The National Aquarium, Baltimore (August 19)

Oh my goodness, I can hardly keep up with ourselves!

The last time I checked in, our family had just wrapped up a 3-Day tour of the National Mall, and that was almost two weeks ago now! Mercy. Where am I? Or, at the very least, where was I when I last left off?

So, from Washington, D.C., the next stop on our northeasterly course was the National Aquarium in Baltimore. It was only an hour and a half away, so it was an easy driving day, although with the East Coast traffic, there isn’t actually anything like an easy driving day, in truth. Still, we made it in one piece, and even managed to find a parking lot where we could park with the trailer! It was not what you would call a bargain, paying for two spaces in downtown Baltimore, but it was incredibly convenient, right on the same block!

We piled out into the city streets, ready for a wonderful treat, a meander through four stories of rainforest, reef, and deep ocean exhibits in one of the greatest aquariums I’ve ever visited! Instead of long hallways of individual tanks, the National Aquarium is structured around large, open habitats and multi-story tanks with floor-to-ceiling viewing windows, just a wonderful immersion into the beautifully crafted displays.

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We could have spent the whole day at this shallow section of ocean reef, watching the jacks and rays and sharks and sea turtle glide by…

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…waiting to catch that first glimpse of something new coming in through the deeper tunnel that connects to the multi-level shark tank…

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The kids used the touchscreens to identify each new fish that they saw, and they talked to a staff member to discover why the sea turtle was missing a front flipper…She was a beach rescue, and had an injury and infection in her flipper when she was found, and now she’s doing just fine, delighting aquarium audiences daily!

From here, we slowly made our way up the cylindrical shark tank, watching those amazing creatures glide by, stopping to touch the sawtooth shark bone held by a staff member who explained that the sawtooth used his sword-like snout for sensing prey, for digging around, and for striking and stunning passing fish, watching the divers swim around and feed all the various tank-inhabitants…

The color of the ocean creatures is so endlessly amazing to me, the iridescence, the brilliance, the intricacy, the inexplicable variety of color in a world that is often far removed from the light of day…

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And then, we realized, as the kids got super-excited and said, “What’s a dolphin show?”, that they had never seen one before! Joe and I kind of grew up in the hey-day of amusement parks, Six Flags and Sea World and all that stuff, and sea lion shows and dolphin shows were a pretty familiar part of our childhood…But these kids have mostly just seen nature, so this was a first for them!

Wonderful dolphins, and the kids were just all oooohs and aaaaaaahs and squeals and giggles!

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And then we were on to the top level, a tropical rainforest canopy, complete with poison dart frogs hopping free in the shrubbery and birds on the wing and three-toed sloths clambering about in the treetops!

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So enjoyable!

From the aquarium, we headed north to French Creek State Park, outside of Philadelphia. Joe’s mom lives nearby, and so this would be our base camp for visiting with some family, and exploring a little bit of history in the area.

It was an interesting moment when we pulled up to the camp check-in, only to find out that our reservation hadn’t been processed, and the campground was completely full (of course, since it was Friday night). So weird! We are such double-checkers, but had never noticed that we didn’t get a confirmation e-mail. The kids asked, wide-eyed, “What will we do?” I laughed. I told them that the Lord always provides, so either things would work out here at the campground, or He would just show us another place to stay. No big deal.

And, it turned out, we did get something they call their “emergency site”, which actually turned out to be the nicest, most spacious, most convenient site in the campground, in my opinion. With a happily-thriving caterpillar population 🙂

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This one was named (unofficially, by my children) “Zebra Spine-back.” A later all-white variety was named “Starlight.” All caterpillars were humanely released back into their wild environment after careful study and appreciation!

It’s nice to encounter little circumstances like this, to remember the simplicity of the Lord’s provision for us. He just does provide in all situations, it’s that simple. And it’s good for me to have to remind my kids about that. Because, occasionally, I get a little wide-eyed about something in my own life, like, I don’t know, where we’re going to live, or how we’re going to earn money, or little things like that, and then I can remind myself of my own good advice!

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