Not wanting to waste a moment of all the day had to offer, AK Fam packed up the Go-Mobile and drove northeasterly to the Eagle River Nature Center, about 40 minutes from Anchorage and 12 miles up the Eagle River Road.
Nestled in a valley and shadowed part of the time by surrounding mountains of the Chugach range, ERNC is part of the Chugach State Park system and connects people and nature on a daily basis. In fact, the facility provides outdoor opportunities for some 40,000 people annually, including many, many children and youth.
Upon our arrival a passel of preschoolers was finishing up a course taught by naturalist Ute Olsson, a favorite instructor at the center. This class, called Kneehigh Naturalist, provides small children (ages 3-5) and their parents the double-win of experiencing the outdoors together. Kneehigh classes offer crafts, stories, and opportunities for exporation of the surrounding forest area over six weeks at a fee of only $36. The last session was winding down for the winter yesterday, but Olsson assured AK Kid that he could participate in March 2010. In the meantime, he and AK Dad amused themselves in a nook designed for kids and adults to investigate skulls, pelts, and tracks of animals, birds, and bugs that live in Alaska. Indeed, we could have spent the afternoon indoors for all the fun we were having, but with the sunshine beckoning, we heeded the call and departed out the back door for the Rodak Trail.
An easy hike all year-round, the trail leads towards the Classroom Yurt, a structure where courses are taught for groups and special events are held. From the Yurt we turned left and hiked a short distance to the beaver pond where, we were warned prior to departure, two brown bears had been ignoring the hibernation directions and been fishing in the stream emptying from the pond. No bears today, but a beaver did us the honor of swimming across the glassy surface and a trumpeter swan, startled at our sudden and noisy appearance, took off quickly and flew, honking, to the other side of the valley.
An hour hiking the trails was enough for AK Kid, despite the fun of looking in hollow trees, sweeping hoar-frost off the bushes, and swinging sticks in the air. We tromped back to the Visitor Center and enjoyed a snack and visit with winter caretakers Gail and Paul, delightfully warm and kid-smart individuals. They invited us back “just anytime”, and surely we will.
AKontheGO’s calendar will offer a listing of upcoming Eagle River events this winter, and an upcoming column in the January issue of Coast Magazine will discuss in greater detail the wintertime recreational opportunities this wonderful organization provides. But before the real wintery weather settles in, take a day and explore Eagle River Nature Center; it truly is a resource for parents, kids, and everybody who loves them to have an adventure together.
Visit our photo gallery for more pictures of the Eagle River Nature Center and surrounding area.