It’s no mystery; when you bring a beautiful early fall day together with the power of the press and the allure of a walk in the woods, they will come.
It was no surprise to me, as I walked into the Arboretum’s welcoming center and saw a crowd spread throughout the center, viewing the gallery, browsing the books, eying the gift shop and admiring the plants on sale. I’m used to that.
What did surprise me, as I started to introduce myself as the docent who would be guiding the 11:00 walk, was that they all paid attention. What further amazed me was, as I started the walk the building emptied, all 25 adults and children followed. OK, I am used to emptying a building when I talk, but not having a friendly crowd follow me.
As we walked beside the south meadow, the opportunities arose to debunk the golden rod’s bad rap for ragweed’s causing hay fever and the milkweed’s role in supporting the monarch butterfly migration.
At the transition into the forest, I presented the arboretum’s history and unique role it has to play as a public/private partnership in the development of an appreciation and caring for Delmarva’s native plants.
As this was a large crowd, I found myself walking backward. There are several reasons for doing this; one is I very rarely turn my back on a large group. Another reason is to make sure I don’t leave someone behind. Walking this way also gave me the opportunity to enlist the help of several people in managing the walk. I asked for help in seeing that I didn’t trip or walk off the path. Others I enlisted to help keep me on time.
We stopped at the first bridge and talked about the stream’s water flow, color and how we use nature’s forms to help stop erosion. I pointed out the limbs in the stream which slowed the water flow allowing the heavier material to drop out and how placing angled timber across the trail will do the same.
As we walked among ferns, mosses, mushrooms, poison ivy, oaks, beeches, birch, pines, dogwood, devil’s walking sticks, hearts-a-bursting, ash, tulip trees and hickory, we contrasted and compared leaf structure, limbs and trunks noting how they adapt to the forces around them.
We took note of the structure of the changing habitats, the openness and intimacy of the wood and water. We explored the fallen oak, its root plate and discussed how the fallen tree would change and create a new space.
We looked into cavities, geo-cashing and tulip tree well, finding treasures which left their impressions.
As we finished the tour, we discussed what it was we liked about the walk and what we would change. Some of the topics were:
– Is it possible to just walk the trail unguided?
– Are the trails accessible to people with disabilities?
– We discussed how well this walk fit topics that home schooled
children were exploring?
– Discussed opportunities and a needs for volunteer participation?
The feedback was that the walk was enjoyable, informative, fun and that people planned to come again.
It felt good!