Young or old, anglers are all the same age to the fish.
Occasionally, in my zealous effort to promote getting kids outside, I’ve often neglected a pressing need to do the same for adults.
While I can’t advocate ‘tossing the old folks out in the snow’ as I have with kids, I do believe there’s a real need for programming that would help to connect, or reconnect people of all generations to the treasures and pleasures of the outdoor life. Some sort of program with mountain mentors, if you will.
The situation was brought to my attention when a reader commented on a recent column I had written titled, “Toss the Kids into the Snow.”
He remarked,“ This was a great article. Virtually all that you said (about kids) would work for getting adults involved in any activity, winter or otherwise. So often when people try to teach family or friends (about the outdoors) they forget how long it took them to get “good”.
“They wish for the newbie to be up to their level in a couple of hours, or half a day, max. Too many have been turned away from activities because of that expectation.”
Although I truly enjoy getting children outdoors, it doubles the pleasure whenever a program involves getting out with adults, especially seniors. And it is truly unfortunate that we tend to set our expectations so high when it comes to taking greenhorn adults into the outdoors. We all started as rookies in the wilderness, there wasn’t any spring training.
The woods can be just as threatening to an inexperienced eighty year old as they are for an enthusiastic eight or nine year old.
For nature neophytes, the wilderness can be just as intimidating as Time Square would be for an experienced woodsman. It’s always difficult to be comfortable when you’ re out of both your element, and your zone.
I’ve discovered the easiest and most enjoyable method for introducing newcomers to the woods is to treat them all the same, big, little or somewhere in between.
The big woods are only intimidating for those who don’t know how to enjoy them, and that is a problem that’s easily overcome. All it really takes is some time, patience, a bit of wildwood wisdom mixed with the company of at least one competent outdoors traveler who is willing to share his or her experience with others.
I’ve discovered that getting out with seniors is really no different than playing with a bunch kids. The woods and waters, fresh air and sunshine bring out the same lively enjoyment and enthusiasm.
We often forget today’s seniors grew up during an era when the majority of recreational activities were conducted outdoors. Such outings helped to keep them young, and we should never forget the true purpose of recreation is to re-create.
As a child, I learned about the outdoors while playing with friends; but I learned much more from their parents and grandparents.
I was reminded of this fact when I recently discovered a dusty old box on a shelf in the basement of my parent’s house in Elizabethtown. Inside the wooden box was an old birch bark scroll with handwriting scrawled across it.
It had been written by Geoff Carleton, a well-known ornithologist who often allowed me to tag along on his regular birding trips into the High Peaks.
As I unrolled the scroll, the delicate bark cracked and split, but the writing was still legible. It read, Prayer Of The Woods
I am the heat of your hearth on a cold winter night, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun, and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on. I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, and the timber that builds your boat. I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin. I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty. All who pass by this way, listen to my prayer: Harm me not.
I’ve read various versions of this poem over the years, but none of them ever carried the impact it had that day. The scroll had secreted away a long time ago and hidden with it, were some of the most precious memories of my youth.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.