by KELLY SAVAGE
Play in the Woods
The temperatures have dropped (thank goodness) and we can all make our way into the woods without dripping with sweat. I love this time of year in Florida. The rest of the country is slipping into that grey winter void, and we, my friends, get to enjoy cold nights and warm, sunny days. I prefer this weather when hiking, paddling, camping- well, doing just about anything outside!
Thinking about the woods always takes me back to my childhood and the fun we experienced making forts, catching frogs and just being outside. When I look around at kids today, I wonder what they will tell their children about playing and growing up. I fear there will be little mention of trees, bugs or mud. A San Diego fourth-grader quoted in Last Child in the Woods epitomizes that fear: “I like to play indoors better, ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”
When we wrote the Get Your Feet Wet guidebook to the St. Johns River, we researched this very issue. We really wanted families to create river memories together. One of the books that struck a chord was Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. If, like me, you are concerned about the problem of “nature deficit disorder” facing this and future generations of children, this book is a must-read. Our connections to nature are important to childhood development and imperative to relaxing and just being.
So grab the family, lace up those sneakers, and take a nice walk in the woods- make memories that will last forever!
Family River Activities
Sometimes we forget to look around and notice how beautiful and varied our trees and shrubs are. Check out a book on leaves at the library or bring your copy of our guidebook, Get Your Feet Wet, and try to identify some of the plants you see on your walk. You can also play a matching game with your little ones.
Make a Sound Map
Find a nice bench or spot to sit, and take out a piece of paper and pencil. Mark an “X” in the middle of the paper to represent where you are sitting. Close your eyes and draw symbols on your paper to represent what you hear around you. You may be surprised how noisy the woods are once you listen!
Want more river activities? Purchase a copy of our Get Your Feet Wet guidebook on our website (www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org) or check out a copy at your local library!
My Favorite River Trails
The Jacksonville Arboretum
1445 Milcoe Rd. (jacksonvillearboretum.org)
The trails at the Arboretum are outstanding! You can hike through a sandy scrub habitat or through the dense woods surrounding Jones Creek. It is amazing how well maintained the park is, as it is an all-volunteer effort.
Tree Hill Nature Center
7152 Lone Star Rd. (treehill.org)
Enjoy hiking this 50-acre property, and stop to say hello to the wildlife residents at the Nature Center!
Theodore Roosevelt Preserve
13165 Mt. Pleasant Rd. (nps.gov/timu)
Hiking is taken to the next level at this park. You can walk through a marsh or check out a big cliff that overlooks the Timucuan Preserve. You could easily spend over two hours enjoying this amazing landscape.
River Events & News
Give a gift that supports the river
Get Your Feet Wet Guidebook: Available online or at many local stores. $15- $20
Gift membership to St. Johns Riverkeeper. $30 and up.
St. Johns Riverkeeper T-shirt, hat or water bottle. $10- $15.