Thoughts from the Trail

Ooooh, Ah, How Could It Be

February 24, 2023

It was a beautiful and crisp day. Unusual for this winter, it felt cold, like winter should be that day. Trip Leader Roger arrived to escort me from The Nature Place office to Harriman State Park for a day hike. We were going to do a “new to me” hike. I have lived within minutes of Harriman for over ten years and am still discovering new trails and places.

We started on the Blue Disc Trail, crossed The Kakiat, and enjoyed our hike to Claudia Smith’s Den. The den is a wonderful formation of rocks and cliffs, home at one time to Claudius Smith and his gang of loyalists during the Revolutionary War. Some called him a horse thief, while others viewed him as a sort of Robin Hood. As we walked, scrambled, and climbed through these impressive geological features, I wondered what it must have been like to live here in the 1770s. Instead of reaching for my phone and letting Google fill my head with references and old maps, I allowed my imagination to run wild.

Where did they keep the horses? What was the closest water source? In what direction would they expect those to come who wanted their horses back? Where did they take shelter during a storm? Was the area clear-cut back then, or were they living in the old-growth forest? What it must have been like to drink from a mountain stream without fear of pollution.  As these thoughts came to me, they reminded me of the saying repeated all summer long: “Oooh, ah, how could it be?”

This is a phrase said all over The Nature Place day in and day out. It originated by Nature Place founder Ed Bieber to inspire campers to open their minds and senses to take in the world around them. This goes hand in hand with our tradition of Still Hunting, where a group will take a minute, become still and silent to open their senses and take in the world around them. This approach is different from standard education today. Schools today have become heavily result oriented, thus teaching to the test. We continue to inspire our campers to think critically and seek why and not just what. We want to broaden our campers’ view and develop their sense of wonder.

The significance of this day, made possible by Roger, was not lost on me. I deepened my connection with my friend Roger, connected to nature (instead of my computer and perhaps some of you who called that day), and renewed my sense of wonder. This was the essence of The Nature Place experience.