By: Kevin Siegel
Last week marked the first conservation hitch for our group of 26 members. All of us traveled across the state to the beautiful Massasoit state park in Eastern Massachusetts. Many of us were not prepared for the changes in lifestyle that a hitch requires but embraced the changes to put the skills we had honed to good work. Whether our specialty skill was grip hoist or carpentry and whether an emergency in the outdoors came up, we were prepared to use what we learned the past month.
To my surprise, the park was bustling with visitors who were spending their days after work to enjoy the sun and outdoors. Seeing how so many people came to the park to refuel themselves in the outdoors was very inspiring and helped me understand my sense of purpose with this program. As I was working with a group of several others on a retaining wall on the outskirts of a pond, many visitors came by with curious looks in their eyes. The majority of them stopped and asked what it was that we were working on and thanked us for our hard work. Some passed by but gave subtle nods of approval. The variety of the ages and behaviors of the visitors was another fascinating aspect of the park. Some visitors were very young kids who just got off school and some were older and maybe retired. It reminds me that spending time outside and enjoying your time in a beautiful park does not have any criteria when it comes to your age, whether you were born in a big city or a small town, or what your hobbies are outside of work or school.
After all was done at Massasoit state park, we packed everything up and headed back to Hawley. To my surprise, there was no snow at all in Hawley and the sun was beating down without a cloud in the sky. I wasn’t sure if I was back in Santa Barbara, California or in New England. The pond had melted and many of us expressed interest in kayaking or going for a swim. Before that could happen, the monumental task of unpacking all of our food, equipment, tools, clothes, and whatever else we had brought along had to be completed. Though it seemed like a ridiculous amount of tasks were suddenly thrust upon us, the unpacking took almost no time with 26 of us working together on the same task.
Even though the heat has just hit Hawley for the first time in months, many of us are already outside tossing around the frisbee, playing baseball, and skipping rocks in the pond. It’s strange to see just how much the environment around us affects our behavior to the point where most of our lifestyles have taken 180 degree turns. Instead of layering up and cuddling inside next to a heater inside enjoying some board games or reading a good book, we are finding ourselves outside pushing our bodies to their limits whether it’s doing trail work or playing sports with each other. One thing has remained the same between all the seasons and that is the sense of community that living in a group of 26 people has brought to us. There might be a blizzard storming outside, it might be pouring rain, or it could be a bright and sunny day. Despite the weather we will still be spending time with each other in any way we can.
Just as we are getting in the swing of things for conservation season with our new skills, older skills will be needed for this coming week. Hawley nature days will be starting up this week and we will be leading kids through the woods of Hawley with some fun activities. Many of us are excited as we will get to reconnect with some of our students from the schools we taught at. Many of the newer members will be teaching outdoor education for the first time as well.