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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 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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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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Victoria Park (Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada)

We recently went camping and attended the Nova Scotia Bluegrass Festival in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia. While the intent of the trip was to listen to a whole lot of great bluegrass music (which we did), we also wanted to explore some nature while we were there. One place we had heard a lot of amazing things about, and really wanted to see, was just minutes from where we were camped. One evening the kids and I took off to Victoria Park to see just what all the fuss was about and we were not disappointed. We traveled through town, parked next to the play structures and band stand, walked across a wide expanse of manicured grass to the forest – then found ourselves entering a magical land as we wondered the wooded paths, stairways, and trails. This is a spot we will return to again and again.

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Some Interesting Things to Know

Location: Victoria Park, in the heart of Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada

Habitat: 400 acres of mixed woodland forest and gorge with riparian zones

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: We spotted many squirrels and birds during our visit. (One local birder has submitted a list of almost 50 birds they have identified in the park.) There were many wildflowers blooming along the waterways, and the first mushrooms were starting to pop up along the wooded trails. We even spotted some indian pipe growing on a slope – it is always exciting to see this unique plant.

Special Features: This park features two wonderful waterfalls accessible by well maintained trails. You can also find many beautiful wooden walkways, wells, a covered bridge extending over the gorge, and the amazing 175- step Jacob’s Ladder, which takes you right up a steep slope to enjoy stunning views. There are also neat geologic features in the gorge and along the trails.

Best Time to Visit: We have only been in summer, but I imagine the falls would be stunning in spring when the snow starts to melt and in fall with the mix forest changing and giving a beautiful display of fall colors.

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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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Rhossili Beach and South Gower Coast (Wales)

This week we are welcoming Lisa, who is sharing wonderful spot in Wales. Not only did Lisa and her family have the chance to take in some amazing views, but they also had some great close encounters with wonderful nature finds!

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Some interesting things to know:
Location: Rhossili Beach and South Gower Coast, Gower Peninsula, near Swansea, Wales
Habitat: Beach and lowland heath
Favorite Plant and Animal Life: We were delighted to find Six-Spot Burnet Moths and their pupal cases, crab moults, sea urchin tests and cuttle fish bones. Gulls and gannets circle overhead. The downs are home to the rare black bog ant, yellow whitlow grass and one of my favorite endangered birds, the chough.
Special Features: Although you might want to head straight for the unspoilt 3 mile beach, it’s work delaying the beach in favour of a hike. After a short but stiff climb, walk along the Rhossili Downs, the highest point on the Gower Peninsula rewards hikers with views of Welsh mountain ponies, the Devon coastline, Lundy Island and West Wales. Towards the end of the hike, experience a bit of World War II history by taking in the remains of a hill-side radar station. Once at the beach, at low tide you might see the remains of the Helvetia, shipwrecked in 1887. You can take a walk toward the tidal island of Worm’s Head and see if you can spot the local colony of grey seals and finish off with a locally-made scoop of ice cream in one of the small local shops.
Best time to visit: Rhossili can be very busy in the summer with busloads of tourists disembarking in the large car park. Escape the crowds by walking along the downs, visiting early in the morning or later in the evening or bringing your kite for a springtime or autumn adventure on the beach.

Thank you for sharing your amazing time along the shore, Lisa!

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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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Bisti Wilderness (New Mexico)

Today we are traveling to New Mexico to visit the Bisti Wilderness, one part of the larger Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness. It is a stunning landscape that while barren on the surface, is filled with fascinating geology and hardy wildlife.

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Some Interesting Things to Know

Location: Bisti Wilderness is south of Farmington, New Mexico

Habitat: Badlands that were once part of a wetland delta near an ancient sea.

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: Ants and a few birds flying overhead were the only forms of wildlife we saw on our visit, but cotton tail rabbit, coyote and prairie dogs live there, along with a variety of birds, reptiles and insects.

Special Features: The rock formations are clearly the most visible feature and provide a wonderful look at the geologic layers that make up the history of the region. Upon closer inspection one can find fossils, petrified wood, and a variety of other rocks.

Best Time to Visit: Spring, early summer, and fall are the best times to visit. The high heat of summer would not make a pleasant visit, and the road can become impassible in the winter.

Happy Canada Day to our Canadian friends! 

Click here for a peek at some beautiful parts of Canada we have shared here on the blog.

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