Interpretive Nature Run

Being an avid non-runner, I look for opportunities to avoid the exercise at all costs. However, with the Sloth Army Running Club in full swing and meeting twice a week for runs, I can’t escape it. Coming up with running workouts on Thursdays is pretty easy, I have a slew of them. Coming up with interesting longer runs for Sundays is somewhat more difficult. I decided for today’s trail run, I’d revert a little to my background as an educator/naturalist and give an interpretive narration throughout the 2 mile run.

This was a fun run to plan, on my end. I borrowed a few field guides from the library, including my favorite Backyard field guide “Passionate Slugs and Hollywood Frogs“. Of course, by the end of my reading, I had way more information than I could ever use even in a one hour nature walk, much less a one hour run broken into 8-10 small quick 90 second breaks. But that is the beauty of interpretive talks. You talk about what comes to you. And because you didn’t get to all the topics you wanted to cover, it leaves people curious and then they find the information out for themselves, or they come back for another talk.

I wasn’t really sure exactly when I would stop for my interpretive talks. I had vague ideas, but I was thinking of letting the forest guide me and my group. But no sooner than we started on the trail, we came across some owl feathers. Perfect for me. Animals are my forte. And owls have always been one of my favorite woodland creatures. I gave a quick talk on why we would leave owl feathers where we found them- it’s illegal for anyone except a Native American to possess raptor feathers, and why I appreciated the law. Since it’s impossible to confirm whether or not a person killed the raptor to get the feathers, lawmakers decided to err on the side of caution and make it illegal for anyone to have them. I like the precedent this law holds, as it could lead to endangered animal protections on illegal imports such as elephant ivory, turtle shell, and coral.

We carried on our way and I was able to jokingly show my expert lack of knowledge on tree identification. I thought perhaps if I found a cone from a Douglas fir or a Western hemlock that I’d be able to decipher which was which, however, in the temperate rainforest, the trees are scattered together all over, and their cones drop next to other trees. I know I should be able to tell the difference by now, but they all look exactly the same to me. Maybe that’s speciesist of me. I can tell mammals apart. I am even getting decent at telling most birds apart. And even a bunch of invertebrates, especially in tidepools. But trees and flowers just confuse me. It was all good, though. My group laughed as I called each tree the “Douglas-Hemlock-Ponderosa tree”. 

The only tree I can confidently identify is the red cedar. I love the red cedar, and the park has an ancient tree estimated to be more than 500 years old. It was a nice rest point so I could share about what natives called “the tree of life”. If there hadn’t been a fence around the tree, I would have had my entire group hug it. We settled for a better appreciation and trudged onward to the Forest Discovery Loop.  Not as many places to stop and talk, but I managed to get in a little talk about salmon, Pacific tree frogs, and banana slugs.

As I mentioned, I could have talked for hours. We could have made five loops around the entire park and I would still find things to talk about. My only disappointment was not being able to tie everything nicely into a conservation thematic ending. But I feel that comes with the territory, and letting people just enjoy nature and enrich their minds is a perfect way to promote passive conservation. Experience Nature and Conservation Fitness is strongly supported by passive conservation. Learning to love the land and the environment makes us want to protect it that much more, even when we weren’t necessarily told we should protect it or why. We want to because it’s our sacred special place. 

Another thing I particularly enjoyed about our Interpretive Nature Run was the challenge of thinking on my feet while doing a workout. It’s one of the facets I find funny about CrossFit. “Okay, you have sufficiently exhausted yourself, now do math”. I wasn’t wiped out exhausted, but I was breathing hard and I had to try to talk without a) gasping for breath, and b) words failing me because I couldn’t think straight. It was a good challenge, and a fun run. I think I will have to do it again. Look at me, running and having fun. Maybe there’s hope for me yet!


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