One Bad Apple

A boy scout leader topples rock formations in a state park and lives to laugh about it.

Yes, he’s going to serve his time, but I shudder to think about the damage he’s already done.  Some say it’s just a rock.  Maybe it’s a rock, but it’s also a natural, ancient part of the Earth that incited wonder and beauty and reflection.  What’s more incredible than that?  He is a bully of nature, and did it just because he could.  Without a thought.  Without a care.  Without remorse.

I’m happy to say that the general response by Americans has been outrage and has labeled him as an idiot who unfortunately was misdiagnosed as a troop leader and put in charge of growing young men.  But, it concerns me greatly that he’s not the only careless person who doesn’t think twice before inflicting irreparable damage on our natural places and, perhaps even more importantly, on the growth of our youngest citizens.

If a young person watches you push over a million year old rock, they are going to grow up thinking they can do it too.  If they watch you leave food open at your campsite, or steal petrified wood, or throw rocks in a geyser, or leave litter along the road, or trample delicate growth off a trail, they are going to do it too.  If they watch you laugh at your own carelessness, they are going to laugh too.  If they watch you treat our natural places as if they were disposable, they will do so too.

It’s that simple.

In order to teach our children to be respectful of nature, we have to be so too.  All of us.  After all, it only takes one bad apple to show millions of children how not to be.

Today I leave you with a photo I captured upon walking past a picnic table in Channel Islands National Park last summer.  It seems another brilliant group of people left all their food sitting out while they went touring.  Who found it?  The native Island Fox who has learned to hunt for food in the scraps of humans, instead of in the natural manner that will ensure his long-lasting health.  Another example of how the thoughtless carelessness of visitors can have lasting, permanent, negative effects on the very things we love the most, and are trying to protect.

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2013 – Channel Islands National Park [Santa Cruz Island]

We are constantly being watched by the next generation of park-goers and park-protectors.  Let’s try to set a good example.
~Cassie

Local Lands Need Our Help Too!

Today I really just wanted to share this beautiful video that my good friend Gillian, and Deschutes Land Trust Board member, sent me this week.  It is a great reminder of the beautiful land that we are lucky enough to call home, and also reminds me of how very important it is to become involved in protecting our local lands.  Land Trust community members work together to conserve, protect, and maintain both public and private lands.  Becoming involved in your local land trust is a great way to give back to your community and help to preserve the areas that you already know and love, all while digging your hands into the Earth and making a commitment to connect with and protect nature.   I’ve been learning of the many ways to volunteer my time; you can do anything from office work and mailings, to pulling noxious weeds, to leading a group hike through the preserved lands.

As Fall quickly slips into Winter, and we perhaps become less inclined to venture outside, making an effort to become involved with your local land trust is a great way to get you out of the house and keep you connected to the wildernesses in your community.  Perhaps use this period when our National Parks are out of commission to help the local parks and preserves in your area by making a financial donation, or gathering the family together for a day of volunteering, or simply taking a guided hike through a nearby land preserve to watch the changing leaves.  Here is a link that may help in finding a local land trust near your own home.

Happy Trails!
~Cassie

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2011, Harvesting our Christmas Tree in the Metolious Preserve, land protected by the Deschutes Land Trust

Thank You, Park Ranger

To All National Park Service Employees,

Today you are not at work, and I am sorry for that.  I wish I could do something to help you, but unfortunately the only thing I can do is hope that the government shutdown will be short lived, that the parks will re-open quickly, and that you will be back on payroll soon.   In the meantime, I would like to share a note of thanks.   I’m ashamed to say that I’ve not thanked you before.  For the past five years you have helped us, inspired us, protected us, guided us, taught us, made us laugh, and become a part of our own unique family memories at America’s parks.

You’ve ensured the safety of my family by monitoring the road, campground, and weather conditions.  You’ve watched animal movement, and taught us how to keep both ourselves and the animals safe.  You’ve maintained trail signs, bulletin boards, safety notices, and relayed vital up-to-the minute visitor information.  In 2009, after receiving a worried phone call from my husband, a Park Ranger in Sequoia National Park even hunted down my kids and I just to make sure we were ok.   A few days later we were in Yosemite National Park and another Park Ranger took the time to stop by our campsite and invite us to a twilight ranger walk.  He made the effort to get to know my kids, taught them a game and made them laugh, and during our walk together he even inspired a five year old to see the great mystery and beauty of a park meadow.  Thank you for making our first experience at the parks a great one.

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2009 – Yosemite National Park

You have guided us through so many beautiful places and taught us about why they are preserved.  We have followed you through underground caves, mountain passes, over rivers, and on forest trails.  You have taught us not only the names and locations of the plants and animals that live within the boundaries of the parks, but also about the unique roles they play in the environment.   You have humored my kids as they always, always, push through to the front of a group and nag you with dozens of questions and tell you their stories as we hike along together.  You’ve listened to them, just as much as you’ve talked to them.  Thank you.

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2010 – Olympic National Park

You’ve taught my children that learning is fun!  Not only do you incorporate funny voices and crazy animal imitations into your fireside chats, but you also make our trips memorable with your incredible park ranger stories.  You’ve included life long learning into your career simply because you love the outdoors and you love our parks, and we get to witness your passion for the wild places on every trip.  You’ve served the people of our country every single day by making our lives a little bit better, and a little bit brighter.  Thank you for being such a phenomenal example to all of us.

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2011 – Big Bend National Park

You have shared your hands-on knowledge with us as we’ve listened to your ranger talks all over the country.   You have let us touch, see, smell, and hear the whisperings of our country’s great wildernesses.   You’ve taught us about the indicator species of different forests, about endangered species protected within park boundaries, and about our changing climate and disappearing glaciers.  You’ve told us about what it’s like to work at the parks and the usually funny but always rich stories of how the parks were established.   You are always patient and happy to relay the information you have learned through your training and your travels.  You’ve taught us that learning takes a lifetime.  Thank you for your priceless service.

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2012 – Glacier National Park

You took every single Junior Ranger badge seriously.  I know this could not have been easy, with three excited kids in front of you after you’d probably already seen a dozen of them that day alone, repeating the same information over and over and over… but you made them feel important, and you took the time to ensure that they not only learned something, but that they would remember what they learned.  You greeted them with patience and laughter.   I remember a crowded visitor center at Hawaii Volcanoes,  and there were pushy adults trying to vie for your attention over the heads of the kids.  You made the adults wait in line while you taught something to my children.  It made them feel connected to you,  made them feel connected to their park, and maybe it even gave them a glimpse of how important they are to the future of our nation’s park service.  Thank you.

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2013 – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Thank you for always being there when we come to visit.  Thank you for your time.  Thank you for your inspiration, information, protection, and passion.  Thank you for sharing the Nation’s Greatest Treasures with us.  Thank you for everything.  We hope to see you again very soon!

Happy Trails.
~Cassie