada)

Laurie Park is a wonderful getaway that is close to the city but provides plenty of opportunities for quiet and relaxation. With the variety of trails available there is something for just about everyone to enjoy. Our walk in early fall provided a peek at the fall colors starting to change and what was possibly our last dip of toes in the lake before the ice starts to cover everything for the winter.

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Some Things to Know About Laurie Provincial Park

Location: The Laurie Provincial Park is located just outside of Halifax in Grand Lake.

Habitat: Mixed woodland and lake shore.

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: A wide variety of birds, squirrels, chipmunks, fish, and even freshwater snails can be found. There are ferns and an array of wild flowers growing along the trails and throughout the woods.

Special Features: Camping is available mid-June through the beginning of September in a beautiful wooded campground along the lake. The lake is also open to boating and fishing. The park also has a great mix of paved, gravel and rugged trails to serve most levels of walker/hiker. In the off season there is a large parking area to accommodate those who want to use the park year-round.

Best Time of Year to Visit: While the park is accessible year-round late spring through early winter are great times to visit. The fall is especially beautiful with the many deciduous trees changing and of course camping and swimming in the summer are great.

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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Dodge Point Public Reserved Land (Newcastle, Maine)

Today we are welcoming Andrea, who is sharing a hike she took with her family in a lovely spot in Maine. This beautiful location takes a hiker from forest to tidal river, with all kinds of interesting nature and history along the way.

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Some things to know about Dodge Point

 

Location: Dodge Point Public Reserved Land is located in Newcastle Maine, about 2.5 miles south of US Route 1 on River Road.

 

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: The Dodge Point property, once a tree farm, boasts a dense canopy of mixed hardwoods, white pine, and eastern hemlock, as well as stands of tall red pine. In the spring, we hear warblers high in the treetops and see the gelatinous beads of frogspawn in the vernal pool. The river here is tidal, and along the shore, we find marine life: seaweed, periwinkle shells, hermit crabs. On a few lucky occasions, we have found a horseshoe crab shell, and once my son found a deer antler. We see gulls and other seabirds bobbing out on the water and often hear an osprey call from nearby.

 

Special Features: More than four miles of trails wind through this 500-acre property. Three of the main trails lead to the Damariscotta River, offering a variety of loop options, and the Shore Trail winds along the river, making stops at the three beaches: Pebble Beach, Sand Beach, and Brickyard Beach. The latter is named for the red bricks that litter the shore, leftovers from the brickyard that operated here in the late 1800s. Each beach offers an opportunity for a snack break, sea glass hunting, and skipping rocks. Other interesting features include the ice pond, the dock, a self-guided nature trail, vernal pools, steep ravines, and old stone walls.
The Old Farm Trail follows the route of the tree farm’s road and this wide, smooth path made Dodge Point a favorite destination for me when “hiking” meant pushing twin toddlers in a double stroller. Once the boys were big enough to hike on their own little legs, the trails offered just enough challenge and interesting stopping points to keep them moving over two or three miles.

 

Best Time to Visit: We love visiting Dodge Point as our first hike in the spring, usually on Easter or Mother’s Day, but it is a great place to go anytime of the year. On a beautiful, sunny weekend day, the small parking lot can get crowded, but once on the trails, there’s enough room to stretch out that you hardly see another soul.

 

Thank you for sharing, Andrea!

 

You can find more of Andrea’s writing and adventures with her boys at her blog Remains of the Day.

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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Marshall Gulch Trail (Summerhaven, Arizona)

Today we are welcoming KC, who is sharing a hike she took with her family in the stunning Santa Catalina Mountains of Arizona.

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Location: The Marshall Gulch Trail is located at the end of a scenic byway in the Santa Catalina Mountains outside of Summerhaven, AZ.  From Tucson, take Catalina Highway all the way to Summerhaven. Continue through the small town of Summerhaven to the trailhead at the end of the road.

Habitat: When traveling to the trail from Tucson you have to climb 8,000 feet, moving through 5 different zones from desert to Ponderosa Pine.

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: Along this trail the vegetation changes frequently depending on which direction the trail faces. Drier parts of the trail will surround you in scrub oak, alligator pines, ponderosa pines, and aspen trees. In wetter portions of the trail you’ll find ponderosa, blue spruce, oaks, ferns and so many, many wild flowers. As for the resident wildlife, you find Abert’s Squirrel, mountain lions, bobcats, black bears, ringtails, white tailed deer, rabbits and numerous lizards and snakes. If you stay near the creek you might find frogs and dragonflies.

