It’s a pleasure to see kids light up at natural things, and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness volunteers and staff often have the pleasure.
FSPW family hikes are sometimes populated by parents lugging youngsters who don’t want to walk on their own — until something changes that dynamic, and then watch out. A few years ago, a group of kids and parents from Bonner Homeless Transitions hiked up Morris Creek Trail #35 with FSPW volunteers and staff. One young girl wouldn’t proceed without being carried by her mom.
As the exciting world of forest and free-stone stream opened before her, though, she became more willing to spend a little time and then a little more time and finally all the time on the ground under her own power. By the end of the day, she was a neophyte naturalist, exploring under rocks, stuffing forest ‘treasures’ into her pockets and crossing small streams by herself while steadfastly reassuring her mom, “I can do it myself.”
This phenomenon is not confined to young kids. A high school student having personal struggles arrived at a recent FSPW Winter Tracks with a chip on his shoulder and no warm hat or gloves. When offered extra gear, he turned it down. He seemed to begrudge being there at all. He acted bored as he reluctantly trailed the rest of the group during a tracking exercise — until magic happened.
The group encountered a set of impressions in the snow that was eventually determined to be made by a hawk in pursuit of a squirrel. There were the wing marks. There was the imprint of the hawk’s bottom. And there was the sudden end of the squirrel’s trail. The group learned how to parse out what had happened. When the conclusion was excitedly reached by the students, the seemingly inattentive kid spouted, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!”
Not only did he “wake up” and enjoy the rest of the day, he consented to wear the proffered hat and gloves.
Nature invites us in. Or, more accurately, embraces us as part of itself. Like the young man who turned down the hat and gloves, we can spurn that which will warm us if we don’t recognize its value. Sometimes, though, guides can show us the way into that embrace. That’s what the FSPW outdoor education programs strive to do. It’s a natural thing.