It has been just over a week since I returned home after Nature Summit 2016. I’ll admit that for the first few days I did seriously consider putting my tent up in the backyard because I really missed spending all day, every day outside. Summit was fabulous as usual – I got to participate in many outdoor workshops. I went for a ride on a zip line, climbed almost to the top of this;
And of course I did a lot of hiking through the woods.
I know I really enjoy a nature hike and so do the children in my care. I also know that, even in the city, there are many places where we can hike and feel like we are out in the wilderness. However, a city hike can be pretty special too – especially to a group of boys who can tell me the name and purpose of almost every type of construction vehicle. 🙂
My little group and I have spent the last few months exploring the the nearby neighbourhoods. Our city hikes vary in length from just a few blocks to up to 8 km. They can take anywhere from a half hour to several hours and it is rarely the children that suggest we’ve been walking too long and it is time to go back. Pretty amazing when you consider that these are 2 and 3 year olds.
So, what do we see when we go on an 8km city hike? Back hoes, buses, dump trucks and trains. Cement trucks, front loaders, street cleaners and cranes. Yes, there is a lot of noisy traffic but there are also many quiet spots too. In fact, one of our favourite paths takes us through the cemetery.
We look for birds – the children know where all the nest boxes are located (there is a nest box in the above picture but it is hard to see). We listen to the wind in the trees and watch the river in the distance. Inevitably the river sparks the topic of bridges – which one will we cross today? Within walking distance of the cemetery there are FIVE bridges we can go over, and THREE that we can go under.
There are several more bridges we can explore if we pack a lunch and make it a day long hike but that tends to be too much even for this active little group. Once this past summer we did make it to two distant bridges but the children were obviously tired and there was not much excitement. Besides, when we stick to the familiar, nearby areas there is a whole more to our hikes than just walking.
In some cases we can cross one bridge and examine the structure of another bridge at the same time.
There are bridges for people, bikes, cars and trains. Only some of our bridges cross over water. Others cross over roads or train tracks and give us a whole lot more to talk about. The children often complained that there were never any trains on these tracks when we crossed over them – but twice this summer there was a train here! So of course we had to stop for a while to watch.
One time the train was moving so very slowly that we were able to continue our walk, loop around and walk under the same train we had just been standing over.
Standing under a train bridge while a train slowly squeaked and creaked, clanged and banged overhead was a new experience. Trains on bridges sound much different than cars on bridges. The children also enjoyed yelling ‘ECHO!’ as they do every time we venture under bridges.
We don’t spend all our time on noisy city streets. For contrast we also explore parks and riverbanks along the way. We get to hear and smell the difference between the roadway and the forest. On this particular hike the ‘big’ boys were with us and the ‘littles’ enjoyed showing them all our favourite spots.
Just as we use the bridges to compare the traffic and trains from above and below we can also do the same with the river. Standing on the bridge we watch the water flow, count geese and ducks, and watch sticks and other debris float by but there is the noise of the traffic crossing the bridge too.
It is amazing how just a few steps away from a busy road can feel like a totally different world. What can you hear now? Our river bank trails offer another perspective of the water. We can get closer to the water – but not too close, this is not a swimming river.
There is a tree they want to climb. Normally I’d say yes to a tree climbing adventure but a quick risk assessment resulted in a ‘No’ to climbing on this tree;
Yes, I love a good nature hike but a city hike offers something special too. We could read books or watch videos and memorize facts about cars and trucks, trees and birds, rivers and roads or we can go for a city hike, experience it, and begin to understand the impact we have on the natural environment.