Category Archives: Review Parks

Boats, Birds, and Clams, OH MY!

This week we did a family fitness activity at a local park called Lake Julian.   In addition to a lake, it has a boat marina, a sail boat club, a rowing club, a playground, picnic shelters, and lots of wooded and natural areas to explore.  We visit this park several times through out the year because there is so much to see and do here.  It is a great place to observe the seasonal changes too.  Besides family time together, it is a fun place to explore natural science.

It was a beautiful day with bright sunshine and with a slight chill in the air.  There were a dozen or more fishing boats on the water. 

The kids and I spoke with one of the fishermen as he slowed his boat down not far off shore.  He was using a paddle to check the depth of the water in the shallow areas and checking out his trolling motor and gear.  We inquired about how the fishing was going.  He said he had not caught anything yet.


There were lots of sail boats on the water too.  The other side of the lake had more sail boats than I could count.  They looked so beautiful.  Their large white sails were such a contrast against the winter backdrop of “hibernating” trees and the blue water of the lake.  It was amazing to watch the sails catch the wind and push the boats along in the water. 

We spent some time feeding and observing the birds on the water.  There were several varieties of ducks, geese, and sea gulls.  The kids noticed that like the fishing boats and sail boats, ducks and geese can float on the water. They use their feet like the boat propeller to push themselves along in the water. Birds can take flight and sailboats do not fly, but there are similarities in both the sails and wings. The wings are similar to the sails on a sailboat because they can open and close and catch the wind to glide along. 

The sea gulls were very competitive with the ducks and geese.  They had a distinct advantage of speed and craftiness.  They would fly high in the air, swoop down fast to the water and steel the food away from the ducks and geese.  The kids remarked how the sea gulls could fly both quickly and slowly depending on how they held out their wings and the placement of their feet.  They are true pirates of the air and water.

We had so much fun feeding and watching the birds on the lake.


Then being the hands on young scientists we are, we had a great time exploring near the shore.  We walked quite a distance of shore line, noticing small changes, observing the water, rocks, waves, plants, wind, and various birds.


The kids hoped to find small fish and crayfish.  They used a small stick to poke around small pools near rocks.  They lifted a few rocks to see if they could entice a crayfish out of hiding.

We did not find crayfish today, and we only saw one small fish.  We hypothesized (guessed) that we did not see lots of small fish, because it is not yet spawning season.  The fish count in the lake may be low this time of year, and most of the small fish may have been eaten through the winter months by the bigger fish and birds.

We did however find lots of other treasures.   We found moss growing on rocks.  And feathers left by the birds. We found some goose poop too (no picture).  The kids were fascinated with different rocks and the contrasting soft texture of the feathers.


Check out these fresh water clam shells.  Some of the shells were separated from each other and laying side by side in the water, and some others we found in the water were still attached to each other.  


The kids wanted to know what the animal that lives inside of the shell looks like.  They also wanted to know where the clams went and why these shells were left behind? So we decided we would investigate more about fresh water clams when we returned home.


We observed the ducks feeding on fish and plants.  They bent forward and dipped their heads and upper bodies under water to reach for food. This also gave the children a closer view of the ducks webbed feet they use for swimming. 

The mallard ducks were a little pre-occupied with competing for a mate to care about the children throwing out bread to them, or the sea gulls stealing the bread.  The geese and the wood
ducks were obviously offended by the sea gulls and squawked at them when they swooped in. There were hundreds of birds on the lake today. Aren’t these ducks gorgeous?

For More Information About Fresh Water Clams:
Definitions, classifications, and pictures
                Fact Sheet
                Coloring Pages

This post will be linked up with
Science Sunday
Sharing Time
No Time For Flash Cards

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Dan Nicholas Park

                                          Family Adventure During Christmas Break

I am still recovering from an emergency C section.  But six weeks being stuck in the house is all I can take.  The doctor told me not to drive, not to lift, and to have very limited activity for six weeks to allow my incisions to heal.  I am feeling stronger with each passing day, though severely sleep deprived with a newborn.  I have been out only a couple of times since our baby was born, and sitting inside all this time  is enough to drive me crazy!  

I really wanted to get out and see something special during the Christmas Break.  The company my husband works for shuts down for the week between Christmas and New Years Day, and it is so nice to have him home with us and spend extra quality time around these two holidays as a family.   

