FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

The Great Pumpkin Hunt

Written By: Scot Butwell - Nov• 20•17

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I’ve driven by the South Coast Botanical Garden in Palos Verdes many times without even giving a second thought to what I might be missing.

Now, I will not.

I will think about the 87 acres of blooming trees, shrubs, flowers, meadows, winding trails, benches in shady garden niches, friendly volunteers and crisp autumn air.

I will think of these things and fondly remember our visit to the Garden, and it will be a lot harder to pass by the Garden, knowing how much beauty lies within this 87 acre haven of nature.

D is a lover of treasure hunts, so we went to experience “The Great Pumpkin Hunt” in the Garden which involves locating clues in birdhouses to find a clandestine pumpkin patch.

But since I’m not much of a map navigator, and more prone to wander and enjoy nature, we got lost in the Garden while on the Great Pumpkin Hunt; and that was just fine with me.

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The Garden map was sound, I just didn’t feel like following it; and no one we asked knew the locations of the birdhouses, so getting lost in nature seemed preferable to finding clues.

The secret patch turned out to be behind one of the Garden’s Kid’s Adventure Club Stations–a once-a-month activity–where kids and parents alike could dig for marine fossils.

D and I were given plastic spoons for shovels, a plot of dirt bracketed by string, and a volunteer explained to D how the garden had been a marine environment thousands of years ago.

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“Do you know what a person who digs for fossils is called?” she asked D.

“A paleotologist.”

“What do you expected to find since it used to be a marine environment?”

“Shark teeth.”

“Wow! You are really a smart boy!”

We got so into digging for fossils that we didn’t pay any heed to a pumpkin patch in front of us. The pumpkins looked like they had been ravaged by some hungry animals in the Garden.

One pumpkin looked like a basketball without air, and we were told the Garden held a contest a year ago, to guess the weight of a giant pumpkin, but it had mysteriously disappeared.

Bite by bite, that is. As the squirrels, rabbits, mice and racoons ate the prized pumpkin and, apparently, they did same this year, judging by the appearance of the pumpkin patch.

Getting lost in the nature, or sitting on one of the Garden’s many benches, and just feeling the warmth of the sun, I concluded, is what I’ve missed driving by the South Coast Botanical Garden.

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“Climb the mountains, get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you…while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

John Muir’s words came to me while D and I sat on a bench after walking through the labyrinth of trails, and as I pondered Muir’s thoughts, I could sense nature’s peace flowing into me.

True, D asked to look at my phone as he leaned back into my chest. But I enjoyed the lush greenery and warmth of the sun on my face as I wondered about the people who walked by us.

I reminisced about the 17-mile drive in Carmel when a tram passed by us. Walking on the Garden’s scenic trails and roads brought back to mind L and my trip there on our honeymoon.

My mind wandered to the missed opportunity 18 years ago to ride a bike in a slight drizzle; in retrospect, it was the perfect condition–though I chose wisely to not abandon my new bride.

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This got me thinking if biking is permitted in the Garden–I didn’t see anyone riding a bike–but the program staff is always expanding new ways for visitors to experience the Garden.

In December, the Garden will pipe in Christmas music on selected roads/trails and host bands playing holiday music; in January, guests can listen to a pop music playlist while walking through Garden trails.

A sign outside the front gates also announced yoga will be coming soon to the Garden. In addition, the Garden hosts plays, concerts, and movie nights in its meadows–Mauna played in July.

D and I enjoyed acting out scenes from the Wizard of Oz in a small shaded amphitheatre with a canopy of trees. An acting class would make a great addition to the Garden, I thought.

We ran into a troop of girl scouts, and one girl ran over to D and said, “D, what are you doing here?” And then he was surrounded by a group of girls, who were all saying the same thing.

He hid behind a tree watching them before he was spotted. I gave him some space to interact with the girls, but he seemed overwhelmed, and we walked and ran on with the map in my pocket.

D liked the numerous opportunities to pick up dirt clods along the trails. He’s still a sensory kid at heart, and frankly, that may have been his favorite part.

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We appreciated the quiet solitude; sometimes, a father and son need to escape into nature–you know, to get away from family life stresses–and the Garden was a perfect nature getaway.

You enter through the gates, walk through an enchanted garden with small miniature houses, grazing cows and other ornaments, and you forget all about the various stressors in  life.

You walk along trails or a road, turn right or left down a myriad of trail/road options, and you will feel tempted to chuck the map, and you may decide getting lost in nature is preferable.

That’s what I felt like doing–and so we found only two of the six birdhouses with clues to the pumpkin patch. But time stopped, and that’s the best way I know to enjoy an afternoon with D.

The next time we drive by the Garden, I will assuredly give more than second thought to what I will be missing. And I am sure I will planning a return visit to the Garden in the next few weeks.

Full Disclosure: I received two tickets at my request in exchange for writing this blog post. However, all opinions in this post are mine, and I hope you enjoy the Garden as much as we did

The South Coast Botanical Gardens Hours are: 9 – 5 everyday (open 364 days a year). The address is: 263000 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes. You can learn more about the Garden by visiting their website:southcoastbotanicalgarden.org.

Tickeprices are: Adults $9, students $6, children (4 – 12) $4, and toddlers are free.

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