Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Seminole Canyon Field Trip

One of the many perks of homeschooling is the availability to go on frequent field trips. Our co-op offers at least one field trip per month and when you live where we live, some of the destinations are just, dare I say it, amazing.

Last month, our field trip was a tour of Seminole Canyon to observe cave paintings, pictographs left behind by either the Comanches, Apaches, or other Native American people that braved to live in this area hundreds of years ago.

About 10 cars full of students, parents, and friends, met at the Wal-Mart and caravan-ed to the state park, some 30 miles north of Del Rio.

For an open-spaces kind of gal like me, the drive alone is worth the trip.

We met up with the park rangers, paid our fees, and split up into two tour groups: A tour for the younger kids, a nature walk through the Sonoran desert, and another tour for the bigger kids, a hike down into the canyon and up into the caves to see the pictographs.

Jerry came with us so we could go with the big kids. He's a good baby-carrying mule.

The canyon seemed so far away. But the weather was perfect, the kids in a good mood, and I didn't have to teach anything that day. Bonus!

Along the way our guide stopped at certain spots to teach us about certain desert plants such as this yucca. We learned that the root ball can be used as a natural soap, and if necessary, it can be boiled for two days and eaten.

I really wanted to take notes to add to my survival guidebook. But I resisted.

This metal dude is a sculpture depicting one of the pictographs we would see in the caves. Our tour guide went on and on and on and on talking about what each aspect represented. I think he was guessing.

Then down, down, down we went, following the path to the canyon floor below. We had no problem navigating the trail, even on the steepest parts. Later in the day as we made our way back up, our tour guide commented to me that we were the fittest group of students he had ever seen.

Yet another perk to homeschooling.

This wispy stuff is called Mormon tea. It has cardiovascular stimulating properties as it's main active chemical is similar to epinephrine. Ho, doggy did I want to write that down, too.

Think of the applications this plant could have in a survival setting! Treatments of allergies, heart conditions, fatigue, etc.

This one definitely goes in my survival field guide.

At the bottom of the canyon, we headed toward the caves that had the pictographs. I brought up the rear so I could take pictures for the co-op and because our Phoebe was the slow poke of the group.

The kids had fun running around the canyon bed, examining the grooves and impressions left by hundreds of years of flash floods. See the canyon roof to the left of the photograph? Last year when there was record flooding here, the canyon filled with water within 10 feet of the roof of these caves. That fact made me really glad it was a clear day with no rain in the forecast for weeks.

The first set of caves we looked at had these pictographs. They were quite high up on the walls and on the overhang above us. When one student asked how the native people got up so high to paint the designs there, our guide told us they used scaffolding.

It was then that I decided he was definitely making things up and I would no longer give him much attention.

(In truth, the canyon floods almost every year, and over hundreds of years the floor we were standing on had been eroded down to its current levels. At least that's what the book said about it. A book written by an archaeologist. I believed HIM. And the evidence of water erosion was everywhere. Scaffolding remains? Nada.)

Then we hiked up and around into the Fate Bell cavern, so named after the man who owned this land once upon a time.

The view looking back was quite beautiful.

We got to see some more pictographs and hear more made-up explanations. It was cool to see and even better to hear the kids come up with their own made-up explanations. They all sounded pretty good to me.

Except for the scaffolding thing.

Here are some dudes supposedly creating the earth. OK.

I didn't take a picture of it because it was gross, but the kids were most interested in a dried and fossilized pile of human excrement. Not the 500 year old cave paintings, but the ?? year old dried up poop.

I can imagine that when they are grown up and think back on this trip, the kids will forget the dudes creating the world and remember the fossilized dung. Like I can't remember anything else about a field trip on went on in elementary school to a 1800's pharmacy except the jar containing a real, preserved human thumb.

Your welcome for sharing that tasty trip down memory lane.

Here we are posing for the camera trying to waste time while our tour guide gave us an unnecessary chance to rest. Homeschoolers, remember? We were born ready!

Then we marched back up the way we came, Jerry fulfilling his baby-carrying mule duties very well. Thanks, honey!

Texas. Ain't it cool?