Social distancing and entire countries under “shelter in place” orders have resulted in many being stuck inside or with limited areas to move around. Ironically, I started this post a few months ago as a “things to do on a rainy day” post meant for springtime visits to the North Shore. With a bit of tweaking, I’m hoping it will help you pass the time and find little ways to enjoy nature and getting out as much as you can until we’re all able to travel and get out as usual. So here are six ways to enjoy the great outdoors while at home.
1) Camp in Your Own Backyard
This one wasn’t on the “things to do on a rainy day” list (that list only had five suggestions, originally). I’m adding this one as a way to get outside and get a taste of the outdoors without having to go far. If you have a tent, some wood, and even a small backyard, you can enjoy this activity. Pitch your tent, start a little fire, and make some s’mores while gathering with your family around the fire. Sing songs, put on skits, and share stories. Depending on the weather and your personal comfort level, you can either sleep in the tent or maybe just take a nap in it during the day and curl up in your bed at night. This is a very family-friendly activity, but also great for a couple or roommates. Get outside without leaving home, and maybe start planning a summertime camping trip if you find you enjoy the experience.
2) Go Birding
Spring is a migratory season for many species of birds. From the windows of your own home you may have a chance to see birds you normally wouldn’t see as they pass through one area heading to their summertime homes. Even in large cities flocks of birds can be spotted soaring overhead. If you have binoculars, pull them out. Scan the trees and ledges of buildings in your neighborhood to see if you can spot some feathered friends. Then check out the Audubon Society’s “Identifying Birds” page to see if you can figure out what species of bird you’re looking at. Then you can learn if it’s a migrating bird just passing through, or one you can enjoy seeing in your neighborhood anytime. If you don’t have a pair of binoculars handy, try using the zoom function on your phone or digital camera to look around.
3) Become a Backyard Botanist
When searching for activities for my kids to do from home, I glanced out of the window of my house and realized I never really thought too much about the trees in my yard. They’ve always been there, but with the exception of the one that fell during a wind storm last year and took out our power line, I didn’t give them much thought. Some were easily identifiable to me, like the birch trees that dominate my yard, but a few I was unsure of. So we went to the Arbor Day Foundation’s “What Tree Is That?” page and went on the hunt to identifying all of the trees in our yard. Now, in our case, there were a lot of trees to identify. This may not be that case where you live, but if you can see trees outside your window, take a moment to try to identify them. You can learn a lot about the trees in the process. For instance, I learned that you can actually get sap from birch trees that have numerous health benefits, similar to that of coconut water. And if spring has arrived where you live, perhaps look around for flowers and other plants that you can identify, too. If you don’t have a plant identification book, don’t worry! There’s an app for that.
4) Paint Some Rocks
There has been a growing interest in painting rocks and hiding them where others can find them in recent years. I’m not sure exactly when, where, and how this trend got started, but I personally found my first painted rock in the Grand Marais Harbor last year. My daughter and I snapped a photo with it, then re-hid it for the next person to find. From there, our interest in this activity has grown and now we consider painted rocks as valuable a rock treasure as finding an agate. Many people include a message on the back explaining when the rock was painted and even why. In our hunt, we have found rocks painted as memorials for loves ones, in honor of birthday celebrations, and even one painted at a wedding. While a “Painted During a Pandemic” rock doesn’t carry quite the warm and fuzzy sentiment that a rock celebrating the birth of a baby might carry, it tells of an important time in our history. So find some rocks (any rock will do) and use them to send a message about how you feel or what’s on your mind. Put the date and a little message on the back, if the rock is large enough for this, and save them to hide for others to find and enjoy when we can move about again. There are quite a few Facebook groups dedicated to this activity, the largest seems to be the Painted Rocks!!! group.
5) Read and Daydream
This post was originally written to give guests currently staying on the shore an idea of what they could do, on a rainy day, if stuck indoors. In that post, I suggested looking around your rental and finding a book to read. Many of our rentals are loaded with good books. I always find myself perusing the shelves of homes that I visit to see what kind of books are there. Most of the time, there are some great books about the North Shore that I imagine people are too busy to read under normal circumstances but it would be good to grab and read on a rainy day to help give new ideas on what to do when the weather is nice again. In this case, you may or may not have books about the North Shore or the outdoors at home. If you do, and you haven’t already read them, do it! Maybe even grab a highlighter and come up with ideas of things you want to do and try in the future. If you don’t, there are many books available for online download or by order through your local book store (always good to support them at this time, if you can!). If you have a library card you may be able to get digital books from your library, as well. Find a book, read it, daydream for brighter days. If you’re more into other genres of books, check out this GoodReads list of “Lake Superior Mysteries” or search for a book about a place/area/topic that interests you and find an author you’ve never read before. I just picked up Staci Lola Drouillard’s novel “Walking the Old Road: A People’s History of Chippewa City and the Grand Marais Anishinaabe“. It’s a non-fiction book about the history of the neighborhood I live in. Learning about the place I live in has been fascinating!
6) Visit a Museum…Virtually!
In the original article, one suggestion was to get out and check out some of the area’s museums and heritage centers. Obviously, these sorts of establishments are closed right now. But, rather than remove this suggestion from the list entirely, I did a bit of research and found that you can take virtual tours of many museums, zoos, aquariums, and even theme parks (including Walt Disney World!). It will never be the same as being there in person, but perhaps a nice substitute for the time being. Best of all, there is quite a few places on the North Shore that you can tour virtually from the comfort of your living room! The Virtual Duluth website offers tours of the Great Lakes Aquarium, Lake Superior Marine Museum, Glensheen Mansion, the William A Irvin Pilot House, and the Split Rock Lighthouse, amongst others.
Hopefully, this list helps a bit! Enjoy and until we meet again, stay safe and stay healthy!