Along The Trail 9-28-17

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Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group fifth graders during the Switzerland County Soil and Water Conservation District’s annual Forestry Day.

There were a handful of presenters covering a range of forestry and outdoor related topics. Most of the guest speakers were professionals in their field and then there was me. My topic of discussion was about outdoors safety.

I suppose my career in law enforcement for the last 26 years gives me some credibility when it comes to discussing safety concerns and children, but it’s my life long love of the outdoors that gave me the opportunity to share with the students. Since writing the “Along the Trail” column over the past several years and sharing my experiences in the woods, I’ve become a “Jack of all trades” when it comes to the outdoors, hunting and fishing. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the readership of the articles and I have Pat to thank for that…I honestly can’t tell you how many folks have approached and spoken to me about the column and the shared passion many of our residents and readers of the local paper have for the outdoors, hunting and fishing.

Back to the kids.

Being in charge of 20 to 25 10- and 11-year olds can be like herding cats or trying to put toothpaste back into the tube, but each group that I spoke too were attentive, well spoken and well behaved. Their willingness to listen and learn says a lot about the quality of their teachers and those educators and parents should be commended. I was impressed by this group of young folks.

We covered several outdoor safety themed items, most of them common sense. Things like leaving a note to let your parents know where you’ll be to making sure you’re dressed appropriately for the weather. We talked about learning how to identify poison ivy and the old “Three leaves, leave it be”. When asked how many of the kids enjoyed camping, hiking and being outdoors, nearly every hand shot up. We discussed hiking and staying with a buddy and sticking to marked trails in State Parks and what to do if you become lost in the woods.

Every class of students was enthusiastic. They asked and answered questions and seemed genuinely interested in what was being taught. I’m not exactly what you would describe as a “kid” person and I can get pretty pessimistic about the future with the direction it seems some young people are going today. But, after spending some time with the Switzerland County fifth graders, I’m optimistic.

Kids are still kids and the outdoors is still the outdoors. Nature is a wonderful classroom and can teach kids things that can never be found in a book or behind a desk. There is something in kids, a natural curiosity about the outdoors and it was evident in this group. Even with today’s technology and the instant this and that world we live in, these kids understood the simple pleasure of exploring a stream or hiking a path through the woods or chasing lightning bugs.

So, thanks kids for the opportunity to share my passion for the outdoors. Thanks to the Soil and Water Conservation District for the invitation and thanks Pat for giving me a platform over the years to drone on and share my stories. For the rest of you, take direction from these kids and get outside and enjoy what nature has to offer. Hunt, fish, hike, garden, camp, just get outside, I promise that you won’t regret it.

– David Hewitt