One of our favorite things to do as a family is to learn about natural science and history through hands on exploration of the world we live in.  This turns into fun family adventures exploring places all around us.  So yesterday, we went 0n a little day trip to explore the Charlotte, NC area with our children.  Let me tell you the truth: two and a half hours, one way, is a long drive with a van full of kids ages 6 weeks, 3 , 4, 6, 9, and 11.   Whew!  But we survived, we explored, we had fun, and the drive was worth it.


We drove to High Rock Lake in Salisbury, just east of Charlotte.   High Rock Lake is a 15,000 acre reservior of water located on the Yadkin River.  We just got a glimpse of the lake though, because we spent all of our time at an amazing place near the lake called Dan Nicholas Park. 

Dan Nicholas Park hosts accommodations that cover 450 acres.   What a family fun place to visit!   There is so much to see and do, you can easily spend a whole day or a whole week enjoying this place.   This is a great place to visit for a family, homeschool, field trips, and just  fun educational adventures!

Plan to spend at least several hours enjoying this family friendly place.   There is plenty of parking, paved walking paths, clean bathrooms, and concessions.  There is an 80 site camp ground that is open year around, if you want to plan to stay overnight or longer.  The camp ground has tent space, RV space, and cabins.  There are full accommodations and a nice lake to enjoy.  You can read here , and also read here about their campground.   
There are both “free” and “not free” things to do at this park.  If you want to do several things on your visit, you can buy a multi pass and save a few bucks too.  However, several things are seasonal, such as the train and carousel rides and the water plaza, so be sure to check with the park for dates and times. 

FREE Activity

Play on the playgrounds 

Trees to climb

Tennis Courts
Volley Ball courts
Nature Center 

Water Plaza (wading and fun spraying)
Picnic Areas

NOT FREE Activity

Petting Zoo $1
Train Ride $1
Carousel Ride $1
Fishing $1 for resident $2 for non-resident
Paddle Boats $
Miniature Golf $2
Gem Mine $7
Rowan Wildlife Adventures Zoo $0.50 for kids 10 and under, $1 for anyone over age 10
        At the zoo we enjoyed seeing and learning about 
        Eagles, Black Bears, Red Wolves, Bob Cats, White Tailed Deer, Raccoons, 
        Various species of  Hawks, Owls, Wild Turkeys, and more…

Several pictures I took at the zoo did not turn out.  I was carrying the baby, and taking pictures with one hand and holding the baby with the other, and several of my pictures blurred.  I won’t torture you with posting too many fuzzy pictures, but the experience was really nice anyway.  Also, the zoo encourages the public to come during feeding times and they offer special learning programs too.

Because of the winter season, some attractions were closed, and we did not have enough time to enjoy all the ones that were open.  Things we did at the park on this trip were: play on the playgrounds, climb trees, go for a walk, Wildlife Adventures Zoo,
and the Nature Center.

We spent a couple of hours enjoying Dan Nicholas Park and we will definitely plan a future trip to explore more.   We also plan to go back and explore High Rock Lake and several little towns around it.  

Lots more learning and family adventures await!

This post will be linked up with
 No Time For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
Raising Homemakers
ABC and 123

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Latta Plantation Nature Preserve

On a recent family outing, we went to the Latta Plantation Nature Preserve near Huntersville, NC.  This is a free park with over 1300 acres to explore.  It has lots of nature trails, and is a natural setting to view a large variety of wildlife, plants, Mountain Island Lake, and the river.

Our kids had so much fun on this nature walk.  It has a paved path with beautiful mature trees, lots of under brush, and lots of wild life.

There was a nice variety of trees and many had already changed colors.  We quickly spotted oak trees, walnut trees, maple trees, and pine trees.  We plan to do a tree study soon so we can learn to spot other tree species too.

I found a plant I had never seen before, and plan to look this one up.  It had beautiful, unique, thick, bumpy, pink, outer shells the kind of resembled flowers, that opened to an orange smooth oblong shaped berry.  I am from the midwest (Kansas, and later Indiana) and this is not a plant I had ever seen before. 

I did not touch the plant just in case it was poisonous, but it was beautiful to observe.

There were lots of birds and plenty of squirrels.  The squirrels were feasting on walnuts, pine cone seeds, and acorns that literally covered the ground.

