My absence from blogging for the past few days was because I was an instructor at an Adventure Camp for 8-15 year olds. My session included hiking, wildlife identification and nature awareness. It was a lot of fun, if not quite what I’d planned. The kids seemed to be having a lot of fun, though how much they actually learned is up for some debate.
I had 3 different groups of kids and took each for about a 2-mile hike down the mountain at Roundtop. There, we walked along an old woods road along Beaver Creek and then hiked back up the mountain to the camp. By the third trip up the hill, in what was by then 90 degree heat, I was ready for the day to end!
I’d dutifully started each hike with a list of what to take when hiking and a tally of what not to do in the woods. Some of my instructions, like being quiet so we’ll see more, didn’t make it past the first 100 yards. The kids really weren’t interested in things they couldn’t touch—like birds. Seeing four species of ferns really or even a very pretty little wildflower wasn’t up their alley either.
But, things like picking raspberries, now that was okay in their book. The only real problem is that the raspberries are just now ripening and there weren’t always enough to go around. So, despite my pleas to only pick the black ones, I soon was besieged by one child after another holding up a single, pathetic-looking raspberry in various stages of unripeness and asking me if this one was okay to eat. Eventually, we passed enough raspberry bushes that every child was able to taste at least one ripe one.
We did find some fun things along our walk that the kids were thrilled with. Unlike the deer and the birds, a box turtle was simply too slow to be able to hide until my little armies were past. Poor turtle was handed from child to child, turned over (again despite my pleas) and inspected thoroughly before being reluctantly released. Turtle was long gone by the time the next group walked through the same spot.
One group discovered a small salamander, an Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander. I hope the poor thing survived. It was discovered under a rock and passed from child to child and eventually dropped, though not stepped on. The species is (fortunately) abundant and tends to be more terrestrial than the average salamander.
Assorted frogs leapt into the ponds in terror whenever one of my roving tribes neared. Usually the frogs de-camped long before I could identify them. One counselor caught a black snake that was about 4-5 feet long, and the kids all got to touch that, which was a big deal. Insects of any species, if they were of an unusual color and could be captured, were objects of much enthusiasm. Dragonflies were only of passing interest, as they were colorful enough but couldn’t be caught.
All in all it was a fun experience, though I wish the kids were a bit more, um, focused. I can’t honestly say they really learned much, though most of them seemed to be having fun. In three weeks I get to do it all over again. I just hope the mountain recovers by then.