Field trip to Tryon Creek

Today was Enzo’s class outing to Tryon Creek State Park and the first field trip of the year for the school’s first graders. I’m a hiker and love being outdoors learning about nature and autumn in the Pacific Northwest, so I was thrilled to sign up as a chaperone to help Ms. Michele out (and learn a few new things about NW flora & fauna myself).

Having lived in this area pretty much my entire life, I admit, I have never visited Tryon Creek. I guess my excuse is that we have so many fascinating places to hike and visit all over our area, I’ve always felt it’s best to get outside the Portland metro area. Knowing how cool TC is though, and how close it is, I will definitely be going back soon. Much like Forest Park, there’s a lot of trail to explore and it makes for excellent quick, short hikes on time constrained weekdays (and of course, great for weekends too!)

I arrived at Enzo’s school at 8:45, signed in and headed for Ms. Michele’s class to find out my assigned duties for the day. The field trip was slated to last into the early afternoon. As advised, I took my daypack for storing my groups’ sack lunches (and jackets, sweaters and whatever else could fit in my 30L). My assigned group of 5 kids (including Zo) gathered around and we waited our turn to head out to the bus. I gave my group my standard instruction on what to do in case they need help or get lost (yell out “Cacaw! Cacaw!” of course – and I will locate them). We boarded the bus around 9:10(ish or so) and headed south toward Lake O./Tryon Creek through the morning fog.

We arrived at Tryon about 30 minutes later – and it was much chillier than we expected – but it was a gorgeous day – so we knew it’d warm up at some point. The Tryon staff and teaching volunteers gathered us all around in the undercovered area and gave the students tips for respecting the forest and each other – a separate staff member gave the adult chaperones a quick lesson on how to keep kids on task on the trails.

Our first stop was the indoor classroom. Our group’s leader – Deanne – showed the kids a stuffed beaver, a beaver skull and pointed out a few other animals in the classroom. The three groups in the area watched and interacted with a demonstration on how animals gather their food and how different animals have different gathering abilities, depending on whether they have paws, claws, opposable thumbs, etc.. It was a fun exercise and the kids learned something new.

Once the lesson was over, we made a quick stop at the bathrooms before heading into the woods for our 45(ish) minute exploration (these are 1st graders afterall!). Our guide Deanne led us through the winding trails of Tryon. We kindly stepped aside for other hikers, joggers, and dogwalkers as we stopped to listen to Deanne’s excellent presentations on a few of Tryon’s varied wildlife (and some more specific to the NW in general). We learned about:

  • Woodpeckers (Pileated and otherwise)
  • American Beaver
  • American Shrew Mole (maybe it was the Townsend, not sure)
  • Squirrels (several kinds)
  • Striped Skunk
  • Worms, lots of worms
  • Little brown bats (and their hiding places (Fascinating!))
  • …and many others.
  • We also learned (and saw) quite a few mushrooms, plant varieties and more.

Throughout the trail, pretty much from the beginning, we were hearing murmurs of “I’m hungry”, “I’m starving”, “when do we eat?”, and “did we bring snacks?”. Truth be told, I was pretty hungry by mid-walk myself, but I stayed strong for the kids 😀 who were delighted to learn that we were heading back for lunch in the covered area.

We thanked Deanne for our awesome/informative excursion and she went her separate way. We headed for the undercover area and our tasty morsels, which were now pancaked in my backpack. The kids didn’t mind. They chowed down, we made another trip to the bathroom and then boarded the bus around 12:30 for our trip back to school. The sun was now shining brightly, no fog – and it had warmed up quite a bit.

Our trip back on the bus was fun. The kids bellies were full, so they were happy (for the most part). I learned interesting things from the boys sitting next to me on my seat – including things that 1st graders talk about amongst themselves these days, such as “Justin Bieber sucks” and “The illuminati is all over the dollar bill”. They were quick to inform me that the illuminati is everywhere and if I made a pyramid shape with my hand (like the illuminati shape apparently), then turn it over, it becomes a heart. Why this is significant, I have no idea. I didn’t even know that 1st graders knew of the Illuminati (I didn’t learn that stuff until college– or Dan Brown — I really can’t remember that far back).

We arrived at school, thanked the bus driver and went back into the classroom. I unloaded my backpack full of kids gear and thanked them for a great day. The students gave the chaperone’s a kind of “meh” thanks at the prodding of Ms. Michele, and the field trip day came to an end. I had a lot of fun.

I plan to go back to Tryon soon – with the kids AND by myself. I’m looking forward to exploring the trails and enjoying the solitude next time – but would absolutely be happy to go back as a chaperone anytime.

Have ya’ll been out to Tryon Creek? What’dya think? Any fun/intersting (or frustrating) field trip stories to share?

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