Saturday, July 25, 2015

IRL Adventure 1 - #GetOutAndArt at Twin Lakes Park

A Quest for Creativity

Summer activities are in full swing at the Walls residence: tabletop gaming, Wii gaming, Xbox'ing, computer gaming, Norwin Game Knights gaming, Kindle watching, TV watching... you get the point.  Any activity that involves lounging within the confines of a room chilled with central air is perfect for our family.  If a Walls-family crest existed, it would feature a quote by Azrael from the Kevin Smith classic movie Dogma:

"No pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater... than central air."

Sure, we've had other excursions over the last few months.  #GetOutAndGame with our friends Melinda and Tristan was awesome, as was our summer beach vacation in Delaware.  But if I'm ever going to teach my kids how to properly appreciate nature, I need to spend a little more time outside.  I just needed the proper motivation.

Recently my wife took a job with a local salon which would require her to work Saturdays.  This is perfect for us, since I work during the week, and it still left most of Saturday evening and Sunday for family time.  But I didn't want Saturday mornings to turn into more wasted days spent in front of YouTube, so I proposed an idea to the kids...


IRL Adventure*

*For those who don't spend their lives in front of computer screen IRL stands for "In Real Life"

Every Saturday (weather permitting of course) we would try to find something awesome to do out in the world.  Later on in the year this could mean trips to museums and libraries, but while the weather is beautiful we would try and stay outdoors.  Upon proposing the idea to the kids we came up with the following rules:

  1. We would try to do something new each week
  2. Each trip should involve something physical 
  3. Each trip should involve something educational and creative
  4. We would spend as little money as possible on the trip
  5. There would be minimal usage of technology (Kindles, iPads, iPods) during these trips
Since my regular car was in the shop still, I had access to a brand new Ford Fiesta and the kids wanted to go for a drive.  I love tiny cars, not sure why, but I was all for a journey.  Opening up Google Maps I looked for a large park that our family never visited.  Once I found someplace "special", I settled on an activity that would get the kids really excited.  

#GetOutAndArt at Twin Lakes Park

A departure from our regular #GetOutAndGame'ing, we left our dice, maps, and books at home and instead packed up pencils, pens, crayons, markers, and lots of paper.  We also grabbed snacks, water, sunscreen, hats, and a soccer ball (just in case).  Although my wife visited Twin Lakes Park when she was younger, the rest of the family had never been there.  All I knew was that the park had two lakes (obviously), walking trails, fishing, boating, a skate park, a dog park, and several playgrounds.  

Our itinerary was awesome:

  1. Drive to Twin Lakes Park
  2. Start a hike along the 2.5 mile walking trail
  3. Find an incredible view of the lake during the hike and sit down
  4. Draw something amazing
  5. Finish the hike
  6. Go to the playground
  7. Drive to Dunkin Donuts for iced coffee and wake-up wraps (we all love wake-up wraps!)
Here's how the day went... 

We arrived at the park around 12pm.  At first we were a little confused.  We found the playground and skatepark, but didn't see any lakes.  After wandering around a bit I became quite concerned!

This is my concerned face.

I figured that we were on the wrong side of the park, so I made the kids get back in the car and we set out to find the lakes.  

It turned out that we were in the newer section of the park, and that only a mile away was a second entrance.  Once we got there the kids started to freak out with excitement!  The view of the lake was gorgeous, and the walking trail was paved.

There were many sights along the lakes, and we took our time.  Around 12:30 we began our trek around the Twin Lakes.  

The kids were completely enamored by these physical activity setups all along the trail.  Tests of physical strength and stamina are stationed every couple hundred feet.  Some required pull-ups or sit-ups, others (featured above) were feats of balance.  I managed to scale a grown-up sized set of monkey bars... which I must admit was pretty cool!

The walking path at Twin Lakes is broad and well kept.  Other walkers were out enjoying the path, as well as runners and bikers.  We even ran into a few dogs... and a cat... on a leash.

The lower lake has boats that you can rent.  All three kids wanted to take a paddle boat tour of the lake, but given their lack in swimming abilities I told them that we would have to wait until another trip.

There are several portions of the lake that empty into waterfalls.  The water level seemed low, but it was still fun to watch.  

On the southern end of the lower lake we found a terrific place to set up our "outdoor art studio!"  Both a bench and a picnic table lay underneath the shade of several massive trees.  I instructed the children to "draw what you see."  The view was inspiring, so the kids unleashed their creativity.

While the girls took up the bench, Cooper sat with me at the picnic table.  I will admit, I started working on a map for an upcoming RPG... so I broke the rules a bit.  But I can say that a feature of the map involved water.

Cooper insisted on drawing something that he saw during the hike, which was perfectly acceptable.

Evie found her inspiration in the boats that were paddling by.

Cooper's butterfly!  Cooper said that if you look closely at a butterfly's face you can see a smile, so he put it in his picture.

Carrie didn't finish her pencil drawing of the lake and surrounding hills, but we took a picture so that she could later.

Evie drew our family walking around the park, along with the canoe and paddle boat that we saw.

Around 2pm we started back on the trail.  We found another waterfall, which was only dribbling but was still peaceful to watch.

When we reached the upper lake, Carrie looked out and announced that she felt like we were in the "Legend of Zelda."  

Carrie's Legend of Zelda conversation continued into the nearby woods.  She now wants to purchase a full cosplay outfit so that she can return to Twin Lakes for a photo shoot.  I told her that she needs to save up some money first, those costumes are expensive!

We finished our walking tour of Twin Lakes around 2:15.  It was a great day, and I'm so happy that the children didn't complain once about not having their Kindles.  Not to say there wasn't a little complaining, but it was all about who had to hold their water bottles.

At 2:30 we arrived at the massive playground back in the new section of the park.  The kids ran around for about twenty minutes until Cooper fell and scraped up his knee.  He was bleeding a bit, and everyone was tired, so we wrapped up our first quest... 

... with a trip to Dunkin Donuts for iced coffee and wake-up wraps!

*     *     *

Adventure is Out There

There is so much to discover in Western Pennsylvania, and we've only just begun.  Over the next few weeks and months we plan to do more of these "IRL Adventures", and will continue to share our tales.  Perhaps we'll include some gaming, or art projects, or cosplay in our upcoming quests.  

What kind of trips are you taking with your family this summer?  What adventures can you recommend to folks on a budget?  

Let us know!


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