Wednesday, September 19, 2012


September 19, 2012

What good is being a Naturalist-in-Training if I never get out for a hike?? That is, after all, what it means to be a NIT.  So today I invited my friend and fellow blogger Julie Kennon to hike with me at Sugar Loaf Mountain in Dickerson, MD, one of my favorite places to go in Montgomery County, MD.  As I walked out the door, I told Eric I’ll be back around 1PM.  That was at 10 AM.  I figure the two of us would hike 1.5 hours and the drive round trip would take 1.5 hours.  A little over 6 miles and nearly 5 hours later, I returned home happy and tingly all over.

We didn’t get lost. I swear.  Julie had an Android Ap that we could pull up anytime except we didn’t. We followed the paper trail that the staff supplies visitors at Sugar Loaf until we ran out of time.  At 1:45 PM we wondered if we would get back home before school let out but fortunately the tracking arrow on the screen led us back inch by inch to the parking lot and we arrived home with 6 minutes to spare.  Nevertheless, I am very proud of us.  We did a great job following the map.  I even figured out what the elevation changes mean as we walked up and down and round and round the blue and white trails.  (Really.  Before today, I didn’t understand how to read the swirly circles that, in my opinion, muddy the map and make it nearly incomprehensible to read.) 

So as I explained to Julie, hiking and naturing are very different.  When I’m hiking, I’m exercising or spending time catching up with a friend.  When I’m naturing (not a word, I know), I’m observing.  And while it sounds like 6 miles in 3 hours is slow, the naturalist shuffle is even slower.  When I’m naturing with fellow Audubon classmates, we don’t even travel at a rate of 1 mile per hour.

I’ll be heading back to Sugar Loaf a lot this year both for the exercise and to observe the beauty of it all.  People, you are welcome to join me in the future but please, when you do, let me know if you want to go hiking or naturing, and just maybe I’ll have you home on time.