The Importance of Mentor Hikes

By Green River Preserve

This morning Senior Mentor Hawk, nine campers, and I ventured into the woods for our Mentor Hike. Instead of riding a bus and singing songs about “three short-legged buzzards” or “Bazooka Bubble Gum” we headed straight for the trail; our legs were the only transportation needed for our morning excursion, called a “walkout.” It was only us and the forest. Hawk and I had the pleasure of hiking with some of our youngest campers, who, in addition to being some of the most curious and eager campers I have ever met, were very concerned with encountering the infamous black bear needed to complete the Green River Preserve Grand Slam. For those who don’t know the Grand Slam includes sightings of four animals: black bear, venomous snake, deer, and wild turkey. These must be seen by at least one camper and one staff member and when all four have been spotted, we get an ice cream party and fireworks celebration.

Hawk explained to us the best ways to respond to a bear if one was encountered, how important it is to be safe and respect these beautiful wild animals, and then the best and safest way to increase our chances of happening upon one while hiking. We learned that by being as silent and stealthy as possible we could potentially come across one. We headed toward Turkey Field, because as every seasoned GRP camper knows, the edges of the field are the best place to sight a shy deer, bear, or turkey. We placed our feet carefully and we kept our talking to a minimum as we headed up the steep hill toward the field. I watched as a group of campers who had been excitedly asking every question possible only moments before began to funnel their energy toward another goal: actually sighting a bear.

Upon reaching the top of the hill and the clearing for the field, we saw no bear or deer or turkey. The campers weren’t too disappointed; instead they were delighted by Hawk’s suggestion that at that very moment, there was an animal nearby in the woods watching us. Hawk reminded us that a squirrel was no less important than a “Grand Slaminal.” With this suggestion the campers became very excited and even more curious about the unknown. They know that there will be many more Mentor Hikes and Campout all this weekend for more opportunities like bear sightings, as well as sightings of rare plants or hidden animals. Their Mentor Hike this morning has kindled their excitement for future adventures and that is the full purpose of each and every Mentor Hike.

- Audrey, All Tucked Inn 2 Counselor