Billy Goat

The crowds of people were easy to maneuver: a hop here, a jump here. I skittered across the rocky portions of the trail, surefooted like its namesake. Those whom I jauntily passed by were scrambling slowly and uneasily through simple sections of uneven rock. One lady had a mild panic attack; I coached her through a slick section of rock amidst her protests and cries of despair. While I was helping her move sluggishly along, the trail built up quite a bottle-neck. A round of applause greeted the poor lady when she finally made it through, those in the crowd cheering their own eventual headway rather than a stranger’s actual progress.

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On my way to the Great Falls overlook

I had managed my expectations before setting out to the Maryland side of Great Falls to hike Section A of the Billy Goat trail. And rightly so – one of the most popular hikes in the Northern Virginia area can take hours to complete due to the hoards of well-meaning individuals who underestimate their own abilities. Given the immaculate fall weather, it was worth it. Solid hiking boots allowed me to trek around the crowds on the path less-traveled when necessary.

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Soaking up some sun

There were numerous overlooks, all of them involving moving water. The cascading Potomac made me think of my hikes in the Smokies. The trail portion along the canal was reminiscent of my time biking the towpath in Cuyahogo Valley National Park. And the general autumn weather? Definitely à la Tetons. With that being said, Great Falls and the Billy Goat trail had its own special feel. The leisurely views filled me with a warm-fuzzy feeling, the intense sunlight adding to the overall effect. I breathed deeply, soaking up this natural place and relishing the feeling of being outside.

Yes, there was lots of chatter I overheard.

Yes, there were people who didn’t follow proper trail etiquette.

But this view definitely made it worth it.

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Just Another Muddy Monday

We were foraging for sticks – good ones that were both sturdy and sized correctly.

“How’s this one? And look at the pine needles I found for the brush part!”

I couldn’t help but smile, relishing the contentment I felt at spending time outside with a league of children. Our current project: creating paintbrushes using natural items we uncovered in a nearby wooded area. My young charges were very intentional in their scavenge, and eagerly helped each other construct their art tools.

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Paintbrushes my students created using natural objects

The best part? This was just another Muddy Monday at my new place of employment: Lorien Wood School.

During the latter part of my 47 Parks trip, I began the onerous task of finding a new job. I vacillated between curriculum writing careers, outdoor education positions, and returning to elementary education. I was ecstatic when I stumbled upon an opening at an occupation that combined all three.

Lorien Wood is a private school located in Northern Virginia. The curriculum is integral, arranged in thematic units that incorporate multiple subjects, among which is outdoor studies. After spending so much time outside during my travels, I was pleased to be offered a position at a school that encourages joyful discovery of natural spaces and wild places.

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Autumn mural using our handmade nature brushes

Every Monday is a designated Muddy Monday. Small groups of students rotate through various stations designed to promote a spirit of discovery as children interact with the outdoors. As the designated STEAM* director, I get to design engineering and art projects for the students to undertake. I am looking forward to building forts, making miniature rafts, and exploring solar energy over the course of the year.

I look back over my national parks tour fondly, but relish in my new job that combines my passion for nature with my love of all things teaching/learning.

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Students design and construct representations of the 4 seasons.

Rain, snow, or sleet, I treasure the opportunity I have to share this passion with my students.

Mondays just couldn’t get any better.

 

* STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math