Log date: 2020-May

The Bird Sanctuary at Blackburn Park is a fantastic family field trip and here’s a new map not in our book of adventure maps. Put kids in duck boots, bring a snack and perhaps a toy sailboat. This is a fairly short and sweet adventure.

Blackburn Park is located in Webster Groves. Park at the parking lot on E. Jackson and look for the rainy day girl sculpture in the downhill corner of the park. Follow the path uphill towards the entrance of the Bird Sanctuary.

Singing in the Rain

Research your Missouri birds and Phoebe Snetsinger before you go, or just read the sign at the entrance of the Bird Sanctuary. All paths lead downhill, so go right or go left, and come back the other way to make a grand loop.

All paths lead downhill

Not too far down is a darling spring and a calm little pool. If it’s raining or it just rained the pool will be full.

Magical Spring

Hop on the rocks and explore the spring, the pool and the creek. Follow the creek to the next pool. Wander around and explore.

Save a little energy to return back up the hill to where you started at the entrance to the Bird Sanctuary. From here, you can cross the open soccer fields to explore the sink holes which are described in our book.

All paths lead uphill

All parks are great for all weather and all days, but Green Spiral particularly likes the Bird Sanctuary for a spring splash and the sinkholes for a fall treasure hunt.

Sanctuary for kids too!

ICYMI – Here’s our book on Amazon: ten family adventure maps for ten different months. The Blackburn fall treasure hunt map is in this book. Enjoy your adventure and let us know what you think.

Let the wild rumpus begin!

This essay was published in the Healthy Planet

during the pandemic

and focuses on nature as the best playground:

I’m going to make a bold hypothesis:

Saint Louis has the best playgrounds on the planet.

photo by Randy Allen

Let’s start with Forest Park.

Much bigger than Central Park in New York

or Golden Gate Park in San Francisco,

it’s America’s most beautiful urban park.

Forest Park is a natural playground all its own,

even without the gigantic new children’s play-scape

currently under construction.

Any tour of America’s most amazing play spaces must include

the City Museum.

It’s so out-of-the-box it defies definition,

except as an adult playground,

which is a ridiculous thing to say but arguably true.

Adult Playground?

Citygarden,

(not originally designed as a children’s playground),

has become a magnet for children of all ages.

When viewed as a children’s playscape,

it blows Millennial Park in Chicago out of the water.

We Love the Flamingo Festival and Pink Duckie Race!

Throw in the children’s garden at the Missouri Botanical Gardens,

the new ropes course at Union Station and the Magic House,

and these anchor institutions alone

put Saint Louis on the map of best playgrounds.

Muckerman’s Children’s Fountain at TGP

Now turn your attention towards Turtle Park,

Rocket Ship Park,

the Children’s Fountain at Tower Grove Park,

plus inclusive playgrounds at

Tilles Park,

Forest Park

and Zachary’s Playground.

Does not the mosaic of great playgrounds come into focus?

To Infinity…. and beyond!

Simply put,

Saint Louis has both a density and a diversity

of creative playgrounds.

Follow the White Rabbits

Saint Louis is like a grand old lady who loves her children.

She throws her heart into the wide open spaces,

has the imagination to fill those spaces with surprises

and the pocketbook to keep them super fancy.

Grand Old Lady

I enjoy nature travel and believe our gateway city is home

to the most creative playgrounds on the planet.

But how do we quantify this rather bold hypothesis?

Walk this way…

Let’s encourage families to make adventure maps

of the places in parks

beyond the playground tape.

Make your map!

It’s something you can do

while maintaining social distancing

and pondering a rather bold hypothesis.

It also draws attention to the fact

that nature is the greatest adventure playground.

Beyond the Playground Tape…

Let’s prove that Saint Louis has the most creative playscapes on the planet —

or at least enjoy finding out.

Buy our book if you need help getting started.

We worked really hard on it

and it took us a long time to make it.

We hope you like it.

