Wild places are here for us because people who loved them, made the choice to share with people what made them so great. Everyone has seen a picture of John Muir at some point in Yosemite National Park. He founded the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society and showed millions why nature is so important and enjoyable. Everyone who enjoys the outdoors has a little John Muir in them. We all have the ability to take somebody into a favorite stretch of woods or a special park and share why we go there. You can share the names of flowers or trees. You can point out different birds or just comment on the general beauty of a green forest. The important thing is to just let them take it in and enjoy it for themselves in their own way.
A lot of people are afraid of bugs and snakes and whatever else their imagination allows. When I walk alone I follow animal trails that my friends tend not to notice. I enjoy crawling under low branches and climbing over downed trees. I get covered in spider webs and bug bites and I itch for days. That’s fine for me. I enjoy being that close to mother earth. For somebody new to hiking though, I would never do that. They would hate it and it might ruin their idea of nature for good. The best thing is to find a trail that’s wide and smooth for leisurely walking. Carry a stick and knock down the webs for them. Watch out for things that might unsettle their enjoyment. Don’t over do it, that might be a little insulting. Whether it’s a child or an adult friend leave some sense of adventure and the unknown.
People will be curious about things they like and should be encouraged to ask questions. Be prepared to answer those questions. Do a little research on the plant and animal life you know may be there. I can’t remember the names of all the wild flowers in Missouri or the trees and birds. I carry papers on me for the things I may not remember. Book stores have laminated pamphlets on everything from butterflies to invasive plants. Libraries are of course a great source. I usually just google things. Just be sure to share your knowledge.
I also like to introduce activities I enjoy in the woods. Mushroom hunting, fishing, hunting, or camping are all fun things that are easy to pass on. I’m into Bush craft or primitive wilderness skills so I like to bring a little survival kit and explain why I carry one, while stopping for a snack. Photography is a great way to preserve memories and have some extra fun. Taking pictures also slows things down for a newcomer. It allows a short break from walking and creates time to closely observe the surroundings. I always notice more details in nature with the closeness photography provides. Anything you enjoy with enthusiasm will show the beauty of nature.
I also bring snacks and drinks and hint at what should be worn the day before a hike. Bringing a friend into the thorns while wearing jean shorts is the worst idea. They may never go back and you’ll be walking alone. Comfort is key. Wearing a hat, and weather, and terrain appropriate clothing is very important. Wearing blue jeans on a muggy 100 degree day can be brutal and deadly. Look into the weather a few days in advance and don’t take any risks.Do things like point out flowers and litter and explain how fragile the ecosystem really is. Tell them what poison Ivy looks like. It’s these little things that can turn into big things that can make or break a fun time. If you know the woods and are confident in your ability to share them safely and in a fun way, by all means do it. People doing that in the past is why you might have your woods today. People are willing to save what they care about. Help people care about nature as you do.