“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love of this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist.” Thus spoke Richard Louv, Nature writer and author of the wonderful book, Last Child in the Woods. His book tells of the devastating effects of the human disconnection from Nature. Too much time indoors affects our health (our vision, ability to concentrate, ability to maintain a healthy weight) as well as our mental health. As eco philosopher and author of Nature and Madness, Paul Shephard notes, ecological destruction has had a profound effect on our mental stability. It is not only human health that is at stake, but also the future of our Planet. As we become more divorced from the rich outdoor world with all its subtleties and nuances, we become less likely to see the value of fighting for sustainability. Louv notes that it is far more useful to take our kids into the Great Outdoors, than to preach about the fate of the environment.
Today, nature therapy (simply spending time in nature, hiking, trekking, cycling, ‘forest bathing’, playing outdoor sports, taking part in horticultural therapy) is holding sway in a variety of health care settings for individuals with everything from substance abuse disorders to eating disorders and even ADHD.
You, too, can provide your whole family with a little bit of Vitamin D (and Vitamin N for Nature) by making sure your next holiday together involves bonding outdoors. If you are visiting Grayling, these are just a few of the funnest activities you, your spouse or partner and children should consider taking part in:
- Go kayaking: Wakeley Lake is so peaceful and serene, even a picnic by its banks is heavenly for stressed travellers. However, you can also work on your fitness by kayaking or canoeing across the tranquil waters. Afterwards, enjoy a hearty picnic and finally, a walk through the verdant surrounds.
- Visit the Hanson Hills Recreation Area: Foster a true love for Nature and its wide variety of flora and fauna by going for an energetic hike in the Hanson Hills Recreation Area. During the winter, enjoy a vertiginous ride down the snow tubing hill, or hone your skiing and snowboarding skills. In the summer or spring time, enjoy a challenging game of disc golf!
- Visit Wellington Farm: This 60-acre open-air interpretive museum has a beautiful old church, sawmill, blacksmith shop and much more… staff offers educational programs for children, dealing with nature study, forestry, environmental science, agriculture, and so much more. The Farm also boasts various nature trails for those who like to discover their surrounds at their own pace.
- Walking in the Woods at the Beal Plantation: This plantation could very well be the oldest documented tree plantation in North America. It was established to elicit the extent to which various tress species and shrubs could grow on sandy soil. Beal Plantation was the first effort at creating a planted forest in Michigan and it represents and early yet successful way to combat logging and to manage our natural resources.
- Cycling: Seeing the best of Grayling by bike is an ideal family activity since even young children can take in the beauty of the scenery in an almost effortless way. The area includes scenic trails along the Rayburn property on North Down River Road, a paved pathways system running over 11 miles, and a scenic by Wakely Lake. If your kids are older and seasoned mountain bike riders, try the trails at Hanson Hills – the latter also has an easier loop for beginners, so there truly is something for all levels. If you are mountain biking, make sure to stay on the safe side by bringing protective equipment. Also, check that this type of sport is covered in your travel policy, so that any damage to your bikes (if you are bringing your own bike) is covered. If you prefer to travel light, simply go online to access bike rental stores, which will provide you with bikes and protective equipment alike.
There are so many more places in which to waken your children’s love of nature. Hartwick Pines State Park and Au Sable River are just a few of the area’s best known nature spots, yet ultimately, there are about as many experiences with nature as you are ready to discover. This time, go green and invite your whole family to do the same; you will all benefit from the benefits nature bestows but the magic works both ways.
Article courtesy of Gemma Taylor