"Join a Wintergreen Volunteer naturalist to exlore Virginia mountain geology, geography, plants, animals, and local lore. Come prepared with good day-hiking equipment for variable weather and hiking conditions ... Our focus will also be directed on how to lead a hike, understanding your audience and provide an educational experience to the group while having fun in a natural environment."
The air was crisp, the sky a glorious blue, and the calming greenery of Wintergreen Resort simply breathtaking. As I embarked on my first educational session, "Leading a Nature Hike", the call of the woods beckoned. We loaded the Wintergreen Shuttle and were off to embrace the Appalachian Trail (or "AT" as my new post-session-hike lingo has now afforded me).
"Alga met Fungus in the trees, and they took a Lichen to each other. Unfortunately, their marriage ended up on the rocks ...."
The lesson from our fearless leader, Richard, in this little love story was to explain the tendency of lichens to colonize on rock. However, Richard's true message was for each of us, in our leadership roles, to gauge the audience and convey lessons in whatever context reaches them - and it did. Otherwise, how else would I have any recollection of the nature of the symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi in lichens? It is altogether likely that I have never before used those three words in the same sentence in the course of my entire life.
Richard concluded the discussion portion of the session, atop beautiful Indian Rock, by emptying his hiking pack and explaining the merit of each necessary component. He solicited the group as to what other items we have found useful in our own packs. My new bff CJ shared a tip regarding dollar store warming blankets: cost-effective, small additions to any responsible hikers backpack (or vehicle driver's glovebox), that offer a myriad of uses:
- solar still (to draw moisture in the event of a dehydration issue)
- reflective signaling device
- ground cloth
My enjoyment of the afternoon and the benefits of the experience are not limited to the hike nor to my newfound enlightenment as to the algae/fungi love story. And, they are not limited to me. Below is a message shared post-hike by fearless-leader-Richard:
Many thanks to everyone who attended the conference on Sunday and participated in the hike. I can honestly say that you were one of the more exciting and energetic groups that I have had the pleasure of meeting. I had the opportunity to sit-in on the key note speaker session and feel as though you all have a wonderful opportunity to advance your programs looking at all of the demographic changes we have in the future. I feel privileged to have been a small part of what looks like a great conference.
Happy Trails to all ... in this case the Appalachian.