play motif 1: adventure

Engage the body with the natural world.

I am not thinking very deep as I reflect on this motif.  We do this well and enjoy it, and we keep getting better at it.  Engaging the body with the natural world is undoubtedly the most enticing element of a wilderness experience for this crew–it’s the hook.  For the boys, the world is most meaningful as it is encountered with their senses, so we go about  finding the magic of adventure in the forest in relation to their bodies. rockjump

A few things I am learning about this adventuring as we go about our business in the wild:

Whenever possible, we point our bodies off trail and move!   A trail can be a great hindrance to true adventuring. Off trail is where we discover caves, great climbing trees, bone stashes, and rocks to conquer.  Another idea that goes along with this: never have a destination.  For us, a destination is an adventure killer.


I am trying to keep quiet.  It is hard not to get excited and point out the first flower or butterfly of the season, but it is far better to say nothing and instead just move the crowd towards it — let the little people own the discovery.  Language is not the medium for our young crowd to experience nature.  They need to discover, see, feel, and follow.  The journey must be theirs and my words often take the journey from them.  In this photo, the boys were captivated by the vibrant green kinnikinnick.  They traveled from boulder to boulder, exclaiming each time they rounded a big rock outcropping, “Look!  More green!”  The green was all around us on the trail, but no one ever took any note of it until we moved into it.  Then, it became all they saw.


Traveling up for as long as we can, in fairness to all participants.  This can take us a long way in these rocky parts.  You don’t have to look far to see a chunk of granite that is calling all legs and arms  to climb.  There have been many a day in the wild that has been spent at the beginning of the trail moving vertical for an entire outing.  The satisfaction of moving the body in new ways and the connection that forms between the mind and the body as the best path up a rocky face is determined is all we need, sometimes.  And on top of that, there is inevitably a whole lot of teamwork involved as we navigate how to get people of all sizes, ability levels and fear levels headed in the same direction.  I think that traveling up could be one of the richest experiences we have in the wild.

Cross rivers and cross as many ways as you can!  I mean really, what beats rivers?  And getting to the other side!  Surely that is the feeling that propels all the world’s great explorers!


Touch.  Everything.


In Childhood and Nature, Sobel writes mostly about engaging older kids in the adventure motif by wondering about where something leads.  He refers to an example of finding out where a river goes.  The idea gets the kids in an adventurous spirit and consequently filled with awe and wonder.   Before having kids, we loved to hike in canyon country by setting our sites on a distant landmark.  The  terrain we would encounter en route was fantastic.  We would be in out of canyons, scrambling up rock walls and navigating around gorges and rock formations that didn’t even appear in our path as we scanned the landscape to mark out destination.

A good adventure is enticing.


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