We all got up at 6am this morning and Papa made several rounds of coffee and toasted bagels and fed the dog and made her a treat while I dressed the kids in long underwear and pants and shirts and sweaters and otherwise got them ready to go, and Nana and Uncle J got ready too, and we all piled in the van exactly on time at 7:30am. We made the hour drive out to the particular beach park, but about 15 minutes out we got a call from the state park staff–they’d been working for three hours on the beach transporter that was supposed to drive us 45 minutes down the coast to our destination, to no avail: it wouldn’t start. However, they also have open-air ‘trams’ that drive on dirt roads down to the visitor center in the warmer months, and we opted for this option over rescheduling.
We all gathered in the parking lot of the beach park, went potty, put on all the layers we had, and got blankets out of the car for the ride. One dad pulled in only 5 minutes before departure time–one of the damn bridge/tunnels was closed so he’d had to find another way and as he put it, drive ‘15% faster than the speed limit’ to get there. But he did. Like dads do. And so we had four boys and one Girl, two moms, three dads, one Nana, and one uncle, all ready to go on the tram.
After a brief drive on an actual road, we turned onto the dirt roads, and after a brief stop to change trams, rode all the way to the more remote visitor center. Which was FANATSTIC. The last time we were out there, when Boy was two and I was enormously pregnant with Girl, the visitor center was under construction.
The center has a great exploration station for the kids, with shells, skulls (raccoon to bobcat to dolphin), a fox skin, whelk shells, even a baleen from a decomposed whale that washed up on the shore decades ago. More than we had time to look at. Plus displays, bathrooms, an awesome gift shop, coffee for a dollar. But most importantly, and the coolest thing I’ve ever seen at a visitor center (and something that would only work at a place this remote), were the adventure packs. Free backpacks for kids to bring with them on their hikes and explorations, filled with great stuff. Nets, binoculars, magnifying glasses, notebooks and pencils, guidebooks, and even an electronic bird guide that Girl could scroll through and play bird songs to herself, looking at the pictures.
So we walked, we stopped to fish things out of the back packs. Out there, water is EVERYWHERE, so the kids didn’t get very far along before they were using the nets to look for things on the sides of the trail.
We watched a bald eagle, we looked at animal tracks in the mud. The boys were mostly up ahead, walking and talking and yelling and fooling around. We passed through live oak scrub, what I believe is called ‘maritime forest,’ and then stopped to have a snack when we got to more open marsh.
Then we turned back around to head to the visitor center, making a stop on the way to walk a side trail through the pines to an overlook on an inlet.
It was really, really beautiful, and a little cold but sunny. And the boys seemed so happy and kind of wild. I think it was a very good birthday celebration for an eight year old boy.