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Three-day ‘Grand Adventure’ is fun and educational

Nature lovers attending the Nature Center’s first day of the Grand Adventure prepared to fish at Cape County Park North Lake Tuesday. Photo by Christine Pagano

Following Memorial Day, Cape County Park North Lake was brimming with activity as grandparents and grandchildren launched canoes and fished on the first of three days of a “Grand Adventure.”

To start with, Cape Girardeau County Naturalist Cameron Johnston led the group in choosing canoe paddles. Describing the tip of the handle as a“T”, she said, “To find the right size, the top of the handle should line up with your nose.” Once safety vests were fitted, the group learned about canoe seating and how to tell the front from the back of the boat. The end with more legroom was key to identifying the front.

Charlie Johnson of O’Fallon, Mo., attended the event with his sister, Juliette Johnson and grandmother, Janet Ciarnilelo of Cape Girardeau. He already knew how to kayak but it was his first time canoeing. He said besides learning the front from the back, he learned how to paddle, “You know left is right and right is left.” He also learned how to steer.

The first fish of the day was caught by Averie Bruce of Jackson. She said, “It still had the worm on it!” Evan Smoot, discover nature fishing lead said, “You must have done it right then.” A few more fish were caught and released back into the lake. Smoot said bluegill, largemouth bass, hybrid sunfish, catfish and red ear sunfish could be found in the lake.

Participants spent time navigating and practicing canoeing on the lake before engaging in a competitive game between two teams racing to get all of their balls in the ring of their color located on opposite sides of the area. Green team members, Cadence Skelton, Susan Skelton, Tim Quinn, Grace Quinn, Tammy Johnston, Averie Bruce and Harper Bruce gave a big cheer when they won.

After fishing the entire group headed back to the Nature Center Building for a meal of catfish and sides. It was a time for recapping the day’s events.

Blake Borowiak of Frohna who learned casting from Smoot said he also learned, “You can’t always catch a fish.”

Tammy Johnston, of Jackson was pleased to spend time outdoors with her grandchildren, Averie and Harper Bruce, also of Jackson. “With busy schedules, I try to take them out as much as possible,” she said. “Summer school starts tomorrow and they get a lot of opportunities there. I try to have fun with them as much as possible.”

Tim Quinn, a recently relocated Jackson grandfather from La Porte, Indiana, was enjoying the day with his wife, Gege and granddaughter, Grace. He noted the very good care maintained in Jackson and Cape Girardeau Parks. “It’s very appealing to adults to see such good care taken of the property. Very rarely do you see litter. All the grandkids like the great outdoors. To carry on the tradition of leaving it cleaner than it was prior to you getting there is important.”

Quinn was quite impressed with catching rainbow trout in Jackson’s Rotary Lake, a fish in Indiana that would typically only be found in a fast running stream because of their requirements for oxygen.

Stream stomping at Old Plantation Access Conservation Access, west of Millersville, was on day two’s agenda. Creek exploration, an origami boat race and swimming were on the agenda.

“The kids and grandparents made origami canoes and decorated them. A grandmother from Jackson, Melody Hagans, won the race,” Alex Holmes, Cape Girardeau County Nature Center assistant manager, said.

Dip nets and containers were in order for catching minnows, tadpoles and frogs on the second day.

Day three concluded the adventure with a visit to Wood Duck Swamp located along the Nature Center Trails.

“Here is where the group collected dragonfly larvae, water mites and pond water to look at through microscopes,” Holmes said. Before leaving, a totally cool critter was made from craft materials like cardboard, feathers, google eyes, popsicle sticks, pom poms and feathers.

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