Dallas/Fort Worth is not known for its forests, and nature … botanical gardens and Cowtown don’t count. My search for the perfect “Forest Day” spot seemed fruitless, my criteria larger than my resources.
Here’s my check list:
- Within an hour drive (preferably 30 minutes)
- Can walk away from anything manmade in less than a half mile
- Can access all year round
- Permit-able to go off trail
- Permit-able to dig, pick, collect, climb trees and touch anything
- Has body of water
First I researched on-line. Then we visited some sites. One was a single trail with no water, one picnic tables by a lake, one grasslands with no trees. A nearby state park seemed the most logical, until it was closed for an undetermined amount of time due to recent flooding damage.
Drum roll please … today we found it!
Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center, in Denton, TX.
I have to admit – the name scared me – it has the word “Center” in it, making me think it was man built.
Rose and I were the only ones there today. We visited with a Center staff person who told us all about the property. Its very purpose is education, and students can dig, collect, climb, and stick their toes in the creek. The policy is “leave the trails at your own risk.” It is a system of trails which leads through varies ecosystems: grassland prairie, creek, river, wetland, and FOREST (yes a forest does exist in North Texas for all you skeptics out there). To walk the trail through all the ecosystems is only just over a three mile hike. It does have a small center, with touchable items like an armadillo shell, snake skins, coyote tail, rocks, fossils, and live turtles, all of which have been found on the property. It also has a small organic garden that the kids can help weed and pick and eat produce. Did I mention that it is only 40 minutes from our home? Check, check, check, check. Icing on the cake, on Thursday afternoons (that’s our Forest Day) a Master Naturalist runs a homeschool program for a couple of hours.
Today, we had a picnic by the center. Rose explored the Center’s collection of touchables.
She chased, but screamed when she actually touched, a cricket.
We read the first chapter of “Winnie-the-Pooh” under a canopy of trees.
Pretty good first day. Can’t wait to go back next week.