When my parents lived in Las Vegas, it became a good possibility for an interesting trip. You know, all the gambling slots and the glitzy fake stuff– the fake Empire Building, the pretend Eiffel Tower, the Miracle Mile Shops with the artificial sky, the (fake) promise of winning it big. But we did manage to get out of town and only a few miles outside of Vegas is something quite real– the trails at Red Rock Canyon (the rocks are striated and there is one big layer of red rock in them).

But you don’t have to go all the way to Vegas to “be outside” and commune with nature. You can visit your nearby state park. Seeing a state park is pretty “close” to a staycation. They are all over! There are over 6,600 state parks in the U. S. (and of course parks in other countries) you can visit for a swim, hike, camping experience. In Virginia tourism is actually the second biggest industry, so you are supporting local economies by going (buying camping equipment, buying books on nature, eating at a local restaurant).

I volunteer at a state park — Claytor Lake — which has an interesting history. It was dug out (manmade) in 1939 in order to give the area hydroelectric power, a dam built onto one end that feeds into a small tributary of the New River. There were communities that left and then had their property flooded out, so that the lake could become a reality, like something appropriately named Dunkard’s Bottom. I’ve seen black bear (though he was chased out of the park), skunk, deer, and heard all kinds of buggy sounds camping in a tent at night.

Bugs are an important part of nature– and the summer. Richard Louv, who wrote about children not spending much time outdoors (or any, at this rate), actually suggests adults take kids for a walk at dusk or in the dark with a flashlight to see and hear the sights and sounds of nature. You can learn more in his book:

Last Child in the Woods   

There’s another book kids may find interesting, especially the young ones, and it’s On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects, you can find at Barnes and Noble.

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