It has been on my list for months–literally months–to visit the Saw Mill River Audubon’s Pruyn Sanctuary. And while the summer season is probably the best time to be there in order to enjoy the full glory of the sanctuary’s butterfly garden and habitat, this overcast, late September afternoon was beautiful in it’s own way.
The goldenrod was everywhere as was a sure favorite with kids, milkweed, it’s overflowing pods just begging to be cracked open sending forth the fairy-like seeds contained within. The sanctuary hosts a variety of ecosystems all within the confines of a rather compact acreage (a bit over 40) making it a wonderful and accessible spot for wildlife viewing and exploration of all sorts.
The beginning of the Pruyn trail takes you past the butterfly garden along a grassy path which features little enclosed off-shoots that were practically surrounded by shoulder-height golden rod and meadow grasses.These tiny enclaves, many of which had a small tree in the center, were perfect spots in which a small person could run, giggling, to hide. As we headed down the trail the kids were instructed to look for the green blazes that would mark the trail we would be following that day through the woods and wetlands of the sanctuary.
Like our recent Saturday on the Farm, today’s hike was replete with the discovery of mini-beasts and evidence of all sorts of wildlife from paper wasps to the much loved wooly-bear caterpillar. The one we found today had a particularly wide brown section and I don’t know if that old tale is true about the width of a wooly bear’s brown fur and the severity of the coming winter, but if it is, we’re in for a cold, snowy one!
We also encountered yet another fuzzy creature and this time, after the hickory tussock debacle from last week, the kids looked only with their eyes! So what did my research turn up this time? This one was either an American Dagger Moth or a Spotted Apatelodes. The Dagger Moth has been known be a stinger while the Spotted Apatelodes does not have that designation. In any event, better check these critters out from a distance. My husband is a jazz pianist and years ago he told me about a mantra musicians have about taking a solo during a tune–when in doubt, lay out. I think that just about fits the bill for fuzzy critters, too.
The kids were delighted by the sections of boardwalk which led us through the swamp and enjoyed perching on benches in a
little ampitheater that was built into the path with the challenge to “sit very quietly and listen.” They were even more thrilled by the bushwhacking that followed as we headed off trail for a while between the blue ‘ridge’ trail and the white ‘fern’ trail. And though the blue blazes of the Ridge trail were within our sights the whole time, it really felt like we were roughing it for a while!
It was the rocks which lured them off the trail to begin with–those huge glacial boulders you see all through the parks in Westchester County calling to the kids to come and climb.We’ve had several of these climbing adventures on Kids Unplugged outings and it offers parents yet another opportunity to push their comfort levels just a bit to allow the kids the chance to take some risks. Fighting the urge to hover, we hung back just far enough. To a group of parents I posed, “Where were we when we were their age?” and one mom said, “We were on the rock. But we were by ourselves.” And she’s right. We were on the rock, literally and metaphorically, climbing, testing, learning to negotiate our footing, learning how high was too high, learning that if our foot hit loose dirt we might go down, hobbling home with skinned knees and a sense of pride and accomplishment. And yes, we probably did some stupid things, took risks we shouldn’t have, made some poor choices, twisted some ankles, bruised our chutzpuh. But the lessons, experiences and confidence gained from these adventures were likely worth it. So we’ll try to give our kids the gift of similar freedom and exploration in this time that just isn’t like it was when we were kids. And why is that, exactly?
We had a great hike today. Let’s do it again soon.
Debbie Allan’s slideshow: