June 22, 2015

The Dargatz Family Heads Home. . .

As we left the river trail after a very relaxing day, the anxiety and adventure level picked up as a volunteer naturalist stopped us in our tracks. The trail up ahead was temporarily closed as this open field adjacent to it was currently being used as a triage area. Next tot he park is the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, a mountain road that provides exquisite views of the mountains and surrounding areas. However, at times, it has blind spots, twists and turns, and obstacles that could be dangerous if not giving the road 100% attention. Unfortunately, an accident had occurred with injuries serious enough that a hospital visit was necessary. That being said, because the nearest hospital was quite a distance away, this individual was to be transferred via helicopter. Since it would be nearly impossible to land the chopper near the parkway, an ambulance transported the injured party to the large field (where we enjoyed the workings of a variety of groundhogs) at the opening of the park, within 50 yards of where we were just finishing up our hike. While this did put our adventure on a standstill and involved an unfortunate injury, it did allow us to witness an event most visitors probably don't ever get to see.

Once the scene was cleared up, we traveled up that same Blue Ridge Parkway to soak in some final scenic views as our trip was coming to an end. On our way, Embry identified and cheered on every tunnel and "bikercycle." After about a 45-minute trek up the parkway, we stopped at the Rabb Knob overlook for a final snack and view. I even took a short trek into the woods on a tranquil trail near the provided picnic table.

However, with the day fading, we knew it was time to hit the road and head for home. And while hitting the road, we almost literally hit an elk near the road connecting the parkway to the park.

We traveled one last time through Cherokee, where oddly enough an election had a person named Owle running for president of Birdtown. Embry captured the camera and took a variety of selfies. We dreaded getting back to the cabin because we knew that meant packing. But we made it back, packed up and passed out, ready for the morning trip to the Atlanta airport.

We woke up to the sound of rain. Throughout our morning, the rain went through periods of intensification, a sign I interpreted as a message to get home. Before hitting up the airport, we stopped for fuel and one final rental car cleaning.

We arrived to a gloomy Atlanta afternoon, dropped off the car, made it through the maze of the airport, boarded the plane, and rested up for the final leg of our journey. Luckily, Embry took the rest very seriously as just like our trip here, she slept from takeoff to touchdown. We arrived in Wisconsin, greeted to sunny skies and warmer temperatures.

Adios Appalachia. Sayonara Smokies. Hello Home!

June 2, 2015

The Dargatz Family Heads South . . .Serenity Now!

As our trip through the Smokies was coming to a close, I realized I hadn't snapped the obligatory picturesque view of the road sign that detailed your presence on the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway. Luckily, the morning of our last full day in the mountains, offered up a decent opportunity.

With it being our final full day, we wanted to take full advantage. With the abundance of exhausting elevation changes the previous day andg crowds wherever we turned, we wished our final day would allow us to enjoy nature in a more calm and relaxed environment.

Wish granted!

We headed to a section of the mountains pretty close to where we started a few days earlier: Mingus Mill. This rustic mill reminded us a great deal of the Old Falls Village/Old World Wisconsin historic buildings we had visited in the past. In other words: we loved it! After the tour of the mill, we found and traversed the adjacent Mingus Creek Trail. Here is where we found the peace and quiet we had been desperately searching. We also found a TON of butterflies and Embry of course found a new walking stick

This trail had lots to offer. Besides stopping at every wildflower she saw, Embry enjoyed the many colorful butterflies. With the trail crossing over the creek at three different locations, we had three new bridges to cross and three new places to toss sticks in the water. Through much of the hike, the only sounds we heard  sounded like raindrops. However, with the sky perfectly clear, we knew it had to be something else. Upon closer inspection, every time we stepped near the edge of the trial, swarms of tiny grasshoppers jumped. In essence, it was raining grasshoppers. Other interesting landmarks along the trail were the old and now vacated shooting range for park rangers and a pioneer cemetery. Pretty cool historical stuff.

After this tranquil trek, we hopped back in the rental car (now much fresher smelling than previously, of you recall what happened) and headed back to the trail we started our mountain adventures on: the Oconaluftee River Trail adjacent to the visitor center.
Before we headed back out, we needed nourishment. So we took a break at the outdoor patio of the visitors center where low and behold, an educational nature program was about to begin. This was right up our alley so we stayed for the show. We learned all about different park animals in the Mammal Mania presentation. Embry was an active participant, often mimicking the actions of the other children, especially the part involving putting on your elk antlers and stomping like a skunk. In conversing with the presenter after the program,  Embry's enthusiasm with the rogue chickens who wandered away from the pen was mentioned. The presenter recruited Embry to chase the chickens back to the farm. She willingly accepted this task and could be seen clapping at the fowl while announcing "come here chickens."

Once we coaxed our little one away from the chickens, we headed back on the river trail. As was customary, we found new hiking sticks and headed to the river for more stick races. We didn't see any snakes this time around but we did hear many birds. Embry made sure to point to her ears and see "hear it" pretty much every time a bird called so this walk had quite a relaxed pace. We also heard the cackle of an American Crow muffled by the fact that it had caught a rather sizable toad. However, these sights paled in comparison to our biggest visual, figuratively and literally. We were able to find something we had been searching for for pretty much the duration of the trip. . .

I remember seeing them as we took a curve, whispering in Jillian's general direction, and taking quiet steps from a safe distance to get a better look at this beautiful creature. Embry loved the "big deer. (we are working on our North American woodland mammal identification.)"
But she loved napping even more and before we finished up the hike, she was out. But she wouldn't be out for long. This particular hike had a very unique and loud ending.
Find out what woke Embry up from her slumber next time.

June 1, 2015

A Readers Review

Book 11 has come and gone. While it has brought much new excitement and information into my eyes, it has also added many more texts to my ever-growing list of books to read. 

My educational philosophy evolves continually. I have really had a transformational year in terms of my thinking, my philosophy, and my overall approach to working with young children. While I can't necessarily make all the changes I feel are needed, I can certainly tweak my instructional strategies and approaches to improve the long-term academic, behavioral, and social successes of all he children I am blessed to work with each and every day.

This book helped me continue to solidify my belief that getting kids outdoors everyday and allowing ample opportunity for choice and play are not only beneficial, but necessary, for their development.

I look forward to continue researching more about these topics and ultimately, using them with my students.