Take your friends

Here’s the link on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1542349230?tag=duckduckgo-ffnt-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1

Curated by Angela Wildermuth

Maps by Jessie Hoagland

Published by Green Spiral Tours

Let the wild rumpus begin!

Here’s a sample map:

Angela Wildermuth is a freelance nature teacher and the curator of the Urban Wild adventure maps. You can follow her or join small group nature camps during the pandemic summer at www.urbanwildstl.com

Tinkergarten is also running nature camps during the pandemic summer. You can find them or train to become a Tinkergarten teacher at: https://tinkergarten.com

20-July-2018

Blog by Angela Wildermuth, Nature Guide and creator of Urban Wild Adventures

2018-07-20 Wild Blackberries

Some brambles of wild blackberries were discovered along Grants Trail in south county last week.  GPS Directions: Park at the parking lot at 3900 Reavis Barracks Rd – this is the “Gravois Greenway” parking lot. Head north on grants trail for maybe 1/4 of a mile. Look for blackberries along the left hand side.

The Blackberries had thorns – lots! The kids quickly learned how to carefully and slowly go in for a pick. Along the way we also discovered ripe wild grapes! The leaves were slightly sour but tender, and the grapes had the same sweetish-sourish flavor with crunchy little seeds inside.  How cool to see grapes in their non-cultivated, non- altered “original” form! They are tiny!!!

2018-07-20 Stepper Helper

Stepping stools were very handy. On arrival to the blackberry brambles, we soon realized that the animals and birds aren’t the only ones we needed to beat to the berries  – other humans knew about these berries too! One older man was there with scratches along his arms who said he’d been picking at this spot for 70 yrs!  Luckily, he left some low berries for the kids to pick.

We were out for about an hour. The sun was pretty low so it wasn’t too hot, and everyone felt satisfied with a little loot and an educationally good time too. Next July -keep your eyes open! There always seems to be something edible fruiting in the summer!

2018-07-20 Angela eats grapes

What you can do:

Keep your eyes open and be curious about wild edibles.

Follow Angela at Urban Wild Adventures for future adventures.

Ask your Parks and Recreation Department to plant edibles like plum trees, blackberries, herbs and wild grapes.  Inquire about spraying and herbicide policies.

Buy our book, Urban Wild Adventures, which includes ten adventure maps to ten popular parks in Saint Louis, along with clues about where to find native edibles. The book is curated by Angela Wildermuth and illustrated by Jessie Hoagland.  Angela’s last name means “Wild Spirit” in German.

 

Urban Wild Adventures – Trip Date: May 31 & June 2 2016

To know your city is to love your city, and Green Spiral has long known Saint Louis to be home to some of the most amazing parks and playgrounds in the country. As the world becomes a more hectic place, nature places and quiet oasis will play an increasing role in the identity of this Great City.

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We have many treasured parks in Saint Louis, but the crown jewel of parks is certainly Forest Park, recently named the #1 Best City Park in America: https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/the-15-best-city-parks-in-america.

2012-09-15 art museum

World class destinations like the Zoo, Art Museum, History Museum and Muny are easy to find in Forest Park, but for those of you looking to get off the beaten track, here’s a short loop we’re calling the “Crawdaddy Walk”.  It’s a two hour excursion at a very leisurely pace, suitable for all ages, including the stroller set.

2016-06 Forest Park Map

Park and meet your playgroup at the Inclusion Playground next to the Visitor Center, and be sure to pack your own water, unless you like paying $2 for bottled water.  Know that the playground is the first inclusion playground built in the city and there is a secret pollinator’s garden nearby.

