Monday, September 29, 2014

Take a Kid Outside with DPR Outdoor Recreation

Ok, so last week got away from us with the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Assocation (NCRPA) conference in Wilmington and we missed most of Take a Kid Outside week Sept. 24-30, but might I suggest we in Durham celebrate Take a Kid Outside Month?  We have some great opportunities in October from Lunar Exploration to our Urban Wild programs.  On Oct. 3 in Old North Durham Park (behind Central Park School on Foster Street), we have our Lunar Exploration from 7:30pm--9:30pm.  We'll have numerous telescopes through which to view the 3/4 moon and it's features and knowledgeable and approachable staff to help guide you through the night sky. 

Another great event for getting children outside is our Campout! Carolina Jamboree at West Point on the Eno Park in Durham, Oct. 11-12.  This is such a glorious event filled with families taking in the fall air with our friends from the Piedmont Wildlife Center and the Eno River Association. What makes urban camping a great experience?  Well, if it's your first time, you're close to home in familiar surroundings with friendly, capable staff willing to teach you the ropes.  If you're nervous about your capabilities, we can help.  If you don't have equipment, we'll get you set up with what you need to have a fun, comfortable evening in our crown jewel park, West Point on the Eno.

Storytelling by the campfire

Friday, September 26, 2014

Up Close and Personal with the Moon, Oct. 3, Old North Durham Park

If you like looking at the moon in your back yard, you'll be blown away by what you see through a 10-inch telescope. Last spring we held an awesome stargazing party at Old North Durham Park in conjunction with the NC Science Festival at which we had four large telescopes, laptops set to the current sky, activities for kids and even had a fly-by by the International Space Station.  Spectacular views of Jupiter and Saturn kept visitors returning to the telescopes to take a look.  

We're back again on Oct. 3 to view a lovely waxing gibbous moon through our 10-inch telescopes.  Waxing and waning moons are best for viewing the features of the moon, like the Copernicus Crater, because of the shadows cast by the sun.  Old North Durham is a surprisingly good urban viewing location with wide horizons, and the bonus is that it's walking distance for a large number of neighborhoods. Our knowledgeable staff and the experts from NCCU's Physics department will be on hand to help us explore the features of the moon.  We'll be in the park from 7:30pm--9:30pm, so come join us and explore the wonders of the moon!

Waxing Gibbous Moon

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fall Programs--Pancake Paddles, Astronomy Series and Discovery Days in Costume

Well, here we are.  Fall,and September, one of my favorite months of the year with it's cool nights and sunny, warm afternoons.  The colors and the smells that make me want to pack the camping gear and head to the mountains, sit by a fire and read a book. 

We are loaded with awesome fall programs that offer something for everyone who loves the outdoors and, especially, being outdoors in the fall.  Below are a few of my favorite new programs in this fall's lineup.  I'm looking forward to being the Black Widow for Heroes and Villains day at the ropes course almost as much as I'm ready for pancakes after a peaceful morning paddle on Lake Michie.  Click on the link to the right (FALL 2014 PROGRAM SCHEDULE) for the full schedule of programs or to register. 

Sunrise Pancake Paddle (#14035)

Saturday, September 13 from 6:30 a.m.-8:30 a.m.

Lake Michie Recreation Area – 2802 Bahama Rd.

Rise and shine with DPR Outdoor Recreation! Join us for a sunrise kayak paddle and a breakfast of scrumptious pancakes. We’ll provide the boating equipment and the pancakes, you bring weather appropriate clothing and an appetite.

Ages 7 and up (children must be accompanied by an adult)

CR PC $7; CR NPC $8 NCR PC $11.75; NCR NPC $13


Explore the Urban Wild

Join DPR Outdoor Recreation for a free adventure in your park! Bring weather-appropriate clothing and lots of curiosity.

All ages (children must be accompanied by an adult).

No cost, no pre-registration required.

2 p.m.-4 p.m.

October 18, Oval Drive Park  (#14030)             

November 22, Holton Career and Resource Center  (#14048)

December 6, Cornwallis Road Park  (#14049)



High Ropes Discovery Day:

Heroes and Villains

Hello true believers! Come dressed as your favorite super-hero or super-villain while you explore Durham Parks and Recreation’s high ropes course! Safety considerations may require removal of caps, batarangs, infinity gauntlets, power rings, etc.

*Cost, location and age limits same as a normal Discovery Day.

November 8               11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.     #14063

                                    12:30 p.m.-2 p.m.       #14064


Astronomy Series

DPR Outdoor Recreation and NCCU invite you to search the heavens with us! We will provide the equipment, you bring weather appropriate clothing.


Constellation Kayak (#14036)

Lake Michie Recreation Area – 2802 Bahama Rd.