Special Features: After driving up a winding road into the sky you’ll arrive at the top of Mt. Lemmon. If you have little ones this might just be the place you stop to have a picnic and spend your time exploring the creek and playing in the tree fort. With older ones you’ll want to hike the full loop. Either way you enjoy the cool alpine air.

The trail is a 3.5 mile loop. For this hike we chose to start on the left side of the loop. It leads you along the gulch with some stunning views of the canyon below. We turned around after about ½ a mile because my girls are still too young for the entire loop, but if you continue on and complete the loop you’ll be rewarded with a cool stream-side hike.

Geology geeks will love exploring the rocks here: a mix of granite and gneiss. You’ll find a lot of sparkly schist flakes and muscovite.

Best Time of Year to Visit: April through November. After November the trailhead parking area is usually closed due to snow. At the trailhead you will find picnic tables and a pit toilet. There is no potable water here.

Thank you for sharing, KC!

 

You can find out a bit more about KC and her adventures being a mama of two spunky little girls on her blog Olive and Owl.

 

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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Gettysburg National Military Park (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)

This week we welcome Jessica, who is sharing an often over looked and more intimate view of Gettysburg National Military Park, where she hikes often with her family. 

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Some Things to Know About Gettysburg National Military Park

Location: Gettysburg National Military Park, site of the American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg

Habitat: 5,989 acres of mature and maturing woodlands, agricultural fields, pastures and meadows

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: According to the National Parks website, Gettysburg National Military Park boasts 187 bird, 34 mammal, 17 reptile and 15 amphibian species documented to date. And, floral inventories have recorded 553 species of vascular plants, of which 410 are native.

We have seen white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, black snakes, red efts, five-lined skinks and numerous bird species. We have also experienced a pair of black vultures perched on Big Round Top as well as the breathtaking butterfly display during ‘honeysuckle season.’

Special Features: The NPS reports over 2,300 acres of the park’s landscape are planted in crops, pasture, or meadows providing the visitor with a glimpse of the local agrarian lifestyle. Over 1,600 acres of woodlots and forested habitat comprise several successional communities, from mature oak/hickory to early scrub-shrub. Wetlands dot the landscape roughly totaling 148 acres of palustrine wetland and over 26 miles of associated riparian habitat.
We consider the area around Little Round Top and Devil’s Den our stomping ground. The huge rock formations and granite outcroppings of Devil’s Den provide serious climbing fun while also providing us with an occasional skink-sighting. A quick hop, skip and a jump across Sickles Avenue and we can spot lots of frogs, turtles and occasionally a water snake in Plum Run. We enjoy exploring the grassy meadow across from Devil’s Den as well as the forest habitat leading from the bottom of Little Round Top all the way up Big Round Top Hill. In the woodland area we’ve found a Luna Moth at rest, the crazy cool Giant Leopard Moth, too. There are dozens of neat fungi species to see, including my favorite discovery, Astraeus hygrometricus, more commonly known as earthstars.

Best Time to Visit: Gettysburg National Military Park is a great destination for nature lovers year-round. Obviously the park can become a bit crowded during the summer (especially during the July 1st-3rd anniversary), but we’ve found the hiking trails are much less-traveled. Fireflies put on a spectacular show in June, while the fall foliage is breathtaking in October and November. During any season and in virtually any weather, the battlefield and surrounding landscape is not to be missed!

Thank you for sharing with us, Jessica!

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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Huishinish Point, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides (Scotland)

This week we welcome back Lisa, who took a beautiful trip with her family to a gorgeous area in Scotland. This wonderfully diverse region treated them to a variety of sea jellies, beetles, diving gannets, stunning views, and so much more. 

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Some interesting things to know:

Location: Huishinish Point, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Habitat: Beach, upland hills, hill loch and machair—one of the world’s rarest habitats, only to be found in the far northwest of Ireland and the northwestern Isles of Scotland. (Click here to learn more about the machair habitat.)

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: When we visited, blooms of several kinds of jellyfish decorated the sea waters. We found quite a few species of beetle in the machair, including a Scavenger Beetle. But our favourite was watching the gannets dive into the water at speeds of up to 70 mph as they fished in the waters between Huishinish and the island of Scarp.