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Call up Jean Turney, education coordinator at Forest Park Forever, and have her meet you at the blueberries growing right next to the building. Jean’s job is to help folks learn how to use the park for fun and educational purposes, and she organizes Teacher Academies in the Summer.  561-3287

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Begin your walk between the parking lot and the tennis courts and head for the Mary Orr MacCarthy Bridge, or the “Love Lock Bridge”. On your way, you can have kids pick clover; tie them together to make some clover crowns!  Know that there is a famous bridge in Paris, the Pont des Arts, which has grill-work laden with locks.  Lovers carve their initials into padlocks, affix the locks to the bridge, and throw the key into the river, thereby sealing their love forever.  Looks like we now have a “Love Lock Bridge” in Forest Park, so if you’re a lover, go ahead and affix your lock, it’s the “good kind of trouble” to get into.

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Continue walking along between the creek  and the Boathouse, an area we call “Cottonwood Corridor”.  If you travel through in June, the cotton puffs will be floating through the air like snow; see if kids can catch some cottonpuffs.

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Stop and sample the service berries growing on bushes to your right.  Service berries are important bird food, and edible for humans too.  The service berries ripen in early summer, and get their name from the “olden days” when the ground was too frozen to bury the dead.  When the service berries came ripe in late May, the ground was warm enough to excavate a deep hole, and a service could finally be performed. Thus the name” service-berry.  Thank you Bellefontaine Cemetery for the story!

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Continue following the path until you find the water-play area on your right.  This is a great area to play in the water.  Our creeks and waterways are in bad shape, and questionable for young children for a multiplicity of reasons including sewage and radioactive contamination. But because the River des Peres was long ago used as an open sewer and buried under the park in advance of the World’s Fair in 1904, the surface water in Forest Park today is pretty close to tap water, and the cleanest natural water-play area we can find for kids.  It’s kind of sad that we’ve contaminated so many waterways as a society; therefore, it’s important to educate yourself and thus join the fight to clean up and protect our waterways, if nothing but our own enjoyment. Technically, there is “no swimming” in Forest Park, but Green Spiral happens to know that the park rangers will turn a blind eye towards kids frolicking in the water.  If you do get in trouble, put big tears in your eyes, and say “…but I want my kids to touch a creek at least one time in their lives before they grow up,” and put on your best and most sad pouting face…  Back to the self-guided tour:

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“Crawdaddy Cove” is a great place to fish for crayfish.  Bring a paperclip on a string, and fix some cheese to the open “hook” of the paperclip.  Drop the paperclip in the water, and when a crawfish clamps on to it, hoist the little feller out of the water. We forgot our paper clips, but did find a dead crayfish. By the way, Missouri is a hot-spot for crayfish biodiversity, due to our plethora of magnificent spring-fed rivers.

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“Crawdaddy Cove” is a great area for a family picnic, and you can almost always find frogs, turtles, minnows, green herons and egrets. This is the best place for spying wildlife with kids that we’ve found in Forest Park so far. Remember to bring your hand sanitizer and sun protection. This is a wonderful destination for a picnic dinner in the evening, thus avoiding the “witching hour” at home. On the official map, this place is really called the “Post Dispatch Lake Riffles”, but we think “Crawdaddy Cove” is more romantic.

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When you are ready to depart, walk towards the main road, and over the “Bridge of Swallows”, which has lots of swallow nesting under it.  Continue walking past the Dwight Davis Tennis Center, and ultimately back to your car.  This is about a two hour adventure, conducted at a leisurely pace. Many thanks to talented nature guide Angela Wildermuth for scouting and leading this adventure with her Spring series of adventures called “Urban Wild Adventures”, which takes families on nature hunts at parks and playgrounds all over the Saint Louis area.

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Now here’s your homework:

  1. Count how many creatures you can find on your walk and have the kids make a note in a journal you keep in the car.
  2. See if you can name any plants, or make a crown made of clover.  Simply tie them together as you would make a “daisy chain.”
  3. Come back to the Visitor Center someday and ask for the free ipod walking tour that teaches you about the history of Forest Park, and walks you past the Art Museum and Picnic Island. It’s very well done; many thanks to the Trio Foundation.
  4. Comment below with your observations and improvements on the map and adventure for the benefit of others.
  5. Love your City. Get out and get to know it. To know it, is to love it.