Getting Kids Out Into Nature

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Category Archives: Beach

SEA Discovery Center and Point No Point – Trip Report 3/9/18

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SEA Discovery Center

Yesterday I took Annika and two of her friends on a fun outing over to the Kitsap Peninsula. We took the ferry over from Edmonds to Kingston, and from there it was a quick 20-minute drive to Poulsbo. Our destination was a small aquarium, the SEA Discovery Center, right on the water of Liberty Bay. The girls enjoyed the large octopus sculpture in the entrance to the museum, which invites climbing and sand play. We tore ourselves away to get to the main attraction, the large touch tank.

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Touch Tank and Whale Skeleton

But first the docent on duty welcomed us and told us the rules for our visit. We needed to go wash our hands to get any harmful oils or lotions off them, and we couldn’t touch the crabs, fish, or insides of the anemones. Even with these restrictions, there were plenty of critters for the kids to touch and explore, including several types of sea stars.

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Touch Tank
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Sea Creatures

The girls found it interesting that the leather stars had different textures from the ochre stars. The anemones came in various colors and sizes, and looking closely at the environment of the touch tank helped us sharpen our observational skills. I recommend wearing short-sleeved shirts for this part, as some of the sections of the tank are deep enough to go over children’s elbows.

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Another Aquarium, Simulating Life Near a Piling
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Leather Star

When we were done with the touch tank, we wandered around to view the other tanks. The docents offered information about some of the creatures we were seeing, such as unique habits they had, or fun facts that the kids might not know. I find it interesting to take time to really look at a tank – it seems the more you look, the more you see, as your eyes become accustomed to new patterns and shapes. We were lucky to be there when one of the tanks was being fed, and watched as a funny flounder snapped up falling pieces of squid. We saw part of the moray eel, but it didn’t feel the need to come out of its lair to show us its full length.

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Display of Shells

We spent about a half an hour at the aquarium. It is much smaller than the Seattle aquarium, or even the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. But it is free (they gratefully accept donations) and they do lots of school programs and other public education events. It makes a worthwhile stop for younger children, or if you are doing other activities in the area.

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Coloring Area

The hours are limited, so check them on the website before you come. There is a small free parking lot at the building, and more free parking in the area and on the streets.

When we were done with the aquarium, we drove over to Hansville, where we visited Point No Point County Park.

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Beautiful View

From the parking lot, walk the sidewalk to the east, past the lighthouse keepers house, and admire the well-maintained historical lighthouse on the point.

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Lighthouse, Point No Point


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Lighthouse Detail
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Easy Gravel Trail

We walked the trail through the edge of the wetland, but didn’t continue up the stairs onto the bluff; instead, we walked a little ways up the beach and explored. The girls loved all the driftwood, and we looked at lots of shells and rocks.

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We found a giant boulder that had barnacles, mussels, tube worms, and seaweed on it.

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Looking South Toward Seattle

The girls decided they really just wanted to play, so we walked the beach back to the parking lot and set up on the beach for the next hour.

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Tide is Out
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Driftwood Walkers

They took their shoes off, ran in the sand, dipped their toes into the icy water, and pretended to be horses and other creatures. I tried to identify birds that were floating offshore; a spotting scope would have been handy. I did come out with a nice list of birds, including common loons, buffleheads, common mergansers, and pigeon guillemots. We saw a seal, and we saw at least 3 great blue herons in the wetlands. Red-winged blackbirds serenaded us from the bushes. We ended our stay with a quick treat of hot cocoa, before brushing off the sand and piling back in the car for the ferry.

If You Go: Point No Point is about a 20-minute drive from the Kingston ferry dock or from Poulsbo. It’s a small county park, and no parking permits are needed. If the parking lot is full, there is some overflow parking about 1/3 mile back on NE Point No Point Rd; you’ll need a state Discovery Pass to park there. There are pit toilets and garbage cans at the park, as well as picnic tables and benches, but no other amenities. It has one of the few sandy beaches in Puget Sound, and my kids found the sand soft and inviting. It is a popular birding spot, and on a clear day you can see Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, and Seattle’s skyscrapers. The trail is about 0.8 miles from end to end. We only walked about half of that. Dogs are allowed on a leash.

Book Review: Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula, 2nd Edition, by Craig Romano

Mysterious, deep, ancient forests. Coastal beaches and headlands. Alpine meadows with far-reaching views. Lakes and rivers, wetlands and surf. The Olympic Peninsula has a diverse range of habitats and areas to explore. You can research your next adventure to this wild corner of the country by using Craig Romano’s book, Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula. This…Continue Reading

Semiahmoo Park – Trip Report, 3/10/17

We recently took an afternoon and drove up to Semiahmoo Spit near Blaine to do some birding and check out a new-to-us trail. Semiahmoo Spit is a long sand spit that protects Drayton Harbor. Historically this area was used by Native Americans for harvesting natural resources, and it became an abundant salmon canning area after…Continue Reading

Larrabee SP and Whatcom Falls Park – Trip Report

On Friday we made a quick afternoon trip up to Bellingham to visit Larrabee State Park and Whatcom Falls Park. We tried real hard to miss the rain showers, but ended up getting caught in a few. It was worth it anyway! We didn’t get started until a little after noon. I should know better…Continue Reading

Winter Camping – Salt Creek Recreation Area and Dungeness Spit

Camping in February? This was a first for my family. I don’t think I’ve ever braved late winter/early spring camping before, but the weather was looking so nice, and we had two bonus days off from classes, so I thought we’d give it a try. We had heard good things about the camping at the…Continue Reading

Guemes Channel and Ship Harbor Trail, Anacortes

A couple of weeks ago we took advantage of a warm afternoon to hike a new trail to us: Guemes Channel and Ship Harbor Trails up in Anacortes. We found these little gems in Craig Romano’s newest hiking guide for the San Juans and Gulf Islands. Leaving from a cul-de-sac, the trails go off in…Continue Reading

Cranberry Lake/Cama Beach State Park

Last Friday we were able to squeeze a quick trip in between morning and evening commitments.  We’ve had many Fridays like this lately – seems we haven’t had the time we are used to having!  We took a little drive up to Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island.  I had never been there before,…Continue Reading

Washington Park, Anacortes – Trip Report

Sometimes we don’t really feel like hiking on a particular day.  Sometimes we’re tired, we’ve been running from one thing to the next and the next with no room to breathe.  We face a choice – continue to be busy and go hiking (with all the preparation and energy exertion that requires) or stay home,…Continue Reading

Stalking Snowy Owls

OK, well, maybe we didn’t really need to do any stalking, but we had a neat trip last weekend to go see some visiting snowy owls.  Some of you might remember last year when we had a record number of snowy owls visiting the lower 48.  Last year was an irruption year, when conditions are…Continue Reading