Field Trip – Dismals Canyon, AL

WARNING – This post was written a while ago (maybe a year or so?) and never published. The prices listed may have changed. [OK… I looked it up, and it’s now $12/adult, $8.75 for kids, with the $1 add on for picnicking on their back deck.]

A friend and I decided recently that we needed a road trip. The weather’s been beautiful and she needed a break, so we packed the kids up, loaded the car, and headed to Dismals Canyon.

Dismals Canyon is a privately owned property with camping, hiking, a grill, and a gift shop area. The admission rate was $10 for ages 12 and up, and $6.75 for ages 11 and under. Those are for self guided tours (hiking and a map).

Since we arrived in a day when the grill was opened, picnicking was “prohibited”. As a conservation minded person, I get the desire to limit trash and I agree that people can be slobs and disregard their personal clean up, but banning picnics and posting that all my bags could be searched was really off-putting to me.  If you arrive when the chill is closed you can picnic – for $1/person… to eat the food you brought…on their deck… Hmmm.  I wasn’t impressed.

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Overall the site was really, really beautiful. The day we went the weather was (as you can see!) perfect. We did about a 1.5 mile hike which was perfect for us. It left us a lot of time for exploring, relaxing, and hanging out and talking.

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I took a ton of pictures!!

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It really was a great break from our normal homeschool routine. I think I would go back again, but I might consider a different location with a more liberal picnic policy if I had a large group.

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Are there any good day trips near you that you’d recommend?

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Tuscaloosa, AL – A COOL Teen Stop

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While road tripping through Alabama recently, the kids spied this SWEET jungle gym structure. They called for a stop, and my friend and I (with 4 squirmy teens in the car), gladly obliged.

 

If you are in Tuscaloosa AL – STOP. It’s awesome!!!! The structure is in Snow Hinton Park (on 82 – near the mall) and at 38 feet the slide is the tallest in the Southeast. It’s free, and so worth the time to stop. My kids LOVED it. It’s such a cool tween/teen thing to do. I high recommend a stop! (They loved it so much that I had to text our scoutmaster – it’s an awesome teen boy leg stretching break for scout troops!)

Tuskegee Airmen National Park – Tuskegee, AL

On a recent road trip through Alabama, the kids, some friends and I made a stop at the Tuskegee Airman National Park. I have wanted to go here FOREVER, but it never really ended up being near a destination or on a route. So, when we were headed to Auburn University (travel review on that one, soon!!) we planned a little extra time in our trip to stop and tour the aviation museum.

I WISH we had planned more time.

It was awesome. I can’t recommend stopping here enough.

First – logistics. You can check it out on your maps app – but the park is about a half an hour from Montgomery, AL. There are lots of places there to eat and stay. The museum is free, and while there is handicap parking and access – if walking is tough you may want to take a wheel chair along. There may be more handicap access that I didn’t see – so please call ahead and check for more details. (I was thinking when I was there, “Man, if we had my handicapped parents here this would be a HAUL.”)

After arriving and checking out the airfield from the parking lot, you head down a hill to one of two hangars that house displays, movies, interviews, and much more.  I’d plan at least a couple of hours to really explore the museum.

 

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I love maps and visuals. These were excellent.

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P-51. Really? What can be better???

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Big’s favorite. Maybe because she’s flown in one!! (Not that I’m jealous… OK. I am.)

 

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A fuzzy Cub. Get it?

 

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DD did the Junior Ranger Program – which took here less than an hour. For the 6-10 crowd, I’d plan on a couple of hours.

 

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My favorite interview, bar none, was the one with LTCOL Alexander Jefferson. As I listened to his stories I was enthralled. He completely captivated me, making me laugh and cry. All I could think was , “Wow. This man is a fighter pilot.” And trust me, I KNOW fighter pilots! LOL! I also thought, “Wow, he would be such great friends with my Father in Law!”. Unfortunately, when we got to the store they had just shut down, so I couldn’t purchase his book there. As soon as I got home I bought his book, Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman and POW.  I planned on giving it to DH for Christmas, but I couldn’t wait. He started it, then I started it. I LOVE this book and can’t wait for a little more time to finish it. It will be mandatory reading for my kids.

 

Like pretty much anything with WW2, we need to take the time NOW to learn the stories of the brave men and women who fought for our freedom. In my humble opinion, the Tuskegee Airmen were amazing men who deserve our study and ultimately our respect and appreciation. I cannot even put into words how remarkable these men were – brave, strong, smart, and patriotic – willing to die for a country that treated them so inhumanely. This museum is a moving, stirring, and humbling place.

 

Please, if you’re in Alabama. Make the trip. You won’t regret it.

Fun Middle School Science

As I’ve shared before, I’m having Little take a substantially more unconventional science route this year. He’s already completed an official “8th Grade Science” curriculum, so we decided to made this year more fun. For part of science he’s taking an EV3 Lego Robotics course through Landry Academy. I’ve reviewed Week 1 with Landry here, but now into Week 3 we’re loving this class. It’s been awesome for him to be forced into using the robot and making cool projects.

One of the other approaches we’re taking is for Little to work through the Make : Electronics book by Chris Platt. The book is full of fascinating information on electronics, in a totally readable format. There are 36 experiments in the book. Little is working through 4 experiments a week. We’ll definitely slow down as the projects get more complex.

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Today he’s making a lemon juice battery. Cool middle school stuff here.

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One thing we did to make the whole process easier was to buy the kit from Radio Shack. The kit covers pretty much everything for experiments 1-11 and was about $76 on sale*. They have another kit for the second half of the book*. I suspect with the length of the book and taking a cursory look at the projects/experiments, by using kits 1 and 2 and working through this book will give Little a great background in electronics. As a third facet to his science work – we’ll have him work through some merit badges for stuff we’re already doing (robotics, for example), and this series will be great for his electronics merit badge.

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Another look at the fun. What do you think? Super fun for the 12-14 year old crowd, or what!?

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* I just got home from Radio Shack… The kit 1 at my local store was 25% off, making it $76, and Kit 2 was 50% off making it $59. Score!!!

Done…. Well, one step anyway…

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Little completed his FINAL Eagle Required merit badge last night. Signed off. In the books (hopefully…). He’s a Star Scout now, so this is pretty sweet. We have a lot of transition upcoming in our troop, so every step forward he makes is excellent. I’m so thrilled that this requirement is done. Go Little!!! I’m proud of you!!