To celebrate the beginning of the Fall season, six excited 3rd – 5th grade girls set out with their trail guides to experience the amazing sights and smells of September at the UT Arboretum in Oak Ridge. Although a cloudy day threatened from above, we experienced great weather without a single drop of rain! We started our day by gathering in a circle to learn more about our hiking partners and how we can stay safe and smart on the trails. The girls thought of great ways we can be respectful of nature and other visitors by keeping the grounds clean, packing out all of our trash, and being mindful to stay on marked trails. We started our hike with a gentle uphill climb with the leaves crunching on the ground underneath our steps. We noticed butterflies, yellow jackets, caterpillars, and spiders hanging in their webs. Our girls were so observant and quickly asked about a mysterious cobweb mass high in the trees; luckily, one of our awesome guides was there to teach us about tent caterpillars and how they forage on small leaves, leaving behind a gray web tent. Our destination was the Wetlands, a marshy area full of frogs! Although we tried not to scare them away, most of them splashed into the water as we approached. We enjoyed exploring next to the water’s edge and ate our snacks by the water. The girls did a great job remembering to “Leave No Trace.” We studied our trail map to see how many miles we had covered and to decide the best course back to the visitor’s center. On the way back, we spotted a snake a few feet ahead to the side of the trail and watched as it quickly glided on its merry way. The girls noticed poison ivy and worked together to count the rings on a fallen tree to determine its age. When we got back to the Arboretum’s visitor center, the girls were super excited to share all they had done and seen with their parents. We can’t wait to get back outside for our next adventure!
–Post contributed by Hike Leader Sarah Darby