Special Features: To access Huishinish, it’s a long and winding drive through some of Scotland’s most rugged and unspoilt countryside. En route, look out for the short, flat hike to the Eagle Observatory to spot some Golden Eagles, or just to take in the stunning scenery.
Once at Huishinish, keep an eye out for basking sharks, gannets, terns and other sea birds. Take a short circular hike around the point to the loch and find yourselves on a deserted beach, where the only footprints are made by sheep (please note that the path hugs a hillside and may be unsafe for very young or unsteady hikers). You’re likely to see broken down stone croft houses—a reminder of the Highland Clearances. And this year we were lucky enough to witness the local farmers shearing their sheep—using traditional hand shears.

Best time to visit: If you expect the weather to be changeable, you’ll never be disappointed in Scotland. Bring waterproofs and sun hats, midge spray and sun cream. Anytime is a good time to visit the Outer Hebrides, but to enjoy the wildflowers in the machair and good clear views, go in early to mid-summer.

 

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your amazing trip with us!

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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Carter Notch Hut (White Mountains, New Hampshire)

Tucked in among the tree lined passes and hidden lakes of the White Mountains, the Appalachian Mountain Club maintains a group of huts, available for overnight stays by hikers who walk the backcountry trail leading to them. The Carter Notch Hut sits at the end of a 3.8 mile hike in, a beautiful trail covered in large rocks that make it easier for kids to walk than some of the other neighboring hikes. The huts make for a great solution for families wanting to introduce their kids to backpacking without the added work of bringing along a tent or cooking all three meals each day.

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Some Interesting Things to Know about Carter Notch Hut

Location: The White Mountains of New Hampshire, along a section of the Appalachian Trail.

Habitat: The trail to the hut, as well as the area around Carter Notch, is characterized by densely forested streams and rocky trails that lead up the various peaks of the White Mountains. The nearest to the Carter Notch hut is Wildcat A, about a mile or so from the hut itself.

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: This area is teeming with the good stuff! From bears to bugs, there is some of everything worth looking for. Chipmunks, various beetles, and toads were the most common creatures on seen on our recent weekend trip. Also worth noting is the pond just at the end of the trail that brings hikers to the hut; it is full of spatterdock, a type of yellow waterlily that is incredibly interesting and beautiful.

Special Features: One of the greatest things about hiking anywhere on the Appalachian Trail is watching the through hikers (people starting the trail in Georgia and hiking all the way to Maine) come by. Interesting and inspirational, seeing such dedicated lovers of the outdoors is great exposure for kids, and the camaraderie that develops among hikers doing any portion of the A.T. is pretty great too.

Best Time to Visit: The hut is actually open year round, but the winter months don’t offer the perks of the summer season. During the summer months, the hut is full service, and the “croo” there makes both breakfast and dinner for the campers each day. The hut offers bunk beds for snoozing in after your day of hiking as well.

Website: http://www.outdoors.org/lodging/huts/

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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Cleveland Beach Provincial Park (Nova Scotia, Canada)

Occasionally you come across a place that you enjoy so much that you return again and again, and it never seems to get old. Cleveland Beach is such a place; with it’s freshwater lake filled with tadpoles, small fish, ducks, and various insects and it’s sandy beach leading to tide pools, a forested hiking trail, and a rocky point covered with sea shells there always seems to be something new to see.

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Some Interesting Things to Know

Location:Cleveland Beach Provincial Park (Nova Scotia, Canada)

Habitat: This beach has a freshwater lake, brackish marshland, both sandy and rock beaches, tide pools, and a forested point.

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: There are a wide variety of bird species that frequent the area including: gulls, cormorant, black and Mallard ducks, blue heron, kingfisher, and swallows to name a few. In the tide pools hermit crabs, small green crabs, mussels, periwinkles snails and small fish have been found. The plentiful wildflowers that line the trail start to bloom in late spring and cycle through the seasons until they give their seeds up in the fall. Favorite flowers include Queen Annes Lace, wild daisies, beach peas and wild roses.

Special Features: The variety of habitats makes for exciting wildlife viewing and exploration. When little ones grow weary of one experience, they can easily move on to find amazingly different spots to explore, all in one place.

Best Time to Visit: This location has something to offer in every season. While summer offers the classic beach experience of splashing in the waves and building sand castles, it still has much to offer for rock hunting and wildlife viewing in the other seasons. In the fall the sand is pulled away from the main beach area by the shift in weather, thus making for a rocky beach most of fall, winter, and spring.

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