On the morning of June 25, when I was scheduled to take the Explorer Group of the New Hampshire Audubon Society on a nature hike, it was pouring rain. In disappointment, I reckoned there would be no nature hike that day. But to my surprise, a white van drove into my yard at the appointed time and out poured 10 young teens and two counselors dressed in rain gear and boots, ready for the hike.
Our destination was through the woods to a great blue heron rookery, about an hour's walk from my house. We stayed a half hour at the rookery and then returned to my house, where I built a campfire in the rain using only material we found in the woods.
Standing around the fire I challenged the youth to send me a written account about the day's experience. Here are excerpts from what they wrote:
"I loved seeing the great blue herons so much, I drew a picture of one. When we were on the way back to the house, I saw Paul picking up bark and branches and I wondered what is he doing. When we got back I saw the fire pit.
Although it was pouring rain, Paul lit the bark. The flame wobbled a bit but then was burning. Five minutes later there was a roaring fire."
Willem Wamser , age 10
"Thanks for the great hike to the great blue heron viewing area. It was great to learn some cool facts about nature. Although it was raining, buggy and full of mud and ticks, it was a wonderful experience and I am not likely to forget it soon."
Nick Mayo, age 12
"Thanks for showing us the great blue herons. I couldn't believe there were six nests. The bullfrogs made a really weird sound! I never knew that great blue herons ate bullfrogs.
My favorite part was the fire. You did a good job of keeping it going while the rain was falling. The fire warmed me up a lot. Pine needles look really awesome when the fire burned them up."
Megan Ellsworh, age 10
"My favorite parts of the hike were the moose tracks and the fire in the rain."
Ethan Callihan, age 11
"On the hike it was hard not to step on the red-spotted newts."
Paytra Murphy, age 10
"Building a fire in the rain was fun and it kept the bugs away."
Meg Johnston, age 12
"The great blue heron rookery is on a pond. We saw lots of great blue herons and six nests. Paul was always teaching us new things about the woods. This was one of the best field trips I have been on."
William Stadelmann, age 10