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Creative Spark: Nature Walks.

Now, I know this is not 'staying at home'. But in the Bitterroot, we have the rich resource of easy to access outdoor spaces, and we can safely access these spaces without human contact. Whether walking alone or with your family, being in nature bolsters both emotional and physical wellness.

This time of year is particularly inspiring. Spring is burgeoning and the signs of the season change are everywhere. So, toss on a good pair of shoes, grab a water bottle, some food and a basic first aid kit and head for a local park or trailhead. Maybe an extra layer for each walker, as spring time weather can be unpredictable. Many of the following activities are easily done in a backyard. The most important thing is to be outdoors as much as possible!

• Follow your child. They will gain confidence and lead you to treasures you may miss on your own. If you do not have a child, then follow your inner child.

• Make art from nature. Stack rock pylons. Create a mandala from sticks and stones. And, my new favorite, make rock pictures.

• Start a record of the species of plants that you identify on your walks. You may see the first buttercup of the year, or the anemone-like leaves of the Bitterroot above the soil (go back and find the flowers in May/June), currant shrubs are leafing out, native grasses are greening and you might notice herbaceous plants emerging from the soil. Lots of insects are emerging too.

• Spring migration of birds has begun. Winter residents are spreading their wings and singing spring songs. Great Horned Owls and Red-tailed hawks may be seen on their nests. Western Bluebirds have shown up at River Park and Mountain Bluebirds may be seen on Chaffin Butte. Sandhill Cranes have been reported as well as Spotted Towhees and Peregrine Falcons. Lee Metcalf refuge should be sporting recently arrived water birds. Of course, American Robins abound right now.

• Tracking animals is fun and easy in mud and snow. Looking for signs of eating can lead to great discoveries. Gently turn over rocks and logs in the woods to see who may be underneath (always be gentle and don't look too long as creatures may still be dormant and we do not want to harm them).

As you can see, there are many extra special things to do on a walk.

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