Shelter Building at Teatown

Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining is an 834-acre preserve featuring 15-miles of trails running through a variety of habitats from forests to wetlands, a nature center which is home to numerous live animal exhibits (both indoor and outdoor), and an educational facility which offers myriad fantastic programs for children and adults alike. Teatown’s educators work with school groups, summer campers, weekend naturalists, scout troops and environmental stewards to further their mission to, in a nutshell, conserve open space and sustain the diversity of wildlife, plants and habitats for future generations. It is an incredible place to learn and explore and have fun on the trails and we spent this past Saturday morning doing just that.

The initial plan was to hike around Teatown Lake on the Lakeside Trail, a 1.5 mile loop around Teatown Lake. It’s an easy trail for families, with a level grade and pretty scenery, and at only 1.5 miles it was definitely attainable for a morning hike. The trail-side diversions, however, were plentiful, and it soon became apparent that it was more important to go with the adventures provided by those diversions than to stick with the plan for making it around the lake!

The first stop was the boathouse which offered the kids nice access to the ice-covered lake from its cement foundation. There is also a series of railroad-tie stairs leading off the trail into the woods where there are fallen trees and boulders for climbing and exploring. The biggest sticks were collected and brought lake-side to chop at the ice and to use to try to fish out the chunks of ice they managed to break off. Limbs that jutted out into the lake provided even better access a bit further out along the ice. Parents chatted in the warm January sun, the mild 40-degree day a welcome reprieve after several weeks in the low 20s, drinking coffee and watching as the kids did their thing. After a while we encouraged them to head along the trail, their groans of protest over having to leave the boathouse quieted by the promise of the upcoming waterfall and brook.

It was this location where their play really began to flourish and I realized that we probably wouldn’t make it any further around the lake. Upon reaching the waterfall the older kids made a beeline down the Northwest Trail which runs parallel to Bailey Brook in a beautiful wooded area. A natural bridge of logs and rocks traversed the brook between the trail and a glorious tree with a cave-like hollow in its trunk. The kids were quickly drawn into this magical setting and went to work gathering sticks from the forest floor and building a “house” by the cave in the tree. They worked together collecting the sticks and passing them to one another across the bridge. The helped each other to cross the brook, the older kids showing the younger ones where to step while parents helped the smallest ones to find their way. Instructions were being called out about which kinds of sticks were needed and where they were to go as the shelter began to take form.Some of the children spent lot of time simply going back and forth across the brook, both with and without the assistance of the grown ups, while others were diligently working on the shelter. Several kids brought their lunches across to eat with pride upon the table-of-sticks they constructed inside their house.

For the most part, the parents sat along the bank of the brook near the trail watching as the kids’ adventure unfolded. We talked about the fact that many of us spent our childhoods playing like the kids were today. In those days, however, we were out in our own woods, without parental supervision, building forts, mucking about in streams, finding our own brand of unplugged fun. The kids engaged in this morning’s play intrinsically, the natural environment offering the canvas on which their play took shape while they imagined and created and lost themselves in their world of fantasy.

For a while longer we ate our clementines and tossed rocks into the waterfall and watched the ducks swim along the brook as the kids played on this sunny afternoon. And then we headed back down the trail to continue with our Saturdays, wondering what adventures we’d find next time. Until then…

Speak Your Mind