Friday, September 19 from 7 p.m.-9 p.m.

This will be an enchanting evening of paddling and stargazing on scenic Lake Michie. Learn the names of constellations and their stories as well as viewing amazing stellar objects.

Ages 7 and up (children must be accompanied by an adult)

CR PC $7; CR NPC $8 NCR PC $11.75; NCR NPC $13


Lunar Exploration (#14028)

Friday, October 3 from 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Old North Durham Park- 310 W. Geer Street  

Exploring the surface of our closest celestial neighbor, the moon, in magnificent detail using state of the art telescopes and binoculars!

Cloud Out Dates: 10/4

All ages (children must be accompanied by an adult).

No cost, no pre-registration required


Solstice Stargazing (#14029)

Sunday, December 21 from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

Sandy Creek Park- 3510 Sandy Creek Drive

We will use state-of-the-art telescopes and binoculars to look at some of the wonders of the cosmos on the evening of the winter solstice.

Cloud Out Date: 12/22

All ages (children must be accompanied by an adult).

No cost, no pre-registration required


Friday, August 15, 2014

Mushrooms and Fungi in Abound in Durham!

First a joke:  Why did the mushroom get invited to the party?  Because he's a fungi!
Cheesy, I know.
You may have noticed that since the rain has set in the last few weeks there are wild mushrooms and fungi everywhere. In your lawn, on your hikes, at the base of trees, wherever there's moist, rich soil.  Mushrooms are the fruit of the fungus that grows underneath the surface, loaded with spores as the reproductive organs of the fungus.  I find it enjoyable to see what new, and sometimes bizarre, fungus will pop up in my yard. What's more than a little challenging is identifying the many different types from the 10,000 described species in North America.  Other than Old Man of the Woods, I don't try to identify edible mushrooms because so many look very similar and, well, I'm an amateur, not an expert at identification. Learning, but still an amateur.

These are just a few of the mushrooms and fungi I've come across in the last week.  The first three are from my yard, and the last are from a night hike with a DPR summer camp group at West Point on the Eno.  West Point is fairly bursting with wild mushrooms and fungi right now, so it was a fun night exploring with the kids.

Here are just a few from this past week:

Caesar's amanita

wild Eastern Cauliflower mushroom

White Coral Fungus

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Eno Discovery and DPR Summer Camps Getting Kids into Nature--Summer Photo Gallery #2

Well, we're in Week 6 of summer camp, so hard to believe that the warm months of summer pass by so quickly.  It's been a fantastic summer for exploring the natural world and splashing in the rivers and lakes of  Durham.  Got a little carried away with the photos, but wouldn't you?  My favorite images are the ones that show children learning about and living in nature.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Summer Adventure Photo Gallery, Vol.1 : Maxing Out the Fun Factor at Adventure Camp

Learning a T-rescue
You've got to sink it before you can right it!

Conquering the Gauntlet at the Discovery Course

Roan Mountain misty afternoon

Looking for LeRoy's hideaway
Worley's Cave mud fun

Back home for about 30 seconds

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Stand-Up Paddleboarding, sunset kayaking and more with DPR this summer

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), a Sunset kayak and high ropes Discovery Days are great ways to get outside during the summer.  The majority of our summer programming is with our Eno Discovery camp and our Adventure camp, but in between we have a some great summer experiences waiting for you.  Who doesn't want to spend some time on the water in the heat of a southern summer? The link to registration is on the right column of this blog, and please note that pre-registration is required for programs.

Kids on the Water (#13525)
Saturday, August 2nd from 9a.m.-12 p.m.
Lake Michie Recreation Area – 2802 Bahama Rd.
Kayaking, canoeing, sailing and standup paddle boarding all can be learned this half day program for kids who aren't afraid to make a splash. Space is limited so register early!
Ages 8-14
*CR PC $3.50; CR NPC $4.50 NCR PC $8.50; NCR NPC $9.50

Lake Michie has nice, flat water for SUP's

Sunset Paddle (#13527)
Saturday, July 26 from 8 p.m.-10 p.m.
Lake Michie Recreation Area – 2802 Bahama Rd.
Join us as we enjoy the beauty of Lake Michie at sunset by boat. Experience the transition from day to night while on a relaxing paddle. Only canoes or kayaks allowed on this trip.
 Ages 7-17(Children must be accompanied by an adult.)
*CR PC $2; CR NPC $3 NCR PC $7; NCR NPC $8
Ages 18 and up

Gorgeous sunset over Lake Michie

High Ropes Discovery Days
Come explore Durham Parks and Recreation’s high ropes course,  explore a large variety of
obstacles, some reaching 55 feet in the air!
Ages 7 and up (children ages 7-9 must be accompanied by a participating adult) 
*CR PC $7, CR NPC $8, NCR PC $11.75, NCR NPC $13
Bethesda Park, 1814 Stage Rd., Durham
July 19th  4 p.m.-5:30 p.m. #13552
5:30 p.m.-7 p.m. #13553
7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. #13554
Pre-registration is required for all programs.



