Today marks the first full day of Autumn, and with many fallen leaves scattered throughout the trails and the beginnings of the vibrant change of the season in our deciduous forest, we can feel the magic all around us. Currently, GRP is right in the middle of what has so far been a glorious S.E.E. Program. Our School of Environmental Education runs through spring and then again in late summer through early fall. School groups from around 15 to 100 students, along with parent and teacher chaperones, travel to the Preserve from the surrounding region and beyond, to experience a taste of summer camp and to learn and to live in the outdoors . We’ve been so fortunate to have had nothing but the best weather, temps that call for sweaters and cozy beanies in the mornings and evenings, with days full of sunshine and what feels like a resurgence of the warmth of summer.
Each day during our fall program, we wake to the sounds of the morning bell and birdsong, along with the soothing sight of drifting fog as it flows through the branches around Cabinville and across the lake. Breakfast comes with a thankful morning blessing, as we set our intentions for the day ahead, to be grateful and welcoming in every experience. Next, we pack our rain jackets and full water bottles into our backpacks and strap on our close-toed shoes to prepare for morning Mentor Hikes. Morning hikes have been both incredibly fun and educational, and with the overnight temperatures dipping into the high 40s/low 50s, it’s becoming increasingly more comfortable to walk in the woods without overheating. After lunch, we take a brief rest period and then set out onto the trails again, for afternoon Mentor Hikes. With a sense of adventure and the eagerness to learn about nature in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we find ourselves wandering among the extraordinary biodiversity of our home. After a bit of Free Time in the Front Field we settle into a hearty dinner at the Lodge. Our Evening Programs have ranged from Night Exploration, Lower Council Fire, and Outdoor Living Skills.
We’ve welcomed the night in total darkness, sang songs around a blazing fire, and figured out exactly how to build a fire using only what you find in nature. We’ve seen a bear, a few deer, and several snakes over the last couple of weeks and it would seem that every week our Grand Slaminals are a bit harder to find, but hey, they’re out there! Many new Polar Bearers and even some new members of the Grub Club have fully embraced the traditions and experiences that GRP has to offer. It’s not everyday that kids can come to a place of nature, to learn and to play outside with their friends. As the second week of our fall program comes to a close, the sounds of laughter are echoing through Base Camp while St. Pius students play Predator v. Prey. The next two weeks of programs remain and we cannot wait to experience every wonderful moment with the schools yet to arrive. Huge shoutout and many thanks to all of our visiting schools, the students, teachers, parents and all of our amazing staff for facilitating the magic!
Story by Brandon S. Marshall with photos by Samantha Keebler