There were downed trees decomposing, and recycling themselves back into the earth.  There were lots of fallen leaves covering the ground too.  Signs of fall were all around us.

Then the path opened up to the water.  It was a beautiful view.

We strolled out onto a fishing dock. 

From this vantage point, you could see beautiful contrasts of the fall colors against the water and shoreline.

The clouds were amazing, and brewing up a fall rain storm.  It was a spectacular view.


Next, the children observed a variety of fresh water sea shells along the sandy shore.

They quickly started collecting as many shells as they could find.  They collected over a hundred shells and each put their find into a plastic bag to bring home. 

We plan to look at the shells closer at home, look at them under a microscope, wash them, draw them in our journals, perhaps use them in some other fun (math, art, and science) activities, and find out what animal had lived in them.  Homeschool adventures are so much fun!

Next, they got busy building.  At this point, I was tired from the walk.  I am eight and a half months pregnant, and running out of energy.  So I sat down at a picnic table to rest while I watched the kids play and explore some more.  The kids still had lots of energy.

They built mountains and lakes…


and motes.

We packed up to leave when the storm started to deliver rain.  We continued to explore several other sites nearby from our vehical despite the rain, and found many places we would like to go back and visit. 

It was a great day for discovering and playing in nature on this early fall day at the Latta Plantation Nature Preserve .

This post will be linked up with
No Time For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
ABC and 123
Play Academy
The Handbook Of Nature Study
Raising Homemakers

Highhill Homeschool

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Robert Lake Park Montreat NC

We ventured to a little town called Montreat, North Carolina for the 4th of July holiday.  My husband (the always observant to details) said he had never seen a town quite like this one.  It just seemed to dead end in the mountains and it was like going back in time. 

Once I got home and researched the town more, it is obvious why he felt that way.  The town deliberately discourages modernization.  There are not even any traffic lights.  But there is a whole lot here for families to enjoy.  Here is a map showing the location in a cove of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I was so impressed by this special place.  We explored the college campus a little before going to the park to play.  The campus has several “castle” like buildings all made of beautiful rounded river stones and lovely arched walkways.  There was also a historical hotel made from the same stone materials just across from Swan Lake.

Also across from the park, was a basketball court, and below the park was an old fashioned baseball field.

Here is a link with more about the history of the town and all that it has to offer

The Park

Roberts Lake Park in Montreat, NC is truly an explorer kid’s paradise.  It combines the best of both the natural world and a playground. 

Tucked up in a cove just east of Asheville, North Carolina, and a few minutes north of Black Mountain, North Carolina, sits an oasis of discovery that any child would love.
(like that?  this place really made me feel poetic!)

Under the canopy of tall mountain trees and flowering bushes, rushes a beautiful cold mountain stream.  The stream meanders around large and small rounded rocks.  The sound of the bubbling water is welcoming and peaceful. 

Wooden bridges give a great vantage point to see the beauty of this stream from above.

I love to stand quietly and hear the sounds of the stream.

And take in all the life and beauty that surrounds it.

The playground is really two separate playgrounds divided by wooden bridges, and two meandering shallow streams.

What kid wouldn’t love playing “King Of The Castle” on these fun bridges?

We spent quite a bit of time playing on this large wooden castle like structure with spiral wooden stairs, three wooden bridges and three towers each with two levels to play on, and with lots of fun accessories too. 

My two year old was fascinated with going up the chain ladder, and then down the wavy slide, and spent nearly an hour repeating this sequence.

There were lots of other children at the park, I tried my best not to get them in the photos, but here is my son after being tagged by another child after he had escaped down the spiral slide only to be caught at the bottom and frozen.  So funny!!!

After playing, we cooled off in the shade with some ice cold water and a picnic lunch.  There is a very nice community building that has bathrooms to wash your hands and a living room area and pool tables, ping pong, foose ball, and access to the tennis court.   The tennis court cost $3 an hour, but everything else is free.

After eating our lunch,  we headed across the bridges to the much coveted water exploration fun in the streams.

This was definitely the highlight of the day. 

Off went the shoes and socks, and in went the kids.

In the background of the picture above, you can just see the second playground of two towers and a bridge surrounded by the streams.

The kids looked for minnows and crawdads.  There was another little boy playing with them too who brought a minnow net and a bucket and he caught several.  The kids were fascinated by this.  You had to sit very still and then slowly you could see the minnows come out of hiding and start to swim in the shallow pools.