Friday, May 30, 2014

DPR's Programs Go to the Dogs this Weekend! Disc Dogs and More

DPR's Canine Recreation is filling a dog lover's weekend with dog fun this Saturday, May 31.  First up is a Disc Dogs event at Rock Quarry Park (701 Stadium Drive) in north Durham, where from 9am--noon you and your furry friend can come watch or participate in the Hyperflite Skyhoundz Local Championship.  Awesome flyball and Treibball demos take place, and there'll be food and vendors.  Registration is from 8:30-9:00am if you want to participate, competition is from 9am--Noon. More info here:

Hanging out with mom
Afterward, on your way through town, drop by the adorable Downtown Durham Dog Park on North Roxboro Street (across from the First Baptist Church downtown) from
3-5 pm for a party that includes free nail trims from Local Mobile Vet and treats from Barley Labs.  DPR will also be giving away travel water bowls, which you can put to good use that day.  Also very cool, if your dog is not yet registered for the the dog park, DPR staff will be on hand to register them the guardian has vaccination records and a credit card at the event (no cash or checks on site).

Downtown Dog Park in Durham

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bikers and Runners: A little slice of car-free heaven on the new ATT section

As an avid cyclist, I'm ecstatic about the completion of the bridge and the upgrades to the ATT into Chatham and Wake counties.  I've popped a few tires south of Herndon Park in the past, which is a general risk of riding on rough trail, but I'm happy to have smooth, car-free pavement to ride on.  Easy parking is located in the Harris Teeter shopping center on Hwy 54 or by Southpoint Crossings shopping center (a map can be found here:, you'll progress quickly past one of the elevated views of Durham county and through fairly thriving wetlands with beaver dams and turtle "beaches", logs with dozens of turtles soaking up the warmth of the sun. 
The pictures below show much better than I could describe, this wide, tree-lined bike trail. From the parking area to the New Hope Rd. parking area was just over 7.5 miles of fairly flat riding through NC Wildlife lands.  The trail changes from asphalt to fine gravel at the Wake County line, but riding a road bike on the trail proved easy enough.  Trail maps are at every road crossing, and there is a bathroom and water fountain at Herndon Park, and a water fountain again near the O'Kelly Chapel Rd. crossing.  You're kind of on your own for snacks, so pack well.

Using an app like Map My Ride will give you a good gauge of the ride--a map of the area, distance traveled, direction and elevation changes.

Parking area at New Hope Road trailhead
Urban wildlife--a turtle beach in a small wetlands near the mall

Finishing with the "whoopee" ride over I-40

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

And the winner is....

Emily Ellis, with the correct guesses of 1) water moccasin, 2) copperhead and 3) Water Snake, or more specifically, northern water snake. Woot!! We had several guesses that were close--David Lakin, of Memphis, TN (formerly of Durham), and Carolyn Kreuger of Durham had a couple of well thought-out votes.

 It's the subtle differences that help us differentiate between the three.  If you look carefully at both moccasins and copperheads, you can see that their heads are those of venomous pit vipers, triangular shaped with heat-sensing "pits".  Key visual differences are that water moccasins have black-and-brown markings that wrap around to it's belly, and the body is thicker and has larger scales.  In contrast, copperheads have smaller bodies, banding that doesn't extend to their bellies and have finer scales. Water moccasins are found primarily in the warmer, more placid waters of the eastern side of the state.

The main visual difference between the copperhead and the northern water snake is the head.  A copperhead is a venomous pit viper (triangular head) and the water snake is not (non-triangular head).  Both have copper-y coloring and banding are similar, at least through the juvenile stages, but a another visual difference is that a copperhead's banding is wider on the sides and more narrow along the backbone, while a northern water snake's banding is wider on the spine and narrower on the sides.  Either can be startling and a little worrisome when stumbled upon along the banks of a lake or river, though.

In closing , I'd like to add a couple of words of advocacy on behalf of copperheads. I know folks who think "a good copperhead is a dead copperhead", but like many other snakes copperheads are truly beneficial in their hunt for rodents.  Without them, it would open season on farmer's crops (and your backyard garden). 

So, a good challenge for the beginning of summer.  Congratulations to Emily, and we'll be in touch to get your laminated folding Wildlife of NC guide to you!

Water moccasin diagram showing triangular head, heat-sensing pits and large scales.