The distant sound of a train whistle echoing across the land has inspired many an adventure I’m sure. On Saturday, as Cameron and I finished off our snack and quiet recovery from the excitement of the Aquarium, we heard just that. Several had already sounded, unnoticed by Cameron, so this time I drew attention to it. “Tooot tooot? What was that,” I asked? Cameron’s rather used to toot referring to farts, so at first he looked confused. Then he heard the next one. “A TRAIN,” he yelled! I answered, “Let’s go find it!” And we were off.
Tickets purchased at the clocktower, we waited. I answered a thousand whys. Finally, the whistles sounded closer, and we could hear the chug-chug-chug of the engine. Cameron couldn’t tell which way it was going to come, and so he peered through the fence between us and the platform, eyes darting back and forth, feet twitching in excitement. He would’ve squirmed right off the seat as the train appeared, but the glue holding his eyes close to the fence held him tight.
Cameron chose a spot a couple of cars back from the engine, the seats right at the very front of that car, where we could peer down and see the tracks. A little guy his age sat behind us, and the two kids exchanged vital information. “This is a train!” “It’s going to go FAST!” “Did you see? It’s on train tracks!” Both fell silent as the conductor called, “All aboard! All aboard,” and the train … started … to move. For a moment I thought Cameron would want off right away, but he was determined to stick this out. At first he was a very solemn little guy, overwhelmed a bit by the trees and all there was to see. Within a few minutes he relaxed, and started a nonstop chatter with me: look here, what’s that, why Mommy, why?
The train trip, around 15 minutes, was in my estimation well worth the six dollars it cost. While it didn’t quite put me in awe of the forest nor remind me of the wilds that the park used to be, as suggested on their web site, it was still sweet and entertaining. There was a little red door in a tree trunk, with a waving mouse statue. There were several other miniature trains set up to see. Scattered around were statues of deer and moose. A real raccoon was washing up in a pond – not a novelty for the local adults, but still wondrous for the kids. The track loops around over itself, and Cameron was excited to look down and see the criss-crossed tracks as we went over. The tunnel was long enough to cause a bit of worry on Cameron’s part, until I leaned close, laughed, and asked, “Can you see me? I can’t see you? Where’d you go?” He repeated me, and by then we could see again. Just in time too, as the train chugged over a bridge. The last bit, the run back to the station, has the train picking up the pace from its sightseeing slow amble., and wind ruffled our hair. Cameron sat up to look around, excitement in the open-air speed clear.
Did you think that would be enough excitement for one day – a visit to the aquarium, and a train ride? You would probably be right. But we didn’t stop there. You see, the train station is very close to the Children’s Farm. The crowds must have all been either waiting in line to see the baby beluga, or playing elsewhere to avoid the crowds, as the farm appeared nearly empty. This, and the price (another six dollars), plus Cameron’s interest in the deep mmbmbmbbbaaaaaggghhhhhhh of a sheep meant we visited with some four-legged critters.
Brutal honesty? Given the choice, I’d rather visit the slightly pricier and further away Maplewood Farms again. We did, however, see some new things, and Cameron enjoyed himself. That’s what matters.
We spent a good hour in the Children’s Farm. Cameron enjoyed petting the goats, and we chatted a bit about the different colours, shapes, and sizes. We talked about their horns, as he clicked his fingernails against those of a very patient sun-baking goat. He gently touched the curly coats of two inquisitive lambs. I should note that I very carefully guarded Bunny, strapped to the Adventure Bag, from the goats. Cameron touched the hairs on a pot-bellied pig, and we talked about the different types of fur. We found the bunnies, and petted them, then Cameron had a conversation with a rooster. I’m not sure what the rooster was saying, but Cameron thought he was asking about his baseball cap. After all, the rooster had a red ‘hat’ on his head, too. We saw a hen huddled down in her nest, and some eggs left in another. The snakes and turtles got oohs, and the llama received some laughter. I don’t blame him, it’s a rather funny looking animal. He got licked by the cow.
The staff was friendly and helpful. I would’ve liked to have seen more handwash stations, and directions to the nearest public washroom on the way out instead of just a sign saying you should find it and wash your hands. If you’re skittish about rodents, don’t look too closely in the corners of the empty stalls. In a barn with lots of feed there are bound to be mice at the very least, and I didn’t see any cats to assist in that matter.
By the end of all of this, Cameron had probably had enough of structured time, walking, looking, and learning. For all that it contained lots of play, it was still a bit much for a kid. He needed some serious playtime without interference. Seriously, I’m certain it helps him process things. So, off to the playground! There’s a fabulous one right outside the train station / farm compound area. So I sprayed sunscreen on us both, and turned him loose there before trying to convince him to go home.
A promise of ice cream in the back yard helped there.