By Tiffany Jarva

I often find that as we roll into the summer months, it takes a little bit of time adjusting to life at home with my son, Beckham. The first week, we adjust to new sleeping patterns and daily rhythms. The golden days stretch into late evenings because, as we all know, living in Northwestern Ontario in July means the sun never seems to set. My son’s close friends disappear, venturing off on adventures with their own families, and now that he is getting a bit older, there are some you-are-not-10-going-on-17 moments when reminders are necessary to limit screen time and espouse the virtues of spending time being active and creative outside.

That being said, after a weekend of camping on Sleeping Giant and a couple of lazy rainy days, we headed to the Waverley Public Library to pick up our guidebook and map for The Big Boreal Adventure—a free self-directed nature-based scavenger hunt that has 38 sites scattered throughout Thunder Bay’s green spaces. We set a goal to spend five to six hours over two days on the hunt for as many of the cedar posts with small stainless steel plates in order to complete as many rubbings in different locations as possible.

I left Beckham in charge of deciding where we should go and he quite diligently took on the duty of reading the map and guidebook for clues. On day one we chose to stay on the north side of the city, and we also decided to check out a nature kit from the library which included a compass, binoculars, a magnifying glass (so cool when checking out critters!), and a couple of nature books. We started the hunt in our own neighbourhood, which meant a quick jaunt to Waverley Park, where tall cottonwoods shade the Hogarth Fountain that we learned dates back to 1790.

From there we hopped into our car, with water, snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray. Before the day was done, we learned that white-tailed deer can jump up to nine metres horizontally, Becks used the compass to find a post at George Burke Park where he spent time gazing at the river, we stopped for lunch on the patio at Bight restaurant after locating the Spirit Garden post, and we said hello to residents outside of the Dawson Court Butterfly Garden. We took some time to enjoy Boulevard, including the art, fossils (called stromatolites!), and flying discs at Birch Point Park. And finally we took in the view of the iconic Sleeping Giant at Hillcrest Park and the 70 different types of flowers growing in the garden.

On day two we headed to the Neebing River in a lovely tree-lined Northwood neighbourhood and then on to the International Friendship Gardens where Becks whispered to the ducks in the pond and learned about different countries. Finally we meandered along the Chapples Ring Road past the golf course, soccer, and baseball fields to the final post of the day.

Obviously we didn’t hit all 38 sites, which are divided up by suggested seasons, but we do plan to pick up our guidebook and head out to explore again one day be it winter, spring, summer, or fall. The special locations we did manage to find proved that if you put yourself out there and pay close attention to the details and green spaces of our city, you will learn that there are many, many beautiful easy-to-access urban getaways that help encourage young and old to get outdoors, and get a little bit more connected to nature, and to each other.

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Beckham studying the map