Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Field Trip

Leaves crunched underneath our sneakered little feet. Birds sang from treetops and clouds. Fuzzy gray squirrels scampered here and there as the terrifying herd of 2nd graders tromped through the woods.

We chattered and giggled throughout the day, trying to listen to the nice man in green as he explained various phenomena of nature. We gawked at the animals in habitat enclosures, especially enjoying the funny little otters as they splashed and chased and dunked.

We slouched comfortably in large padded theater chairs, waiting for the planetarium show to begin. Our eyes twinkled with the reflections of stars from the domed ceiling. We marveled at constellations, hoping to spot them in the real-life sky later that night.

Before the teachers led us back to the vans, we were set loose in the museum and gift shop. We crawled through the kiddie cave a few times and touched some starfish in the touch tank. Then we made a beeline for the gift shop. Our dollar bills were crumpled and warm in our little sweaty hands, awaiting a chance to become something more.
Most of us got the same thing. It was tradition. Astronaut Ice Cream. Melt-in-your-mouth blocks of sugary goodness. Somehow back then, we didn't realize that it had the consistency of Styrofoam. It was exciting and fun and special.

Nowhere else in East Tennessee could you get such an exciting treat.

We loaded ourselves back in the vans, munching away on our prized treats. By the time we arrived back at school, there would be nothing left but foil packages and a few tiny crumbs of freeze-dried Neapolitan.

This memoir recalls a school trip to Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium in the Tri-Cities area of East Tennessee. This annual school trip was always fun - and always ended with astronaut ice cream. If you are ever in this beautiful part of the country, take a drive up the mountain to one of the largest city parks in the country. A mini zoo showcases deer, wolves, skunks, birds of prey, and more. Dozens of hiking trails (including my favorite, the loop around the lake) can keep you exploring for hours. The planetarium is well-known throughout the area and always provides an interesting show. I haven't been to Bays Mountain in a while, so hopefully all of this is still there. Either way, it's worth it. A fantastic park for an afternoon adventure. (I heard there's a new zip line adventure for the summer!)
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Write a memoir post about a memorable school trip.

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