Skins and Skulls at the Highland Center Lodge

Has your child touched the tiny pelt of an ermine? Or noticed that the eye sockets of coyotes face forward more than those of deer?

“Skins and Skulls” gives them a chance to do this and more. For me and my daughter, the hands-on presentation we recently enjoyed at AMC’s Highland Center Lodge in New Hampshire was a fun learning experience and a perfect break between a morning of snowshoeing and sledding and a hearty hot lunch in the dining hall.

I like to see animals alive and in their natural environments, but the reality is that a fox won’t sit still for you to pet its fur. And measuring the size of a moose rack or noticing the little grooves left behind by the veins and arteries that were in its velvet is best done when the moose itself is not around.

What could be explained in a book about animals is much more easily discovered and understood by seeing and touching their bones and fur. For example, it makes more sense to me now that ermine’s winter white fur was once used as a sign of royalty and high status in Europe. Just think how many pelts of animals that range from 6 to 13 inches long would be needed to edge a cape! And now when I notice an animal like the deer with eyes on the side of its head, the better to notice what’s coming after it, I will understand that it is avoiding a predator, which likely has forward-facing eyes that allow it to see and judge depth during the hunt.

“Skins and Skulls” is one of many free programs offered by guides at the lodge for all guests. Others include naturalist walks, snowshoe treks, guided hiking and cross-country skiing, and evening talks or movies about natural history or outdoor adventure. Special programming for kids is often increased during vacation weeks, so call the lodge at 603-278-4453 to see what’s planned. The lodge also has a natural outdoor playscape to explore, a recently enlarged collection of children’s books in its library and basement game room, and the L.L.Bean gear room, from which guests can borrow boots, coats, snowshoes, and other gear. There’s even a toboggan at the door that you can borrow for sledding.

For more information, read about family-friendly amenities at the Highland Center.

Photo by Heather Stephenson

Great Kids, Great Outdoors is an Appalachian Mountain Club blog, written by Heather Stephenson.

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