BRDC's first week of Explorers Adventure Day Camp offered a variety of opportunities for kids to investigate mud and weeds, ponds, woodlands, creeks and river- five days of nature exploration and wonder.
The week began with a walk to the New River’s edge for birding. The campers were encouraged to listen for songs and calls before using sight and binoculars, and were rewarded with Baltimore Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Rough-winged Swallows, Eastern Kingbirds, Song Sparrows, and a huge family of Canada Geese with many goslings.
An orienteering program gave the campers a quick study of compass skills. as the kids constructed large scale models of compasses on the ground to emphasize north, east, south and west. Later in the week, the campers expanded on this lesson with a compass directed walk in the woods where they discovered a 24 year old box turtle, and hunted for salamanders.
The kids learned Tenkara, the traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing, ideal for mountain streams and similar to the simple cane pole. Campers were given instructions on how to cast, then headed to a nearby pond. Using artificial flies, the kids were all given a chance to fish, and all were successful in bringing in at least two blue-gills each. Groups rotated between fishing and an insect/butterfly hunt in the fields around the pond. White-spotted Skipper, Great-spangled Fritillary, Sulfers, and Pearl Crescent were some of their discoveries.
A chilly morning didn't stop the campers from getting into the Saddle Creek to look for aquatic invertebrates. The critters were keyed out in field guides, and listed in the campers' journals. Stone flies, caddis flies, mayflies, and damsel flies were identified along with our usual catch of crayfish.
Mid-week, the campers learned knots and lashing skills and put them into practice by constructing a version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s self supporting bridge out of sweet birch trunks and branches.
The campers studied different species of mushrooms, hiked to a rock shelter cave, constructed and tested creek rafts, explored owl pellets, learned about the art of fire-building, practiced primitive skills such as flint knapping with a deer antler and basket making, conducted hands-on experiments in geology, learned to identify wildflowers, and explored the creek fresh water snorkeling.
Recognizing the huge interest in salamanders, the campers rounded out the week with a salamander hunt. Aaron Floyd, BRDC’s executive director, joined in the hunt and helped the kids identify their catch, which included Blue Ridge Two Lined, Black Bellied, and Dusky salamanders.
Special thanks to Lisa Benish, Heidi Breedlove, Carol Broderson, Rick Cavey, Ken Crouse, Roald and Ellie Kirby, Fred Newcomb, Joe Flowers, Scott Jackson-Ricketts and all of the BRDC staff and volunteers who helped to make our first week of camp a great success!