People in nature, nature in people

We met in the parking lot, and as I waited in the car for our group to arrive, I had to turn the wipers on to clear the windshield a few times, because the rain was falling in blinding volumes.  As I started to wonder if anyone would show up, our first guest arrived, via the city bus, with his dog in tow, rain gear on, and an enthusiastic smile, raring to go.   And soon after, the rest of our group showed up, all in colorful raincoats and eager to explore the park, despite the rain.

Hanging like a glass bead on a fresh new spring branch, this raindrop reflects the colorful raincoats of our enthusiastic, rain proofed hikers (c) Annette Cake/WWF-Canada
Just before we headed out, one of our guests alerted Steven to a couple of shorebirds (Wilson’s Snipe) that were hopping around, well camouflaged in the overgrown grassy area, next to the trail.   I was amazed by the sighting, knowing that if I were there by myself, I never would have spotted them.   The same goes for the swallow nests, cleverly disguised to mere nature mortals like me, as small holes in the river bank.  And the pile of dirt I nearly tripped over w as an active ant mound, protected from the rain by worker ants, who Steven gently coaxed out of home to surprise and delight the small children on our hike

Steven uses a stick to gently coax out a few worker ants, much to the surprise and delight of the small children and dog on our hike (c) Annette Cake/WWF-Canada
As we made our way through the park, the coursing Fish Creek with high spring flows was our constant companion.   Steven pointed out water fowl, traces of terrestrial creatures and many of the flora species in the riparian zone and connected the ecological dots between them all to tell the story of the whole ecosystem.  He also introduced WWF-Canada’s environmental flow work and I was struck by how interested and knowledgeable our group was about our work and the broader environmental context from which it emerges.    There was a constant and lively exchange of questions, answers and shared observations among our wet, yet cheerful gang.

It was such a privilege to spend a morning sandwiched between Steven’s expert nature interpretation and our nature savvy WWF donors who joined us on the hike.  And although it was really cool when the song birds (Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches) returned Steven’s song and came out from the grouping of trees, and really special to see a herd of white tailed deer lope across the grass meadow just as the rain stopped and the sun started to shine, it was these people in nature who made the morning hike most memorable for me.
If you haven’t been on a guided hike in awhile, I highly encourage you to visit a local park offering the service sometime this summer.  It is a rewarding way to connect with nature and satisfy both passion for and curiosity of the magnificent natural world that is part of the human experience.
(Summer hike tip: check out one of Canada’s spectacular National Parks, celebrating 100 years of excellence in conservation and visitor experience as well as recently honored with WWF’s highest accolades, the Gift to the Earth Award.)
Stay tuned for information on WWF’s next nature walk!