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Hiking for paw paws

I had no idea what a wild paw paw was before today, but it was a hike to look for exactly those crazy fruits that was led by our county parks naturalists this morning. The weather was fabulous, the colors were just starting to come out, so we decided to drive the half hour south to join in the looking.

We'd never been to this particular wildlife preserve before today. Being a preserve, as opposed to a park, it is very wonderfully wild, and there was something very Jungle-Book-esque fabulous about hiking through undergrowth and mud and shaking trees while protecting your head in case of dropping paw paws. We actually didn't find any on the trees. Our guide said it was likely someone had already come through and harvested them, seeing as that it's public land, but we weren't entirely disappointed because, after shaking tree after tree, we were still rewarded with a taste of a nearby farmer's paw paws, and some Zingerman's Creamery Paw Paw Gelato brought by our wonderful guide.

Plus it's hard to be disappointed by a hike that, although not productive as far as fruit goes, produced much in the way of wildlife. We saw lots of animal houses—crayfish, woodchuck, snake, raccoon?—plus several wood frogs, a flicker, two praying mantises, a snail, and skippers, butterflies, bees, yadda yadda. We tried wild berries and roots, and identified a variety of native plants and trees, some of which had been stumping me for a while.

These programs are mainly designed for adults: a few miles, lots of climbing in and out of scrubby and wet areas, lots of quiet listening, looking, appreciating, and discussing. The children's programs are shorter and less physically demanding, plus they usually come with stickers and coloring pages, but Calvin enjoys both equally as well. We've been taking him on the adult hikes for about two years now, carrying him when he was still too small, but making sure that he was part of the event. To us nature is interesting for itself, not for the coloring pages, and we've wanted to share that wonder and awe with our son from day one and have included him accordingly. I will never get tired of the looks we get from some adult hikers when we show up for these events with our pint-sized hiker, and then their utter amazement when they realize that not only is he up to the challenge, he usually knows almost as much as they do about the natural world around him.

In his words:

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Reader Comments (1)

Looks like a very cool place. Paw Paws remind me of my youth. My dad had quite a lot of trees in our backyard so they were always in abundance.
October 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKylie

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