Another fun activity my oldest son spent quite a lot of time doing, was adding rocks to the little damns, causing a slight increase in the amount of water in the little pools and creating little mini waterfalls as the water went up and over the rock damns. 

He is my little engineer, and he is always observing cause and effect, and loves to build. 

But little sister had fallen in a couple of the deeper pools all the way to her shoulders into the cold water several times, and she had to take some
short breaks on the side to warm up.  She was wet from head to toe.

We learned about so many fun things in the park today.  It was a great day of scientific exploration.  Besides hunting for fish and crawdads, we also observed how the water was cold compared to the warm summer air outside.  We observed how the water current constantly moved the stream, how it rounded and smoothed the surface of the rocks, and how it constantly forced the water over the rocks no matter how many rocks you added to the damn.  The very small rocks in the stream were so many different colors.  Some sparkled like gold.  The kids picked up several stones full of mica and perilite that shimmered in the water.  We also observed the mud near the edge of the stream.  But thankfully, fresh clear water was close by and we rinsed off easily. 

The kids dried off by playing a few more rounds of tag on the second playground. 

They thought this was super cool because its construction actually incorporated three very tall trees.  Besides playing in this “real tree” house,  and they could also see the streams from their high vantage point.

I think every kid probably leaves this park with a big ear to ear grin.


Once I got home and researched about Montreat, North Carolina, I found some nice video clips on Youtube.

Boys playing in the park

Conference center and history of Montreat

A lady on her lunch break tells why she loves this place

The top of Grey Beard Trail  (there is 2500 acres of preserved wilderness in Montreat and lots of hiking trails).

Part of a speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at  Montreat in 1965.

This post will be linked up with:
Science Sunday
No Time For Flash Cards
ABC and 123
The Play Academy
Raising Homemakers

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Century Park In Greer, South Carolina

The PARK is a great family place. 

It is frugal family fun.  It’s free. 
There are not many places that are entertaining, that you can take a family of seven for free.

Today was so beautiful, sunny and 65 degrees, we couldn’t resist a family fun day at the park. 

One of our favorite places to play is the Century Park in Greer, South Carolina.
This park is huge.  It has a massive disc golf course, ball fields, walking paths, and more. 

It is full of mature trees and natural beauty too.  Our kids love to climb and sit on large rocks at the entrance to the disc golf trails.  There are lots of picnic tables, shelters, a nice bathroom, and a concession stand too.

But our kids’ favorite parts are the wooden fort and the Kidz Planet play areas.

The wood fort is a massive structure. 


 It has two levels and is full of bridges, towers,  

hidden passage ways,

slides, open stairs, hidden stairs, and more.

Even daddy gets in on the fun.  In fact, this place is so big, parents have no trouble navigating and joining in.

Not pictured are all the swings, tire swings, tunnels, balance beams, monkey bars, obstacle courses, and too many play things to mention.  I stayed so busy with the younger kids, I forgot to get pictures of the older kids playing in the fort.  But trust me, older kids have a blast at this park.  My boys stayed busy making friends, playing tag, hide n seek, and lots of fun climbing through the fort and on the play things.

There are some great toddler areas too.

Wooden bridges,

Rubber bridges, tunnels,

more slides, towers, and hidden passageways,

lots of open spaces,

teeter totters,

sandboxes and sandtables

more sandtables.  The sandtables are the ultimate sensory experience.  My kids raked the sand with their hands into piles and added leaves and sticks.  They had so much fun creating at these tables.

Climbing the engine of the choo choo train.

Playing in the caboose of the train.

Helping each other.

My favorite play area was the musical instruments.   I am not sure what this is called, but it is built from pvc pipes of different lengths.

There were three sets of these wonderful xylophones.  The music these made was wonderful.    They also had pvc pipes behind them, and they resonated the sounds through the whole park.   The kids and I made lots of beautiful music.

My daughter’s favorite activity was the swings.

She waited a long time to get a turn on the swings, and she loved sharing it with brother.

A day of fun at the park.  A very happy little girl and boy.  Actually, a very happy family of seven. 

A smile of pure delight.   Priceless.

Where do you go with your family to have fun?  Leave us a comm
ent to let us know.

This post will be linked up with

ABC and 123

The Play Academy

No Time For Flash Cards

We Play

Tot Tuesdays

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