This was Kiki's first year to make the annual shopping trek to breakfast and then the giant Christmas bazaar. Cici has gone before, but this is the first time all 3 girls were together, and they had a great time:
This archeological dig site became a national park in July of last year. Not sure it would be worth making a big jaunt for on it's own, but if you're there it's worth heading by and checking out. It takes about an hour to do the whole tour and hear the history, etc. We all learned some things.
Mammoth femur vs. Buddy:
Overlooking some of the fossils, which are "in situ" - basically, stuck in the dirt. That's actually a weird kind of camel native to the US, not a mammoth...Long story - go see the site:
The kids have been interested in fishing for a long time but we don't have equipment or much experience, so when we heard about the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, TX we knew we had to check it out.
Here, the state has a fish hatchery from which they stock lakes. We got to see part of the hatchery, which is basically a big run of pools containing different types of fish that are apparently released into the wild at predetermined intervals. More interesting to the kids were the aquariums full of Texas fish that they could feed, and a dive show that featured someone in the water feeding and describing different types of fish commonly found in Texas:
There is also a wetlands trail with a beehive chock full of bees, and a lot of big open park space to run around in, and pinecones:
Kids lobbing fallen pinecones over the creek:
The main attraction is a fishing pond stocked with sunfish and small catfish to catch and release, and gear and bait are provided with the nominal entrance fee, no fishing license required, so the kids got to fish to their hearts content. We used corn and stinkbait in our efforts to catch something, but apparently after you've been caught and released a few times, maybe if you're a fish you're not so excited about munching on hooks. :)
Another parent gave the kids a bucket of worms that her kids had been playing with, so then our kids had fun playing with them and naming them and Kiki took them out and released them into the woods.
Yaya's class is studying ecological succession so they toured Bastrop State Park where there were huge wildfires in 2011 (and another huge fire since then). Among other things, we learned that in past, any fire in a National Forest was considered a bad fire and so it was put out as soon as possible, but current research has lead to the understanding that the ecosystem needs to burn periodically. Thus, they are doing controlled burns of small areas of the park when conditions are ideal for them. This park was a huge part of my childhood, so it was exciting to hear that it turns out not to be the catastrophe they first were considering it. We got to hike through some areas that were burned in the wildfires and also through an area recently burned in a controlled fire, and there were signs of animals and plants returning everywhere.
Next up, the kids learned about the WPA and CCC and how they each contributed to building the parks around the country. The kids toured a dining hall built in the 1930's by the CCC that included really awesome chiseled stone inlays on the mantel, carved busts under the mantel, and pretty amazing craftmanship. Also, we learned that the entire forest at the park had been taken down and used as lumber to build homes in Austin and San Antonio in that era and by the time I was a kid, the trees had grown back, which gave me a lot of hope for the kids being able to see the park someday as I got to see it as a child. :)
Next there were some activities about the food chain, then lunch and lots of time to play on the playground.