Woods & Wetlands Family Format

Parents Can Play Too!

Yesterday I had the unique opportunity for a Woods and Wetlands adventure on a friend’s private property only a few miles from my home. She is the parent of a former student of mine. Her son is grown up now and didn’t join us on our expedition through the wilds of their family’s relatively new acreage. Instead, my friend invited one of her friends to come along and explore with us. I promptly confessed that this would be the first “adults only,” version I’d done, and my friend cheerfully directed me to just treat them the same as I would children.

My friend had warned me ahead of time to be sure to wear muck boots as the property included quite a lot of swampy, wet ground. I was glad to have followed her instruction as the majority of our footing was definitely in wetlands. Just as I do with children, I felt the same quality of excitement and adventure to be outside exploring in nature, except with adults I am allowed to finish my sentences more often.

With no path yet created, the three of us were obliged to carve our own way across a shallow channel of water, around fallen branches, and through a waist-deep jungle of plant-life. As we approached the water and searched for an ideal place to cross, each step we took sent frogs leaping and plopping, one by one, into the channel where they promptly disappeared beneath floating, green, duckweed. It was hot and still out there and more than once I tipped my head back to take in a deep breath through my nose, inhaling all of those lovely fresh-water summer scents.

I knew we had only an hour, and I did try, but it is becoming clearer to me that not only do I struggle with time management, I will always have more to share and more to learn any time I am privileged enough to spend time in the wilderness. Here is a partial list of plants and trees that we noticed.

Virginia creeper
Poison ivy
Jack-in-the-pulpit
Wild grapevine
Wild roses
Wild apple
Oaks
Maples
Staghorn sumac
Button bushes
Jewel-weed
Willows

As we walked we could hear multiple calls of the sandhill cranes I’d spotted gathering in a nearby cornfield that I passed on my way to my friend’s house. The cranes’ wild cries never cease to thrill me and make me smile. Other than the frogs and cranes, the only other signs of animals along our way were deer tracks and scat.

I don’t personally know many other women who would have braved the thickets that we treaded yesterday. My friend hadn’t been through there yet, herself, and so none of us were entirely sure of directions, and we still had to get back! Normally I stop to point out and talk about landmarks, but there really weren’t any defining characteristics to act as guides. Nevertheless, we kept the pond and swamp area to our right and followed the curve of it around to the back of their land, my friend offering guidance as told to her by her husband who had explored their property already. His directions turned out to be really helpful as we reached first the drain channel, then the leftovers from an old apple orchard, the pond obscured by willows and button bushes, and finally a clearing in the back. We knew then that we were at least still approximately where we intended to be. I’m still not sure if we made it to the clearing my friend intended, but we did make it to A clearing, of that I am sure.

We paused so many times to talk about what we discovered that we left ourselves only about five minutes to return. Luckily a neighbor’s yard and driveway were just a short distance away and we were able to gain permission to take a shortcut. I should note, for any family members of mine who may be reading this, that my definition of “shortcut,” actually does shorten the amount of time it takes to get to a desired location, unlike the “shortcuts” from my childhood in which our dad used the term but his version was often, shall we say, a bit more troublesome and lengthy than mine. Proof? Yesterday’s adventure ended with all of us accounted for, each of us still in a good mood, and no one in tears.

If I am to compare our outing yesterday to those that include children, I would have this to say: When parents allow themselves to play like children, explore without fear of being damp or dirty, and remain open to new information, it is just as much fun! As an added bonus, my friend’s friend who joined us had a wealth of nature knowledge of her own that I was pleased to gain in return!

I didn’t take pictures, except to demonstrate how to use the iNaturalist app with a photo of swamp milkweed. There was so much to see, hear and smell as we waded through and it just felt right to soak it up by simply Being.

T.

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