By Ranger Steve Mueller
Picking wild blue berries with the family, catching grasshoppers and worms for fishing, swimming in a lake, canoeing a river, climbing a tree with neighborhood kids, catching lightning bugs are all snippets from my childhood outdoor experiences. Each of us recall a multitude of experiences from growing up.
Make a mental list of your experiences growing up. How many are outdoor experiences with family? How many are outdoor experiences by yourself or with other kids? Ask your kids to list outdoor experiences with family, by themselves or with other kids.
Compare your lists. Do you and your kids have similar outdoor experience lists? Times have changed but are you providing your children or grandchildren with experiences that were a joy for you as a kid?
One of my happier moments came with each of my girls separately. I asked each when we were alone, to tell me their favorite family activity from when they were growing up. Interesting both had the same answer. They said going horseback riding at Wolf Lake Ranch. That is something we did during a fall weekend each year. My favorite family activity when I was growing up was going to Wolf Lake Ranch with my parents every fall.
How many parents can say their children’s favorite family activity is the same favorite activity they had with their parents? Going to a rustic ranch for horseback riding, hayride, campfire, and other activities is one way to experience the outdoors.
In some ways, the girls and I grew up in the same time three decades apart. Of course, the world changed but the natural world was there for all of us. We had time to explore on our own and with friends.
Technology brought new advances as I grew. A new thing called transistor radios came into existence, FM radio developed, and automatic engines were replacing stick shift automobiles in my youth. As my kids grew, pinball machines gave way to video games, computers like the Apple IIe hit the market, and CD’s replaced vinyl records.
TV shrunk the world even more and brought distant places and events closer to home. Despite the changes going on around us, our kids grew up with frogs, deer, ants, oak trees, and apples as neighbors. We grew Christmas trees in the yard and learned tree husbandry. Each girl had their own garden. As waves rolled toward Lake Michigan’s shore, we threw stones to see if we could hit white caps.
We camped in Hiawatha National Forest campgrounds and put our feet in the icy water of Lake Superior. In warmer shallow water of a campground lake, we waded among thousands of American toad pollywogs.
We choked on campfire smoke that seemed to follow us where ever we moved.
The world might be changing in ways we wish it were not but that does not mean our kids and grandkids cannot grow up in a time and place that was present 50 years ago. The natural world provides a place to nurture one’s sole, spirit, and physical health.
Tents are still sold, outhouses still are found in rustic campgrounds, dirt hiking trails are more abundant throughout the state, birds are singing, coyotes howl, bull frogs bellow, and deer bound from secret bedding areas. Raise kids in a time and place that you remember. It is safe and wonderful.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at firstname.lastname@example.org – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.