Cedar River Watershed Education Center

Not really a hike but kind of a hike. More of an outing. Memories of taking Blaise and Laine to the Cedar River Watershed Education Center as toddlers, when we did anything and everything to get out of the house. Life was simpler then. Two kiddos. Two easy kiddos. Fast-forward eight or so years—and a few kiddos later—back to the Education Center we went. Baby was at her outdoor school so I only had four kiddos this day. Which always throws off my headcount when I’m missing only one. If I’m missing two or more, no biggie. We technically had five kiddos but I was still thrown off, one wasn’t mine. Laine’s buddy and her mom joined us.

Rain was in the forecast for Friday. Thursday night, the weather forecast said North Bend would have rain all Friday morning and afternoon. I never trust anything weather, especially up here. And sure enough come Friday morning, it was only cloudy. Rain was expected at 12pm. Then at 1pm. And then at 2pm. We were in the clear to head out. Not that rain necessarily stops us but I wasn’t up for all the wet clothes. I was totally caught up on laundry—and the kiddos had all put their baskets of clothes away—and I didn’t want to start the weekend with more wet clothes to wash. Between Tuesday and Friday, I have seven sets of wet and muddy outdoor clothes to launder. Each set is between 3-4 layers. Laundry is the bane of my existence.

Blaise and Laine finished their online math lab at 11:50am, the kiddos quickly ate lunch, layered up, and we hit the road. I always take the back roads when possible. Bonus: we saw the herd of elk hanging out in the field on the way to North Bend. They’re there often and it makes me happy every time I see them. Except that one time I was driving just past the field and an elk walked out from the bushes along the shoulder to cross the road. Scared the hell out of me.

The main parking lot for the Education Center is closed. Gate and all. I read online it was closed but went for it anyway, in hopes the website hadn’t been updated. Nope, it’s closed. We had to backtrack to park in the Rattlesnake Lake parking area and hike along the lake trail to the Education Center. Just like their website said. It’s about a half-mile from the parking lot; it’s probably a bit more from the actual spot where we parked. I decided to go for it with Maive and skipped bringing the stroller. She’s been walking a ton in her outdoor class so I figured she could hang. And she did! We went at a toddler pace but we went. Stopping to check out rocks, leaves, sticks, pinecones… tiny pinecones even. Maive loves pockets. She must have put a few rocks in each pocket, along with whatever else she could fit in there. Eventually we made it to the Education Center. The sign along the lake trail helped, with the arrow pointing where to go. Follow the arrows, they’ll tell you where to go… I’m dating myself here.

Masked up, we went inside. There were three women working there and one seemed very excited to see people. She welcomed us and chatted with the kiddos. Asked who had been before and if we had any questions. Saige asked, “Why is it called Rattlesnake Lake?” The woman was more than happy to answer. She explained that it used to be a wide-open prairie and on the prairie, there were seed pods that rattled. These rattling seed pods scared a road surveyor, thinking there were rattlesnakes around. It was then called Rattlesnake Prairie. She even had a vase full of the seed pods to rattle for us. Sure enough, they sounded much like a rattlesnake. She also had a packet of laminated photos, showing us a photoshopped version of Rattlesnake Lake as a prairie with wildflowers galore. And then she went on to tell us about the town of Moncton that was founded in 1906 on the Rattlesnake Prairie, with historical pictures.

Long story short, the town was flooded with water seeping up after a dam was built nearby. This is a great article that explains all that happened, with pictures. The lady told the story really well, captivating the kiddos (and even me). Blaise, Laine, and I knew about the former town, learning about it back in the day. Even though they were young, the underwater town stuck with them. I mean, it is interesting! The enthusiastic woman finished chatting with us—what turned into a fabulous lesson about the area and water—and gave each of us a ball to use in the vacuum tubes. I knew Maive would be all over the vacuum tubes. She also handed each kiddo a handout, with certain things to learn about from the exhibits. Kind of like an educational scavenger hunt.

As we walked toward the exhibits, I heard the lovely woman say to the other woman something like, “That felt great! It’s been a while!” Between her excitment when we walked inside and hearing her say this, I’m thinking they don’t get many visitors these days. Granted, they’ve cut the open hours to Thursday and Fridays from 12-5pm, and Saturdays from 10am-5pm.

We had the entire Education Center to ourselves. The kiddos quickly started working on their handouts. Last time we came, none of the kiddos were reading. It’s a different experience taking reading kiddos. All three big kids made their way around the exhibits reading all the information, taking it all in. I could tell they were actually processing what they were reading. Homeschooling score. Meanwhile, I introduced Maive to the vacuum tubes. Major toddler hit! I could see her wheels turning, trying to figure out where each tube dropped the ball.

The kiddos exhibited, scavenger hunted, and vacuum tubed before calling it a success. They learned also, but that seems a bit cheesy to add to the list. I think they would have stayed longer but it was starting to get misty outside with 2pm approaching. I wanted to head down to the lake before it started pouring. Of course my big kiddos decided to leave their rain jackets in the car, even after I strongly suggested they bring them. Eh, I can only suggest so much for the big kiddos. They’re old enough to grasp the consequences. Maive and I had jackets.

Leaving the Education Center, we nosed around the buildings before making our way down to the lake. Bummer the drums weren’t working; they’re turned off for repairs. There’s this cool water drum area, right outside of the Education Center. Water drops on different drums, creating calming sounds. Hopefully it’s up and running next time. The kiddos stopped on a deck lookout to use the tower viewer. I literally just learned what these are called thanks to Google. I figured tall binocular thingy wasn’t the official name. It was cold and wet, and didn’t work well. They each tried to zoom in on Rattlesnake Ledge, no luck.

The mist was turning more to rain as we made it to the lake. The lake was high, winter and all. But I was holding on to the smallest of hopes that the lake would be lower, exposing the tree stumps along the beach. But there was no beach. The lake was higher than I’ve ever seen the sucker. Which isn’t saying much; I haven’t been there in the dead of winter before. We strolled along the paved lake trail, making our way back to the parking lot. The kiddos stopped to check out a few different things along the way. Like the tree stumps visible in the water that are close to the trail. There was a downed tree. A few small trails down to the edge of the water. Several views of Rattlesnake Ledge. The waterfall that crosses under the trail. And puddles galore! Maive got her puddle jumping on. Even Blaise joined her. And of course, trees to climb on.

Saige asked to use my phone to take some pictures. I love seeing pictures kiddos deem worthy of taking.

We trekked back to the parking lot. All said and done, we must have walked about two miles. I wish I had used my Apple watch to track mileage but I forgot. Maive did great! She asked up? once, as we approached the parking lot. Blaise took it upon himself to lift her up and run with her. She has the life.

Walking back, the big kiddos asked if we could hit Swirl on the way home. They remember last summer, when we did my Hiking & Ice Cream Camp. I said sure; they were happy kiddos. They’re asking for my camp again this summer so it must have been an enjoyable week for them. Or maybe they only want ice cream. Either way, we’ll do it again. Blaise has asked for a Geocache Camp also. I need to come up with a catchy Geocache & Blank camp name, haha.

Again, Maive has the life! Hell, all these kiddos do. And they have no idea.

Until next time!

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