All right, guys, I want to try a mental exercise with you. Close your eyes for me and imagine yourself in a cool temperate forest on a nice chilly yet comfortable day. There is a light drizzle, but no worries, you have on your trusty raincoat to shelter you from the elements. Feel the refreshing breeze and familiar warm sunshine on your face, take in the earthy aroma that encapsulates the forest, and feel the well known sensation of soft mushy soil underneath your feet. For sounds….image a cacophony of 100 KIDS RUNNING AROUND YOU! Haha, sorry, but I had to immerse you as much as possible to share my day to the best of my ability. I assisted one of my managers, Vicki Penwell, on a school field trip consisting of 1st and 2nd graders to one of our hiking trails near our visitor center at Cape Perpetua.
Cape Perpetua is a scenic area filled with unique ecological characteristics where the temperate rainforest transitions to the ocean. It’s a recreation space, filled with many scenic trails that encompass the forest and rocky shoreline of the Pacific Ocean, that draws up to 100,000 visitors annually (yup, it’s that awesome). Within this amazing site, we showed our group of 100 the hiking trail leading to our Giant Spruce Tree. The day began by meeting half the group near the end of our hiking trail (the other half was with another staff member at the rocky shore). Boy, was it mayhem as soon as the kiddies disembarked the bus. Getting them all to cooperate and listen to our rules was quite challenging. Half the group stayed behind and the other hiked the trail. In order to keep the waiting group entertained, their teachers had them do small site surveys. That only bought us 10 minutes, and soon we had kids running around the area like, well, kids. It was quite the sight to have a rather large group of gradeschoolers bouncing all over the place. When the first group returned, I assisted Vicki with taking the last group to the Giant Spruce Tree!
The trail is relatively short (two miles round trip), but it provides a great quick journey to the Giant Sitka Spruce tree with enjoyable scenery. This time around it was a bit challenging, since we had to keep children in line and prevent them from damaging plants, but we managed. After 10 minutes of hiking, we made it to the main attraction: our Giant Sitka Spruce tree. This grandfather tree is over 500 years old, 205 feet tall, and has a circumference of 40 feet! Quite the sight to behold. It was a treat seeing all the kids gaze in wonder at the tree’s immensity. They were excited and wanted to play with it right away! The giant spruce grew on top of a fallen decaying log (also known as a nurse log) and its roots wrapped around the log to reach soil. As a result, the tree roots formed a natural tunnel after the nurse log was completely broken down by fungi and insects. This small tunnel allowed the kids to walk underneath the tree and have fun with it. After a few minutes of this, we took a group photo, said farewell to the tree, and returned to the campground.
At the of the day, we said our goodbyes and thanked everyone for coming out with us. The highlight was hearing all the kids shout, “Thank you, Ranger Vicki and Ranger Edder!” It definitely brought a smile to my face. Our efforts highlight the importance of our work at the Forest Service, of outreach to the public and facilitating their connection to the outdoors. The hectic day was definitely worth it to show the 1st and 2nd graders the beauty of nature. Hopefully, they were inspired by today and, who knows, maybe some of them will grow up to be the next conservation leaders of the world. Rock on, little dudes and dudettes.