An outdoor family

The reason we were out driving on potentially icy roads and camping out in howling winds is that the wife signed us up for a program called "Texas Outdoor Family". It's a really neat idea -- since many American families never spend time outside, the program tries to give families a safe way to try it out. They provide tents and other equipment, teach outdoor skills (including kayaking, which I would have liked to do, except that Palo Duro is pretty much a desert) and in general try to make the whole experience as non-intimidating as possible.

Anyway, the wife signed us up even though we are not exactly the target audience for the program (we do the camping thing regularly). She likes things organized and the program (which included nature trails, geocaching, etc.) was nothing if not organized. Any hesitation that I had about occupying spots that could gone to someone "more deserving" was extinguished quite quickly. It turned out that the poor weather had scared off a third of the families. And among the rest was: a graduate student who was studying environmental science and education (she was there to study the program), a park services employee (to see what sort of people came to a state park), a photographer for the local paper (to write a story) and a family in a RV (obviously not novices). But there were a few families in the target audience -- people from the general vicinity of the park who'd never spent a night outside before.

The planned activities turned out to be very, very good. The kids got to identify lots of birds. "15," said S1 when I asked. You can see him (red jacket) conspicously hanging back in this photograph so that no one would get the mistaken idea that he was a kid who had to be led around.
The thing that really got S1 going was the geocaching exercise. He grabbed the GPS unit once I'd entered the coordinates and led the way. Pretty soon, we were off the trail, and walking along a dry stream-bed. Finally, when it came time to rejoin the trail, S2 got a "walking-stick-up" from some who'd beaten us to the geocache. This camaraderie between the different families and park personnel was one of the nice things about the outdoor family experience.
The only rather surreal part was watching a Powerpoint in a park -- I was going to say I've never done that before, although we did have a lab retreat in a park/resort once, so I suppose I have.

The Powerpoint was on various animal noises we could expect to hear. We ended up hearing coyotes, owls and the damned wind.
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