Quality time with the kids looking for ‘human treasure’

This past weekend was perfect, upper 60s and sunny. I took the kids down in the New River Gorge, to ACE’s private river access, a giant sandy beach where driftwood and “human treasure” collect after high river levels drop.

You see, “human treasure” is a term my 10-year-old came up with a long time ago – basically, anything man-made that he finds (bottles, bottle caps, tennis balls, lighters, etc.) is considered human treasure, and like most 10-year-old boys, he has the habit of picking things up that probably shouldn’t be picked up!

So the first thing we always do when we explore along the river is to try and find the “perfect” hiking stick (it is always a competition, but you can find some really cool driftwood sticks along the river) that we use to poke and prod the things we find.

Now the New River is a big river, and with high water, some very interesting things can wash downstream. We always find lost shoes and sandals, old bottles, lots of lighters, an occasional tire.

Two weeks ago, we found a big old metal safe (I have no idea how it got down there, and to my son’s disappointment, it was already gone by this weekend). But there is always something new to discover after high water, and this weekend was no different.

This weekend’s big event was a poor old dead turtle. Hence, the stick!

Even my 13-year old daughter found it fascinating. She’s a trooper and will jump right in on most things, if she’s not texting or talking on the phone. But like most older sisters, she has a bad habit of getting her younger brother into trouble by having him do the most daring and sometimes the most stupid things first.

On this occasion we left the poor old turtle alone after about 15 minutes of poking and prodding and kept exploring. We climbed along the rocks bordering the river to a large flat rock where we laid out in the sun, eating our lunch. We briefly watched two kayakers paddle down the river; the river was moving pretty fast on this day.

We then took to the trail paralleling Arbuckle Creek where we explored the old ruins of Wee Win, an old coal mining town that closed almost 100 years ago, where you can hike amongst the remnants of old rock foundations, rock walls and coke ovens.

This is one of my favorite spring hikes due to the wildflowers you can find here and the fact that very few people get down there. The gorge is unique in the fact that the river bank of the gorge blooms first; it’s almost 1,000 feet to the top of the gorge and it is protected from the harsher elements. It is not uncommon to be 10 to 20 degrees warmer at the bottom of the gorge.

We found tens of thousands of White Violets growing everywhere; it was like a blanket of flowers that filled the air with their sweet, heady perfume.

There were thousands and thousands of White Trilliums; these were our favorites and I’ve never seen so many in one place. I believe they are called Catesby’s Trillium because the flowers were slightly nodding.

We found several patches of Dutchman’s Breeches, which my 10-year-old thought were really cool. My daughter found a flower I had never seen before that they both swore smelled like Applejacks! In all we found more than 20 different wildflowers, many of which I need to look up their names to refresh my aging memory.

It was a fantastic day of exploring with the kids, one of the best I can remember in a long time. There was something for everyone. Not only that, it was quality time with the kids. It was a chance to catch up on things, laugh and goof off. And it was free!

ACE offers miles and miles of scenic trails – next weekend I think I’ll hike the kids down to Dylan’s Falls or maybe take them out to the beaver dams at Truman Lake.

Wouldn’t you like to join us? Do you have a favorite place near home to see wildflowers or look for other seasonal changes? How can we help you get some quality time with the kids?

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