CRAWFORD NOTCH — “It's real cool in here,” 9-year-old Robert Griffin answered Sunday when he was asked about what he liked about the cave-space created at the Appalachian Mountain Club's new Highland Mountain Playscape.
During Family Fun Day, Griffin, of Cape Cod, wasn't the only one getting a kick out of exploring the nooks and crannies of the newest feature at the AMC's Highland Center. The playscape, made largely from granite quarry stone and unfinished wood, was designed by Halvorson Design Partnership with features that families would find during a hike in the White Mountains, including a suspension bridge, uneven granite steps, gravel paths and a log bridge perfect for crossing boggy areas.
“The playscape,” said Rob Burbank, director of media and public affairs for the AMC, “ties in with helping to get kids and families outdoors.” The area is designed to fit in with the surrounding landscape, and promotes outdoor exploration for kids, helping them exercise their minds and their bodies.
“Because of its unique design and inviting nature, the playscape can be a first step into the world of outdoor exploration, learning and fun for kids who may not have spent much time in the outdoors, or who are uncomfortable with the idea of venturing too far. The playscape also provides kids with another opportunity to burn off extra energy if the day's hiking wasn't enough,” Highland Center Director Rick McCarten said.
On Sunday, David Freedman of Madison and son Gabriel, 6, after going across the suspension bridge, carefully walked down along descending slabs of granite, as if they were hiking down one the region's bald peaks. Growing up in Mount Washington Valley, Gabriel will no doubt have ample opportunities to use his new skills.
Even though Robert Griffin has climbed Mount Washington, the skill-building play area more than held his attention. He showed a visitor another granite cave tucked underneath the sturdy structure. This cave has a non-mechanical speaker phone that runs through the rocks to the outer walls, which was a hit with kids and adults all day long.
“I've hiked all my life, I can't stop hiking,” he explained before he took off to cross the suspension bridge again.
“He can't get enough of (hiking),” his father, Mark, confirmed. The duo frequently come up to the mountains to camp and hike, with the younger Griffin getting his first taste of the mountain trails from his seat in a backpack.
Kids and their parents got a chance to do other activities, like flying kites, making plaster molds of animal prints, learning how to start a campfire and more during the opening celebration.
Eight-year-old twins Colin and Colby Rathbone of Groton, Mass., made molds of bear and fox prints, flew colorful kites high into the sky over Crawford Notch and became Junior Naturalists.
Giovanna Spiotti of Bethlehem was intrigued by the telescopes set up in the area's natural landscaping. With the help of filters or funnels, the telescopes allowed visitors to look at the sun and clearly see sunspots and solar prominences. The telescopes, and two interns from Carthage, a college in Wisconsin, will be at the Highland Center all summer long, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation.
The playscape at the Highland Center is open to the public except when being used for other AMC programming.