Thursday, January 12, 2012

Most Memorable Nature Moments

Where do you have your most profound nature moments?

Most of mine tend to be far from home on the trips I've taken. They center around wildlife views or vistas. I was once hiking alone in Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica, in fact, I was leaving the park, and because of the way the trail ran, you could only leave at low tide. I was at a portion of the trail that ran onto the beach and found some fresh tapir tracks. Tapirs are the largest mammals in central America, about the size of a large pig. I didn't know anything about them, at the time I didn't even know they were endangered. I didn't know if they were shy or aggressive, but I was following the tracks anyway. I could tell from the sand that the tracks were fresh but I didn't think they were so fresh that I'd find the tapir. I kept following and the tracks led from the sun to the shade. I was giddy with excitement about this little adventure: solo hiking in Costa Rican rainforest and possibly flirting with danger. I followed the tracks into the shade of the trees overhanging the beach -- and found the tapir. It was snoozing on its side in the shade! It was almost as if it had played a joke on me, playing not-so-hard-to-get and certainly not dangerous. Still, I let it be and went on my way.

Now that I think about it, I've had a number of memorable moments just watching the leaves turn every fall here in New England too. A Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta, Lara Fenton,  is researching how people develop deep and meaningful bonds with nature. She wants to know whether they happen at home on walks or whether people have to travel to the great national parks to create them. Check out the article about her work, and if you read to the end of the article there's a link to her survey if you'd like to participate in her research. Sounds like a cool thesis to me!

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