Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Children Outside

Nature Watch
September 24, 2008

By Susan Benson,
CNHM Director of Education

Take A Child Outside Week is September 24-28 this year. This initiative is a program designed to help break down barriers that keep children from discovering the natural world. The goal is to help children across the country develop a better understanding and appreciation of the environment in which they live, while increasing their enthusiasm for its exploration.
If you are looking for a beautiful place to spend an afternoon, look no further than the Cable area to the Forest Lodge Nature Trail. There exists a loop of trails with a wonderful blend of northwoods habitat. The terrain is perfect for an afternoon stroll, and the trails range in length from 1.2 to 2 miles, making it enjoyable for any level of hiker. The trails are located on the right side of Garmisch Road, left off of County Highway M.

When you arrive at this little gem, the sun beats warmly across tall grasses and recent wildflowers (asters, yellow coneflower, and goldenrod) that border the first stretch of trail. Here, chipping sparrows fly up before your feet, the heady scent of sweet fern reaches your nose, and the soft hum of pines meets your ears. Further on, you will reach the cool shade of a hardwood forest. Here, migrating birds weave through the sturdy trees, and mischievous squirrels and chipmunks dance about the branches. The trail passes a bog, where labrador tea bursts from the deep sponge of sphagnum moss, a vital element of a bog. Tenacious tamarack trees erupt from the sphagnum; the needles of these unusual evergreens are turning yellow, soon to drop to the ground. If you look closely you may see the unique blooms of pitcher plants, the bright red of cranberries hiding along the trailside. As you travel away from the bog, hardwoods become interspersed with hemlocks, whose branches are covered in soft, flat needles. If you look down you will see the dark, shiny leaves of wintergreen, the springy shapes of club mosses, like little Christmas trees. Flanking the trail will be several species of ferns: the semi-circular whorl of leaves that make up maidenhair, the long brown spores trailing from interrupted, the hairy stems of lady, and the three-pronged branch of bracken fern. A little bit further, the hemlocks dominate, the sun filtering through them and patterning the forest floor with golden lace. On the last leg of this journey, the trail lightens as birches and aspens begin to replace the hemlocks. You then return to the open prairie, spreading out before the parking lot from which you came.

As you step back into your car, you will take home with you amazing images, chance encounters with wildlife, and the rich, full moments that compose time spent outdoors. So, go ahead: take an hour, or even an afternoon, and explore the fabulous habitats.
Take a child outside, or just enjoy it yourselves.

Nature Watch is brought to you by the Cable Natural History Museum. For 40 years, the Museum has served as a guide and mentor to generations of visitors and residents interested in learning to better appreciate and care for the extraordinary natural resources of the region. The Museum invites you to visit its facility in Cable at 13470 County Highway M or on the web at to learn more about exhibits and programs.

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