A Cure for Nature Deficit Disorder

by Sue Freeman

Kids today live almost under house arrest. We don’t let them walk to school or sometimes even play outside. They’re entertained by television and computer games rather than building forts in the woods or catching jars full of lightning bugs. What a shame. As a result, they develop the modern malady called Nature Deficit Disorder.

With spring in full bloom and summer not far behind, it’s time to break the kids away from the TV and computer screen and go find some fun offered by nature. Start with a trip to Moss Lake in Houghton (70 miles south of Rochester). As you set foot out of the car, catfish in the pond will feel you coming and begin rushing toward shore in a boiling mass. The water comes alive with squirming fish. After getting a close-up look at the catfish, follow the trail around the pond. It’s a short loop - less than a mile in total. On the far side of the pond you’ll find a boardwalk that leads out to the bog where the kids can poke their hands into the sponge-like sphagnum moss and touch pitcher plants. Kids find it fascinating that this plant captures and eats insects.

On your way home, swing by the south end of Conesus Lake. At the Conesus Inlet Fish and Wildlife Management Area off Slinker Hill Road, follow the trail to the dam along Conesus Inlet. Here, from April through June, you’ll find huge northern pike swimming about as they head upstream to spawn. Then follow the trail south along Conesus Inlet pond where dead trees stand sentinel over the water, proof that this was woodland before the dam was installed. Today this pond is home to wetland birds like great blue herons and Canada geese. Be sure to bring along your binoculars. The trail is a 2-mile round trip with observation platforms along the way.

Hurry to hike the Daffodil Trail in Powder Mills Park. The thousands of King Alfred daffodils along Irondequoit Creek wane by mid-May. Catch them in bloom and you’ll see a sea of yellow framed by the gurgling creek. Encourage the kids to look closely at the intricacies of each daffodil.

How cool would it be to walk behind a wall of water? You can actually walk behind a waterfall at Tinkers Falls in Labrador Hollow State Nature Preserve in Truxton. A short quarter mile walk from Route 91 leads to this beautiful waterfall with a huge overhanging cap rock.

Pretend your bikes are mules from the Erie Canal era. Ride the Erie Canalway Trail through Aqueduct Park in Palmyra where you can ride across a change bridge. Change bridges used to allow mules to change from one side of the canal towpath to the other without having to be unharnessed. In Aqueduct Park you’ll also find a working Erie Canal lock and a waterfall where the waters of Ganargua Creek flow into what was once an aqueduct for the original canal. Today when a boat passes through the current Erie Canal lock, water gets diverted from Ganargua Creek and the waterfall stops flowing.

This is just a sampling of the fun outdoors activities you can expose kids to. There is a cure for Nature Deficit Disorder. Get outside to play as a family soon.

Guidebooks for details on these adventures (available at www.footprintpress.com or call 1-800-431-1579) include:

* Take A Hike – Family Walks in the Finger Lakes and Genesee Valley Region (out of print)

* Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region

* Take A Hike – Family Walks in the Rochester Area

* 200 Waterfalls in Central & Western New York – A Finders’ Guide

* Take Your Bike – Family Rides in the Rochester Area

* Take Your Bike – Family Rides in New York’s Finger Lakes Region

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