Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

I am taking the kids to the Santa Ana NWA today to see some nature. The real reason is that children need exposure to new germs and other natural things like pollen in order to build a resistance to disease. If you raise your kid entirely indoors and never give him or her an opportunity to get dirty, your kid will face all kinds of allergies and illnesses as an adult.

A visit to the outdoors is also fun and they get to run around. I'll bring more information about our trip when we return.

How it Went

We arrived at the refuge and parked close to the office. There weren't many people there. We sprayed ourselves with insect repellent and got our water bottles. The weather was sunny and a bit humid. You could really feel the heat if you stood in the sun. The temperature in the shade was great. We paid our $3 entrance fee. The charge is $3 per group; what a bargain! So, we headed out on the tour loop because the foot trails right outside the office are closed due to repairs. We took the C trail, which goes about 2 miles. It passes by a couple of low areas that become lakes. Despite the recent hurricane, there wasn't much lake. The trails were still slightly muddy, especially the shaded areas.

Here is something to remember about nature trails in the Rio Grande Valley. This applies to the nature trails at Santa Ana NWR, at Bentsen Park, or elsewhere. Open areas are breezy. Tree covered areas are not breezy. We were doing great out in the open areas where the "lakes" are located. Once we got into the wooded area it became a sauna. We've experienced this in the past. Apparently we don't learn. We couldn't get out of the wooded area fast enough. Really, Magnus, who is three years old, slowed us down a bit. I could have carried him, but part of the purpose of taking him and his sister out there was for exercise. He bravely put in his 2 miles.

It's a good idea to stay out of the trails so soon after having received so much rain. The humidity is high, which leaves you hot and sweaty in 2 minutes. Another side effect of the recent rain is the large number of mosquitos. I had to walk behind the three year old to swat the mosquitos away from him. They were following him in bunches like you often see gnats. The bug spray we used kept most of them off, but they still followed.

Tien, my 10 year old daughter, learned that you should not take sandals on a hike. I warned her prior to leaving to get some sneakers. She made up a lame excuse. So being the great parent that I am, I let her go in sandals so that she would learn the hard way. Sure enough, she got blisters. This isn't a Rio Grande Valley thing. I think anywhere you go for a long walk will cause blisters with inadequate footware.

By the time we reached the tour loop to head out of the park, we were all flushed, sweaty, and itchy. Here is perhaps a perverse thing to enjoy. You should see the happy look on your children's faces when they see that their suffering is nearly over. We still had a long walk ahead of us on the paved tour loop. The good thing was that the paved trail is wide and allows wind to come down and cool us off. There is no mud. There are fewer mosquitos. All we had to do was head north to the parking lot. They did not complain because it was an easy walk compared to what we had just endured.

We had a good time, believe it or not. Both children had been bugging me since Monday to take them there. It rained Monday, so that was scratched. So, I finally got them to the Santa Ana NWR. It's rewarding to challenge the kids a little on occasion and have them meet the challenge.

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