Archive Post from April 18, 2016
Our Youth Learn from Being in Nature
By Adam Smith, Ride Program Manager
Max, the main character from Maurice Sendak’s beloved children's book, Where the Wild Things Are, would have loved to be on our trail ride with Project Avary at China Camp State Park that day. It would have been his kind of adventure. It indeed was Antonio’s. “Oh my gosh, it’s so beautiful!” Antonio said not long after taking his first pedal strokes on his first genuine mountain bike trail. “This is better than it looked on Google!”
Project Avary is one of our long-time agency partners that provides support services and programming for youth who have an incarcerated parent. We partner with them a few times a year to take their very deserving young people on trail rides, and they are a perennial staff favorite to lead. The kids from Avary light up during our programs. You can see how much the rides mean to them and they happily tell us why. Today’s wild ride was an especially memorable one, and the kids let us know over and over how excited they were to be there. And rightfully so, it’s not every day you get to ride along with deer, talk to turkeys and watch red tail hawks fly overhead.
“WOW! I’ve never seen a deer so close before! It’s so cool” Antonio enthusiastically exclaimed as we rounded a bend to find a herd of deer on the trail ahead. We stopped and watched them for a while. Unphased, they casually walked off the path, turned and watched us back.
Not five minutes up the trail we stopped at a bridge to catch our breath and have a sip of water when we heard a raucous sound coming from the woods not far from the trail. Wild turkeys! We all started making our best turkey impression (see video below). “Gobble, gobble gobble!” we made the noise in unison then listened for a response. Nothing. “Gobble, gobble gobble!” Again, nothing but silence. One more time, “Gobble, gobble gobble!!!!” Silence… But then, (insert authentic turkey noise here). We cheered as the wild turkeys responded to our group call. The kids loved it. I wonder what we said to the turkeys in hindsight. They must have liked it, whatever we did.
At the end of the ride, to top it off, a beautiful red tail hawk swooped down out of the sky and landed on a tree limb 25 yards off the trail. We stopped and watched it in silence. It was a powerful moment. A group of primarily inner city youth silently watching one of nature's most majestic creatures in its natural habitat. After we broke the silence, Antonio turned to me and said, “Thank you for bringing me here. This is so cool!”
“You’re welcome Antonio,” I said, “thank you for bringing me here today too. I’m so glad you love it so much.”
As we rode back, I couldn’t help but think we might see a boy in a wolf costume hiding in the woods with his wild friends at any point.