Slice of Life: Day 2

Slice of Life: Day 2



Day 2:  A Natural Exchange

We have five kids and our youngest is now 11.  I am at a place in life where every day I have with my kids is a gift.  Children grow up and fly away and I want to savor every last minute.  So, when I have a couple of hours on a Friday, I will ask my youngest child, “What do you want to do today?”  I ask it because I know that just around the corner, he will not want to do fun little adventures with me anymore.  I will be too old and he will be too young.  So, carpe diem!

Today, when I asked the question, he asked, “Can we go to the Nature Center?”

Now, our nature center is probably the coolest nature center in the world because it has a Nature Exchange program.  If you haven’t heard of the nature exchange, you are truly missing out on life.  The Nature Exchange allows you to bring in interesting or rare nature finds to receive points. Here’s what you’ll see there:  skulls, dried bugs, sea shells, rare rocks, pine cones, petrified wood, fossils, hornet’s nests, and unique  wood specimens.




People from around the world have donated or brought in items for the exchange.  Upon receipt, each item is assigned a point value.  For example, a pine cone is worth 25 points, a murex shell is worth 500 points and a dinosaur bone may be worth 50,000 points.   The fun of all this is that you get to trade in the “boring” nature from your yard and get something completely exciting from someone else’s.

Today, my 11 year old had 3 skulls for trade. On a scale of 1 – 10 for boy-factor coolness, skulls get a 10, especially if they have teeth intact.  Brian, at the exchange desk, can literally identify any nature item.  He can tell what animal made it, ate it or lived in it.  In our case, it was determined that we had two raccoon skulls and a hog skull!  Pretty gnarly.




I think there was a little remorse in parting with the hog skull.  But, when he saw the exotic rocks available for exchange, all was well.

Not long after we made our exchanges, a new family of five came in the door.  Being the nosy observer, I peeked in their cardboard box and saw antlers, a sea creature, pine cones, and more.  Guess what first object  their middle boy “purchased?”  The hog skull!  That skull sat on the shelf for a total of 15 minutes before it went to the next curious boy.

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Right before we left, Brian gave us a special viewing of a gigantic hornet’s nest.


This was an afternoon I won’t regret taking with my nature boy.  Now, back to grading papers and laundry.

Write, Share, Give


Cheap Field Trips # 3: Bob’s Trail

Cheap Field Trips # 3: Bob’s Trail


Cheap Field Trips # 3

What’s lush, girded, roaring and peaceful all at the same time?  Well, it’d have to be the Bob Callan Trail, of course.

If you’re up for an interesting twist on nature, take a walk down the Bob Callan.  It’s in the middle of where you are and it’s totally free!  The trail traverses the region at the convergence of Interstate 285, Interstate 75, Cumberland, Akers Mill Road, Rottenwood Creek and the Chattahoochee River.  Remarkably, this diverse trail abounds with natural, architectural, and urban fascination.

I discovered the trail when  I saw a news article featuring a man traversing a newly paved concrete path beneath I-285.  What’s this?  Something natural under the Cumberland Connector?   We’ve got our next cheap trip adventure right here.


Thankfully, my youngest is usually game for an adventure, so off we went.

First, literally, the biggest challenge was to find it!  The whole place around there is under construction.  I circled the area for about 20 minutes looking for an access point.  Finally, we gave up,  parked in an office parking lot, and hopped over a silk EPA fence and into the trail.  Hopefully, by the time you read this the trail head parking will have opened.  Here’s what came up on Google Maps:

google map of trail head

Wide and paved, the trail is a fascinating confluence of  highly engineered highways and disordered woodlands. The trail seems to refill dead zones that were inaccessible when the highways came.  As my husband says,” I’ve spent all my time above.  Walking the trail gave me a sense of what’s beneath.”  There’s a hidden treasure down under the concrete canopy.   God’s art meets Man’s Art.  The man-made stuff obstructs; but nature finds its way around.  The trail gives you a glimpse into this battle that rages on beneath the thoroughfare, between the natural and the man-made.  In some places, the man-made is winning the battle; but, as you walk along, you see that nature is winning the war.  Little pockets of handsome purple flowers push up at the trail’s beginning.  A large mill-stone, broken in half by time and wear, is exposed in the creek bed.  A tree busts through a concrete retaining wall.  You know that over time, if left alone, nature would reclaim this strip of land back to its own quiet customs.


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In the meantime, until the apocalypse,  there is a great deal of symmetry and concrete to appreciate.

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We stopped frequently, taking in the splendor of a building’s reflection in the water or the feel of cold, steel  bridge I-beams.  Eventually  we advanced past all the bridges, railings, graffiti, and traffic sounds to the place where Rottenwood Creek deposits itself into the Chattahoochee River.   Even here, the mouth of the creek was buttressed with a concrete hedge.  Yet, the water softened the view and made for a lovely sound as it spilled over into the river.

I looked at my phone while we listened to the water spill into the Hooch! Where had the time gone?  We’d lost an hour here beneath the concrete canopy.   Time to head back.

This place impacted me in a bizarre and wonderful way.  Now I think about that trail and the nature going on there every time we drive over the top.  I can hear the rushing water under the bridges.  The image of my son dwarfed by the massive concrete wall, his colorful clothes contrasting against the grey, stays strong in the back of my mind.

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This trip revealed that there are beautiful, natural places to visit in and around our concrete city.   I’d say “The Bob” is a good destination in and of itself.  But, its also a good stop over place to take a lunch or traffic break and well worth the effort to find.  We’ll be back for sure.

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