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>> ZIP UP AND COME EXPLORE THE GREAT OUTDOORS UNDER THE THE NIGHT SKY page 2
Hit the outdoors with Fredericksburg Parks and Rec this winter

 Park it right here at Motts Run Reservoir with two upcoming winter hikes: one for early birds, the other for night owls.
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Date published: 1/10/2013

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Another theme, "Cruising the Milky Way," highlights different celestial objects that would be found in our galaxy, including star clusters, nebulae, different types of stars and dust clouds.

This Saturday's program will include identifying the winter constellations visible in the Northern Hemisphere as well as Jupiter, with its cloud bands and Galilean moons. Permeating all discussion is the introduction of an awe-inspiring scale and scope of time and distance.

Literally looking back in time, participants can view a star that exploded in 1054 and stars whose light, travelling at 186,000 miles a second, took thousands of years to reach the Earth.

"The purpose is to offer families an adventure--a bonding experience that just may spark an interest in exploration," said Wasiuta.

ON THE TRAIL

The natural wonders of terra firma will be revealed in two winter explorations: a Winter Night Hike and a Guided Winter Hike, led by Parks and Recreation staff.

Night hike participants will meet at the Motts Run Nature Center and begin with a hot chocolate treat as they prepare their flashlights with red cellophane to preserve their night vision.

"Nighttime in the woods is particularly magical as every sound and smell becomes more pronounced," said nature education coordinator Linda Bailey. "We'll stop to experience a few activities that test our sense of smell, hearing, and sight, often drawing comparisons to nocturnal animals. And we listen for owls and try a few calls of our own. It's a time-treasured event that many families come back for year after year."

The guided winter hike, led by nature education assistant Mimi Dempsey, will highlight the nests of squirrels and birds that are hidden in leafier seasons of the year and will reveal traces of our wildlife friends, including trees gnawed (or felled!) by beavers, bare spots created by skunks or wild turkeys searching for grubs, and deer tracks.

Though the content of the hike will depend to some extent on serendipity and the interests of participants, it will likely include sightings of cardinals, blue jays and woodpeckers.

Upon returning to the Nature Center to warm up with hot chocolate, hikers will craft a take-home bird feeder so they can continue their bird-watch in their own backyards.

Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.


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STARGAZING IN THE PARK

Saturday Jan. 12, 8-9:30 p.m. Participants should dress warmly and may bring a lawn chair and blanket. Ages 8 and above. $4 per person.

WINTER NIGHT HIKE

Friday Jan. 18, 7-8:15 p.m. Dress warmly, wear shoes with good traction and bring a flashlight. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Ages 6 and above.

$5 per person.

GUIDED WINTER HIKE

Saturday, Jan. 26, 9:30-11 a.m. Ages 4 and above. $6 per person, $20 for a family of 5.

Where: Motts Run Nature Center/Reservoir, 6600 River Road, Fredericksburg.

Info: 540/372-1086, fredericksburgva.gov or stop by the Dorothy Hart Community Center, 408 Canal St., Fredericksburg. Pre-registration required for all activities.