Trail Run Teachable Moments

Trail running with a 9-year-old is different than running with my adult buddies. We end up stopping a lot to check things out. I don’t entirely mind. There are a lot of teachable moments on a trail run. Kids learn best when they are in the moment in real-life experiences. While I’m not that outdoorsy, thanks to a family who is (my parents & grandparents) and an interest in science, I do know a few things. A few LITTLE things. When I don’t know what something is, I take a picture of it and ask my friend’s husband, who’s a biologist.

The park rangers (or someone) will periodically clean up the trails and cut away fallen trees, but big ones like this hang out for several months sometimes. This particular tree was there last year. Sometimes the tree is so big that they just reroute the trail. I’m not sure what will happen here. It’s a horse trail, and clearly a horse cannot climb through like we did.

My favorite part of the trail: flat, wide, and smooth.

We found an owl pellet! I saw one running the other day, too. They look like a pile of dryer lint. If you haven’t heard of an owl pellet, it’s the remains of an animal that an owl ate. They swallow the thing whole and somehow regurgitate the non-meat parts. More info here: owl pellets.

If you take an owl pellet home and carefully disassemble it, you can actually lay out the whole animal skeleton. I didn’t have a pocket, or I would have taken it home to do that. I pullet it apart with two sticks a bit. Owl pellets are technically PUKE so I didn’t exactly want to handle it a lot. I think it was maybe a mole. It was too much fur to be a mouse, I think. Plus, the pelvis seemed bigger than a mouse.

Our state park includes a man-made lake. Many years ago they dammed up a small creek to create the lake. The dam is to the left of where Evan is running here.

And to his right is where the creek emerges. I think it’s really creepy looking into that tunnel. I don’t even like looking at the picture. I did not stay and check this area out for long. For a trail runner, I’m really wimpy. They can control the amount of water that comes out.

Evan did not mind. He wanted to throw rocks in there. No. Just no.

The park is full of steep uphills and downhills. This is partially due to trails that were formed before good trail management/planning existed. Instead of going straight up and down the hills, they should be zig-zagged to prevent erosion. (info on trail management here: linky link)

This looks like an animal cave but is really just a weathered area of rock. I’m not saying a possum or raccoon hasn’t holed up there before but it’s not like it’s a bear or cougar den.

Another “cave” in the rock. It’s very rocky here. I’m assuming glacier activity cut it out like this but I’m honestly not sure. Maybe just years of erosion.

Limestone weathers relatively easily. It is a carbonate rock. This means it reacts to acid in rain, even mildly acidic rain. Normal rain is slightly acidic due to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Limestone also commonly has fossils, though we didn’t see any in this big rock.

We ran about 3 miles. Evan wasn’t feeling great and had a headache, so around mile 2.5 we cut over to the road and ran that back to the car. Still, it was a fun and educational trail run. Did you learn anything new?

10 thoughts on “Trail Run Teachable Moments

  1. How were the trails on that side of the Park? I was out last weekend and trails to the West and Northwest were pretty muddy in places. P

    • Yeah kind of nasty to think about but they are oddly not slimey & gross. I do think the ones you use in school have been sterilized.

  2. Looks awesome! And it’s so nice you can do stuff like that with Evan. Yes- that photo of the tunnel does look creepy, like out of a horror movie. Be careful if you ever run there by yourself!
    I remember taking apart an owl pellet and gluing the bones onto paper in the shape of a mouse. That’s a pretty gross elementary school project come to think of it!
    Abby recently posted..Eat Sleep Ride: a book reviewMy Profile

    • You have to climb off the trail to find that tunnel. I will not be doing that again soon.

  3. So cool! I never knew that about owl pellets! I don’t have much opportunity to run trails here, but I am going to keep an eye out if I am ever in a nature situation.
    Jenn recently posted..back at it. again.My Profile

  4. I just learned so much, and I wasn’t even on the trail run with you! I remember learning about owl pellets in school, but had forgotten about them until now. Its pretty cool that Evan likes to go on trail runs with you!
    Meagan recently posted..Turkey Runner is moving!My Profile

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