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Morgan Arboretum — And now for a freebie. In honor of Earth.

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I feel like I’m being a little West Island-centric here but this (free!) activity is too good to ignore.  Morgan Arboretum and Montreal Families Magazine have teamed up to offer free guided tours through the great forests in honor of Earth Day (April 22nd). I had the great privilege to enjoy this forested retreat while studying at John Abbott College and McGill University. The 245 hectare wildlife reserve is situated on McGill’s MacDonald campus in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue and is home to a surprisingly large number of birds, mammals and creepy crawlers.

How do we teach the next generation about caring for our Earth? I’m a huge supporter of recycling and composting, buying local whenever possible and generally reducing my carbon footprint–but do our children truly understand why we need to keep our planet healthy? Honestly, leading our day-to-day lives mostly indoors (especially in the winter), it is difficult to understand why Nature needs protecting.

Here is the perfect opportunity to get out, educate and entertain. By mentioning the Montreal Families article (link below), you will be guided through the trails by a naturalist who will explain the forest and answer all your questions. The event will run on Sunday, April 21st from 9am to 4pm.

http://www.montrealfamilies.ca/Montreal-Families/April-2013/Fun-ways-to-protect-the-planet/

Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed.

Admittedly, it’s been quite a few years since I visited the Arboretum. When our family plans weekend or day adventures they usually include our whining brute of a dog and so this amazing place has been crossed off the list due to its no dogs policy. I have heard whispers of a limited number of permits sold on a yearly basis that would give you access with your furry friend but I’ve never explored that option.

I’m really excited to revisit the forest after so many years. Now, as a mom, I will blushingly admit that the outskirts of this forest used to be our “hangout” spot so it’ll be nice to see it again through new (old) eyes. Here is a link to the park’s trails:

http://www.morganarboretum.org/Downloads/arbomap_trails.pdf

The man-made bird feeders are a great addition as they make bird-watching really fun and the kids can point out the birds very easily. It’s not rare to see a line-up of bird and wildlife photographers with their super lenses sitting patiently for the elusive owl or hawk to make its presence known. The sugar shacks are open around this time of the year so you might be lucky enough to get a sample of the delicious maple taffy. A few of the shacks also serve light lunches.

Let’s hold our next generation’s tiny hands and show them exactly what we are fighting to keep healthy. Even if it’s just for an hour or two, at least your family will experience the fresh air and hopefully spot some of the wildlife. And if you absolutely can’t get out, I highly recommend some weekend reading: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

Address: 150 ch. des Pins, Ste. Anne de Bellevue

https://maps.google.ca/maps?saddr=Montreal,+QC&daddr=Morgan+Arboretum,+150+Chemin+des+Pins,+Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue,+QC+H9X+3V9&hl=en&sll=45.432056,-73.952175&sspn=0.034874,0.084543&geocode=FT5otgIduKed-ykNt2QcVBrJTDHv7x8hODFOZQ%3BFY0wtQIdrJSX-yklxgRDwznJTDHaeViGu9xx7g&oq=montreal&mra=ls&t=m&z=11

Below you will find a few links about the Morgan Arboretum:

http://www.morganarboretum.org/fma/

http://www.montrealfamilies.ca/Montreal-Families/April-2013/Fun-ways-to-protect-the-planet/

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Let’s burn off the winter calories! Coaticook Gorge

Coaticook Gorge

Coaticook Gorge

Located about 2 hours outside of Montreal, the Coaticook Gorge has a pretty neat claim to fame: the world’s longest suspended footbridge. Are you imaging your walk over a 164 foot gorge on a wobbly (dare-I-say) Quebec-constructed bridge? I’m exaggerating, of course; I get weak in the knees when it comes to heights but I was so distracted by the raw beauty of the gorge that I barely noticed the height. Oh, and don’t worry, it doesn’t wobble! I promise you the kids will love this adventure and it is certainly worth the 2 hour drive.

The park is open year-round but I highly recommend going in the spring when the snow has just about melted away. There won’t be as many crowds and the animals are just coming out of hibernation foraging for food. The paths are very hiker- and biker-friendly (the trails are even horse-friendly). I would caution that strollers are not easily pushed throughout the entire park but a good portion is steady ground and would be suitable for all-terrain strollers. However, I would still recommend a baby carrier for the non-walking tots.

We were lucky enough to see a family of wild deer while we were there and I spotted quite a number of wild birds, small mammals and the odd amphibian. I feel particularly honored by our sightings because our dog (dogs allowed!) usually scares away most little beasts with her panting and general rowdiness.

Open mid-May to mid-October, the park’s campground has everything to suit your needs from rustic tent sites to full-service sites. I haven’t told my husband yet but there is even a rustic hut that accommodates up to 6 people–even in the winter (only $60/day)! It’s on my to-do list for this year. The campground rates are very reasonable.

While the trails are not overly strenuous, I would recommend making a full day of the park. Hike in with a lunch (remember to leave no trace) and enjoy the amazing sights and sounds of nature. Guided tours are available in English and in French but they aren’t necessary to learn about the park’s history. There are plenty of signs and plaques to keep the children entertained and the adults informed.

Finally, I highly recommend dining in one of the many local restaurants for supper. Many of the restaurants are proud supporters of Quebec’s local produce and serve organic meat and veggies. Once the bellies are full, load up the car and breathe a sigh of relief as you enjoy the silent –trust me, the kids will be snoring in no time–drive home.

Address: 400, rue Saint-Marc, Coaticook, Quebec J1A 2T7

https://maps.google.ca/maps?saddr=My+Location+(Montreal,+QC)&daddr=Coaticook,+QC&gl=ca&panel=1&fb=1&dirflg=d&geocode=FT5otgIduKed-ykNt2QcVBrJTDHv7x8hODFOZQ%3BFXavsAId1lu4-yn5021_t1i2TDF27mahLWDdRw&t=m&z=9

A few sites to explore:

http://www.gorgedecoaticook.qc.ca/

http://tourismecoaticook.qc.ca/index_en.asp

http://www.easterntownships.org/activity/678/parc-de-la-gorge-de-coaticook