Nature Walking

This afternoon, Little Girl was particularly cranky. She is an extrovert, unlike me and the other kids, so she gets antsy. Unfortunately, it’s been too hot in the daytime lately to go outside and play, unless it’s at a pool (and even then, you don’t want the hot afternoon sun beating down on you). But today was only around 80, and not humid, so I took LG and Eldest on a small hike. Nothing puts people (or at least, me or the kids) in a better mood faster than being away from televisions and out in a bit of nature.

LG loves using her bug catcher. We’ve only caught a dragonfly and a lizard, which we returned to the wild. In Hawaii, when LG was only 3,¬† she caught one while her reptile-phobic older sister was screaming and popped it neatly into an empty water bottle.

First we went to the Visitor Center, which has plaques with all the plant names and displays about the Kumeyaay Indians.


We saw lots of animal scat, which I did not take pictures of. This time. The kids like identifying wildlife scat (coyotes have fur, deer have berries), leading me one day to say a phrase I thought I’d never say, “Maybe today we’ll be lucky and there will be some new poop to look at!” Things you never thought you’d say as a parent.

We hiked to a little offshoot of the San Diego River. My Grandma from Pennsylvania would scoff, “You call that a river? We’d call that a creek.” Except she said “crick” in her accent. Anyway, this was a mere stream, but populated by tadpoles, many dragonflies, and frogs.

Immediately I saw a small brown frog. We’d never been able to catch one, despite hearing their croaks. The frogs, smart as they are, stop croaking when you walk up to them. This one was in the grass. Eldest screamed and I tried to get the frog, but it got away.


Then Eldest got more adventurous. She went upstream trying to catch bugs, but there were only water bugs about. And lots of gnats, mosquitoes, and bees. None of which we wanted to capture.


We did not follow her because I saw “leaves of three, let it be” and feared it was poison oak. Eldest kept herself out of it, but I wasn’t sure if LG and I could, holding hands as we do. At 6th grade camp, after the leader told us to crawl through a hollow log, I got a terrible case of poison oak on my palms. Never crawl through hollow logs when it’s dark and rainy and you can’t see inside. Also, don’t wear white jeans to 6th grade camp.


I showed this photo to the park ranger afterward and he said it was not poison oak, that the rangers clear the trails and that many harmless plants have the “leaves of three, let it be” but it was better to be safe than sorry.

And since they’d also gone to the trouble to construct this hut near the leaves, I’d have to say he was correct.


The best part was, LG was indeed in a more chipper mood all day.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

One thought on “Nature Walking

  1. In my backyard, I spray the “leaves of three” just to be on the safe side. I can get poison ivy from my dog’s coat if he brushes against it.

    That being said, there’s nothing like a nature walk to shake off the summer doldrums!

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