In the past, the girls and I have hiked (Is it really hiking if you're just walking along a fairly level, groomed path?) parts of the I & M canal trail. It's easy enough for J, and we always see really amazing stuff. Last year, we happened to be there when the Ruby Crowned Kinglets were migrating through. You can't plan things like that.
More recently, we have started exploring the Hennepin Canal Trail which goes from the Illinois River to the Mississippi. The canal trails offer plenty of opportunities to learn everything from history and geography to engineering and resource management. The girls make me explain the function of a Lock every time we're near one.
It also helps that Shorty, Hart x6, and Pitties have planted a 52 box series based on the Wizard of Oz along the Hennepin Canal. All of them are amazing carvers and the boxes that we have found so far are very well done. I don't really put much stock in the Blue Diamond status for letterboxes, but these boxes really are a cut above the average. Shorty hand made all of the logbooks with his Bind it All (I think there might be a new addiction there) and you can purchase Oz logbooks from him if you want to keep all of the stamp images together in one place. There is also a Yahoo Group just for this series. No, they didn't pay me to advertise.
So, a couple of weeks ago, I took two nephews and a daughter down and we spent some time around the Visitor Center in Sheffield (which means I'm getting the boxes out of order, but enduring fewer "How much farther?" questions). They have a mini museum inside, mostly about the wildlife around the canal. We hunted some boxes, saw ridiculously huge flathead catfish, and locked ourselves out of the van. Then we spent more time in the museum while we waited for the gracious officer from the Bureau County Sheriff's office who came and opened the door in under a minute. We managed to get C home to his baseball game only 2 minutes late. I love happy endings. The Psalmist declares the "my times are in your hands." What a perfect opportunity to practice satisfaction with what God decrees for our days and not "kick against the goads".
Since this is such an extensive series, I will periodically add more pictures to the slideshow as we have more adventures. I'll try to post updates to let you know when there are new photos.