A Day at The Wild Center
Last year I was able to visit The Wild Center with some friends, but only had enough time to visit the inside. I say 'only' - there is a lot to see and we spent hours inside exploring all the exhibits. This time I had more time to visit inside the facility, explore the Wild Walk and trails, and try out the SUP (Stand Up Paddle boards) on the Raquette River.
I arrived just before the doors opened, at 10 am, and was able to go through the line pretty quickly (hate waiting). After a bit of meandering around to get familiar with the layout, I headed toward the main exhibit hall and started at the Alpine Summit. As I turned the corner there was some information that really hit home for me. Recently I graduated with an MBA in Sustainability from Antioch University New England, which focused on combining People, Planet, and Profit concepts to business in a systemic way.
So I was pleased to read that:"One person solved the summit ecosystem collapse mystery." (quoted from the display at The Wild Center). A gentleman named Ed Ketchledge, in the 1960s, recorded a dramatic series of washouts; plants began to wash away on Dix Mountain and he tried to figure out why it was happening. BOOTS! It turned out that the plants with shallow roots were snapping off because they were not strong enough for the foot traffic from hikers. Ed Ketchledge obtained permits to plant three small plots on Dix Mountain and was able to show that the plants could recover, given protection and some time. The display at The Wild Center finishes with: "Others have picked up his work, and the summits, rather than turning to bare rock, have turned into another story where people, armed with science, have helped the wild side of the Adirondacks." This is a good reminder to be more conscience when I am on my next hiking trail.
Have you ever seen a turtle?!?
As I continued on I stopped by the Waterside Cafe and picked up a sandwich -- love pb&j! As I walked out toward the Cafe's outdoor seating, I was greeted by a young person (around 9 years old), with her parents right behind. She came right up to me and asked if I had ever seen a snapping turtle, and indicated that there was a huge one "right over here." She led me over to the ledge where, sure enough, in the water was a snapping turtle about the size of a hubcap. Her parents said that she has been picking up turtles and then she demonstrated it for me. More people came out the door and the young lady ran over to them to show them the snapping turtle as well. I smiled and continued my walk past the Esplande Tent.
I'm a four-leaf clover hunter; I find them all the time. When I was a child my mother and I would spend hours just hunting for them. As I strolled along the trails I noticed all the clovers and took a moment to search -- had no luck this day. Then I walked over a bridge and noticed the solar panels on the roof of the center. With all the thoughtfulness of The Wild Center for the family experience, it was nice to see that they were also concerned about green energy.
'I love activities!'
Heading past the Pines Play Area toward The Snag and The Twig Tree House I was greeted by a family who was just about to go up the stairs in front of me, but they were hesitating for some reason. I patiently waited. Then one of the youngsters said, "I hate heights, but I LOVE activities!" and up the stairs he went. There are just so many things here at The Wild Center for families and kids!
Being a kid with a spider.
The Spider's Web area is just so cool and creative. There were so many people there trying it out, at first I was nervous to participate. But then I noticed everyone was being so courteous to let everyone get involved. I'm in my 40s and was alone, so I didn't want to call attention to myself. There was another person, I'm assuming also over 40, who jumped right in and said come on everyone let's try it out! So her friends all jumped in too, and they asked me to join in on the fun! We all felt like kids again!
Soon I noticed the time and realized I had to get back to the main building to meet up with the SUP (Stand Up Paddle boards) guide and group. I thanked the people that included me in their fun and excused myself. On the way back I noticed something in the floor boards. There was a circle with some words on it, "In honor of our grandchildren in whose trust we leave the Adirondacks." I took pause and thought about how much The Wild Center really tries to live up to this mission by providing a forum for people to enjoy each other and the environment around.
Back at the main building I met up with Tony - the SUP guide and biologist, Taylor - a seasonal naturalist, and the rest of the SUP participants. Tony explained what his and Taylor's rolls were and what we would be doing. Then we headed out toward the Wild Walk entrance. After a little hike through the woods we came upon a little building and all the paddle boards. Tony and Taylor gave us all a lesson then we headed out.
Tony was on a paddle board with us, while Taylor was in a canoe as to be able to assist the participants and to take pictures of us all as well. I cannot tell you enough how amazing this experience was for all of us. There were a father and son from England, and a family with three teenagers and two parents. The mother of the family did fall in twice, but it was really easy for her to get back up, and she did! The youngsters and the guides had a very easy time zooming along on top of the paddle boards; I had a little difficulty. Tony came back and told me that I have to take it easy, that the boards and paddles are designed to glide along a bit faster if you are not paddling so hard and so much. I was getting a work out, and then noticed that I was doing a lot more than others. Once Tony explained to me more about the techniques I was able to zoom along and keep up with the group.
Tony explained some details about the land and waterway, the plants, and the wildlife. We even had the opportunity to see a Pitcher Plant. Near the end of the tour the mother of the family and I had a chance to chat. We were both getting a bit tired at that point from the workout, so we slowed down and shared experiences. She told me that her kids love it here at The Wild Center. Each year they ask their kids where they want to go on vacation and they always choose Tupper Lake, so they can go to The Wild Center. Honestly, she said that! I was surprised. These days many think that the younger generation doesn't want to be in the woods and nature. But after the conversation with her, and all the other experiences I had at The Wild Center, I have come to realize that it may not be that the younger generations don't want to be in nature - maybe it's that they want to do it with us - family.