Finally Found Our Forest!

“Little soft clouds played happily in a blue sky, skipping from time to time in front of the sun as if they had come to put it out, and then sliding away suddenly so that the next might have his turn. ” Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne

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.

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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.

Forest day 6

Rose oohed and ahhed as she examined squash and melons hanging from the vine.

She chased, but screamed when she actually touched, a cricket.

We hiked the Quarry Path trail (don’t be too impressed – it is a very short trail)

We read the first chapter of “Winnie-the-Pooh” under a canopy of trees.

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Let’s not forget Rose’s collection of treasures: nuts, acorn, leaves, and a stick.

Pretty good first day. Can’t wait to go back next week.


Library Larry’s Big Day – Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center

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Forest School

“The best kept classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky” Margaret McMillan (c1925) Nursery Schools and the Pre-school Child NSA Publication

climbing tree

I was so proud when I could finally climb the walnut tree. I had conquered the apple a couple years earlier, but the lowest branches of the walnut were higher than my little arms could reach even by leaping off the ground. When I finally learned to shimmy up the trunk so I could pull myself into it’s outstretched arms, I felt so close to heaven. It was my favorite spot in our yard. Who needed a pink highrise house for Barbie? My Barbie and Skipper would ride by their hair in my clenched teeth as I took them to their tree house in the sky. The leaves and branches became their home.  I discovered Amelia Bedilia, Pickles the Fire Cat, and Danny and the Dinosaur in the warmth of its branches.

Growing up in Portland, Oregon afforded me the luxury of discovering and falling in love with the outdoors. Our yard was overgrown with wild berries, which brush created natural hiding places. It hosted an apple and walnut tree and a few fruitless ones, including the one which gave me secret passageway into my bedroom window on the second story.  And the scent of lilacs will forever give me the warm fuzzy feeling of home, as we had them in front of the house.

Day trips took me to the mountains, were I remember forging a beaver dam to make swimming hole in a mountain creek. Another trip took me to the ocean, were I searched long hours for whole sand dollars. In later elementary school, fishing trips were a time to get by myself, sit on a large rock or log and sing praises to God as I listened  to the stream rippling over the rocks.  I felt completely at peace with myself and with the world.

Guess its mid-life crisis that makes me want to get back to my roots. I married a city boy and we raised our older kids in the Dallas Fort Worth suburbs, and I drove them to and fro to this activity and that. They have grown into godly wonderful individuals who had different growing up experiences than I did. But, I desire to share my love of nature with my little one. It will just take a little more effort since we live in a subdivision that mowed down all the trees before building “little boxes made of ticky tacky … little boxes all the same.” (Malvina Reynolds, Little Boxes)

This new found desire has lead me to research Forest Schools. “The philosophy of Forest Schools is to encourage and inspire individuals of any age through an innovative, long term, educational approach to outdoor play and learning in a woodland environment.” (https://www.forestschools.com/).

Off the trail adventure

Spiritually, my goal for Rose and myself, is to experience and worship God in a new way.

The Bible is clear that nature is important and it brings us a greater understanding of who God is.

“God’s invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Romans 1:20)

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  (Psalm 19:1)

0 July 13Nature helps us understand ourselves and our place in the world.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him” (Psalm 8: 3 – 4)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:25 – 30)

I want my daughter to learn to worship outside the church walls, experiencing nature as it worships the Living God.

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“Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord.”  (1 Chronicles 16:33)

“the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12)

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD.” (Psalm 96:11 – 12)

I pray that someday Rose will sit alone on the side of a running stream under a canape of trees and lift her voice in praise the Creator of all.