Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Desert of Maine Field Trip

The third field trip of our week (three in a row - we're getting tired now but having fun!) was to The Desert of Maine. Yes, Maine really does have its own desert.

It came about due to poor farming practices. The Tuttle Family lived here in the late 1700s to early 1800s and did no crop rotation and didn't care for the land as they should have. Sand began to overtake the farmland.

When we arrived we had about a twenty minute wait until the next tour. We all just started wondering about the gift shop (which you have to go through to get to the tours - clever marketing) when the woman behind the counter gathered up all the kids and we headed to "The Butterfly Room." 

She had just received a shipment of butterflies (they came in a box in glassine envelopes through the mail!) that needed to be released. She allowed each child to open up an envelope and let them go. Because they were all a bit shell-shocked I think (the butterflies - not the kids), they would hang out on your hand for a while. 

Happy opening up his envelope. 
It was important to tear it open carefully without touching the butterflies wings.

Conductor's butterfly on his hand. 

We took the trolley tour of the desert (much improved from the walking tours or donkey carts of yore). That is not a real camel in the photo below. They used to have one, but he wasn't very nice to the guests so they had to find him a new home.

 Our guide was great even though he was a bit hard to understand (he mumbled a bit). 

We had the trolley to ourselves (all 11 of us). One of our first stops was at the Buried Spring House.

From the floor of the spring house to where this sign is located, there is about 20 feet of sand. Needless to say, that's a lot of sand! The Spring House was built in 1938 and by 1962 it had been completely claimed by the sand.

About mid-way through the tour, we again stopped but we were all able to get our. Our illustrious tour guide even took a few sand samples to show us the different colors. 

The kids headed up to the "panoramic view." 

The first photo I shared was taken while standing from up here. You can see all the way back to the barn. However, if you go to the tree line, you can see how the trees work as a fence for the sand. There is "Maine" just beyond the dune we are standing on.

Our tour guide even took a group shot of all of us. We are standing in family groups. My brother and his family are to the left, I'm in the middle with my boys, and my sister is on the end with her family. We're missing another brother & sister in the photo but they both working and couldn't join us on our whirlwind tour of Maine this week. 

At the end of the tour, the kids could all participate in a "gem hunt." Due to the wind and other elements, the sand shifts constantly. The owners just toss out handfuls of polished gems into one section of sand. The kids can hunt and find all the want and then they can pick three to keep. 

They were actually a bit harder to find than one thought. There were all kinds of different shapes and colors and yes, all the adults were looking to and I think we may have found most of them for the kids. They all did find a couple and we added our finds to theirs. 

After all the kids made a souvenir. The girls took one of their gems and made rings. The boys all made sand art using sand from the desert (they dig it up, dry it, and then use it for this souvenir). 

Of course, we couldn't leave without a group shot of the kids....

Day #3/175 Days

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