Falling in Love with Autumn

Recently fall has cast down on the Pittsburgh region like an anvil in search of Wile E. Coyote, it has come fast and unrelenting. With it comes the changes we expect to see. The leaves have changed color and the air is a little crisper in the morning.  So with these changes, I want my kids outside, getting their noses right in the middle of Fall.

Always Trail'n it

I took the opportunity one day, before it was too cold, to get them out on a local trail and explore the access to the adjacent creek. Thing is it was supposed to rain, but who cares right?  Not the kids..or at least not at this age. I wanted them to know that getting wet shouldn't be a deal breaker for fun. Getting the kids outside is becoming a way of life for them. So with a camera, raincoat, and rain boots...we set off for an adventure. I also took a small journal with me so we could log what we see along the way.

Organism Central

Right away we saw a salamander. I haven't seen a salamander in years and my first thought was it was a gecko. But small lizards don't live this north do they? My kids, who need to train their spotting eye, had a hard time seeing it at first. When I say "look down", they always look at their feet initially. This little guy was cool, it appears he was just trying to cross the road and get back to safety. Check him out below.

Easy goes it

We then came to this picnic structure on the trail. It was a good place to put our coats on when it began to drizzle. In there, we saw a bird's nest and what appeared to be a wasp nest. I'll just call it an insect nest. Ironically in a structure that provides shelter, we were able to see two other structures that provide shelter. I was happy to see both were abandoned. A short walk from there was a small pond at the foot of a cliff. I'm unsure if it is man made but it does host a posse of animals. There were frogs, goldfish, salamanders, insects (of course), turtles and probably a host of other things in this pond. There was also this cool log with the bark missing that had awesome burrow tracks. From my understanding, these are created by termites and other wood eating insects. The kids really enjoyed it and they made sure I logged everyyyyything in the journal.


Of course, there is never a trip without a little sass from Ya Ya. When we go on trails, she wants to be the trail setter (leader). Sometimes she goes so far ahead of where it can become uncomfortable for me, not dangerous, just uncomfortable. I'll occasionally tell her to stop or slow up and USUALLY, its not an issue. But for some reason this day...she was upset and wanted to be left alone. Most of the time when she does this all I have to do is mess with her a little and she'll be fine...not today. LIke failing legislation, I had to try something else. So being a photographer, I tell her I "will" take a picture of her "attitude" for artistic review. SHE HATES IT WHEN I DO THAT!!! That is usually the last straw for her and she straightens up. Again...not today. Ya Ya decided she was going to run away...so I just took pictures of her little gallop and laughed it off to lighten the mood. She was better soon after.

Snakes and Fun

A bridge was approaching in our journey and before we addressed it we noticed a snake.  Subsequent descriptive research revealed that this is a Ring-necked snake. It was very docile in nature and basically just relaxed at the bridge. My assumption is it was out trying to get a quick sunbath. Filled with intrigue, the kids examined this little thing. With my uncertainty about what kind it was, we kept on along our journey.

Fall Show's its Face

I don't know what the creek's name is but its a pretty one this time of year. The leaves were in their beginning stages of turning colors and falling. What I noticed is that this happens in phases due to the genetic variability of tree species. So some of the trees fairly close to the creek began showing these bright yellows and falling off. My non-scientific explanation for this is that since they are near the creek, they get more sunlight during the year than the shaded species in the forest. Therefore when they receive less sunlight in the Fall, they are able to detect a decrease in light before the shaded species. I'll look into this further.

That was exhausting, wasn't it? Sorry. I'm a scientist by trade, and though that wasn't very scientific, we probably learned something right? Ya Ya and Chief did, and they had fun at the creek. Throwing stones, looking at different rock types. and wading in their water boots. They even took the opportunity to learn how to skip rocks. After an extended period here. It was time to butter the bread, hit the real trail.

Caught Off Guard

This trail was surprisingly difficult, to say the least. The first portion of the hike was pretty steep and made adults out of my children. Ya Ya basically wanted to sprint to the top. Chief, with his shorter legs, had a more taxing journey. There are reported fossils in the area so we were trying to look for them. Failed. A good sign, however, was the coal seams that were around. Usually when you find coal, its a good sign for other ancient life in the area. Today wasn't the day to find that out, especially with the rain we recently had. Muddy, muddy. Chief doesn't mess around with mud too much. Each time we are on a wooded trail, he gets to a point where he will just shut down. The one thing that always helps him out is a walking stick, he cuts the silly stuff out fast when he has his Gandolf staff. Tired out, we continue back down the trail until where it meets up with the larger bike trail. On the way down we spotted a snail. The kids were creeped out. We added that to the journal and circled back to the creek.

Survey Says?

After another 30 mins to 1 hour chilling at the creek, we packed it up and returned home. Something I learned in this little adventure is that a little rain will not be the Rains of Castamere to a kids fun. Ya Ya and Chief took it like champs. It also led me to consider children in other cultures. In Norway, I noticed kids play all the time, no matter the weather. It could be 20 degrees outside and kids will suit up the right gear and have at it. Shoot, toddlers nap outside in the cold...with proper equipment of course. It is common to see a stroller sitting outside a cafe, in what appears to be fridged weather. The moral here, kids need that stimulation. My kids thrive when they have it. Open the doors to the outside world for your children.

Thanks for reading!

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