Life Among the Wildflowers: Kids, Trails, and a Love for the Outdoors
JOEL BETTNER AND HIS FAMILY LIVE IN A SMALL MOUNTAIN TOWN AT THE BASE OF HE TETON MOUNTAINS. HE HAS A DESIRE TO SEE HIS KIDS DEVELOP A DEEP LOVE FOR THE OUTDOORS AND A STEWARDSHIP OF THE WORLD AROUND THEM.
Below, Joel has shared some snapshot reflections and moments from his Summer spent in the outdoors with his family.
“Look at the Wild Geraniums, daddy!”
It is late May, and my kids are on a wildflower hunt.
There is plenty of snow in the upper elevations, but the trails around our house have melted and the creeks are swelling with the annual runoff.
Wildflowers have begun blooming at a frenetic pace, growing as fast as they can during the short growing season.
It creates a beautiful scene – blue sky, white peaks, and a green/red/purple/yellow/pink valley.
I am a skier, a winter guy through-and-through, but I’d be lying if I said a scene like this didn’t stir feelings of awe, wonder, and gratitude in my soul.
As we continue to hunt for wildflowers on our hike it is clear that my children are also enthralled by the scene. Kelly, my wife, has done an excellent job teaching our kids how to identify and carefully treat wildflowers.
The kids are slowly starting to understand that flowers are fragile, and if we want to continue finding them, we must be gentle and respectful with the ones that are there.
“His antlers are fuzzy.”
It is mid-June, and the oars of my raft gently cut the water on a flat section of river.
The brush on both banks is perfect moose habitat. Compared to the normal hubbub on the raft, it is relatively quiet. The kids are hushed, staring from one side to the other, hoping to catch a glimpse of a bull, cow, or calf.
We spot two bull moose with antler racks that are already impressive. I explain to the kids that when antlers are growing they are surrounded by something called velvet.
The kids listen while intently staring at the moose.
We float further downstream and the moose fade from sight… and the splashing and other boat shenanigans start again.
It is one thing to be told about an animal like a moose, but to physically see them up close is a completely different experience.
Having experiences like this has given the kids a fascination and desire to not just learn about nature, but to actually experience it.
“Hey bear, put on your underwear!”
It is late June, and we are making our way to a place we call “Picnic Rock.”
I’ve got a backpack full of sandwiches, water bottles, and bear spray.
My 3-year-old son has a healthy fear and appreciation for bears, as well as a toddler’s sense of humor. Once every few minutes he yells his favorite rhyme to alert the bears of our presence, and without fail, cracks himself up.
On our way to Picnic Rock, we take a detour to a waterfall.
My middle child recognizes that there are wild raspberry plants growing around the area and asks to go exploring to see if we can find any berries. Even though it is still too early for the plants to be fruiting, I oblige to encourage her sense of adventure.
She cautiously climbs up and over boulders near the waterfall, following my guidance on where to put her hands and feet. We don’t find any raspberries, but she is beaming with pride that she was able to do the climb.
When we reach Picnic Rock, the kids scramble to the top.
Kelly doles out sandwiches while I watch the weather. About halfway through our picnic, it starts to rain.
The kids aren’t concerned, but judging by the clouds there is a good chance of lightning. So we pack and make our way home in the rain, laughing and joking the whole way.
The kids certainly realize that they are part of an environment that they can’t completely control. They are also learning that they do not need to be scared of their environment, but they do need to be careful.
“Which way to the top, daddy?”
It is mid-July, and the summit is in sight, less than 25 meters away.
The trail has a fork in it, and my oldest child doesn’t know which route we are taking to the top. She does know, however, that she should stay on the trail to protect the plants that are growing there.
I point to the left and she sprints that way.
Even though we are going to a view that the kids have seen hundreds of times, her enthusiasm is not diminished.
It is a truly stunning place.
At the top, I rattle off the names of dozens of peaks and quiz the kids on which ones they remember. On the way back, the kids pretend the trail is lava and the rocks on the trail are islands. They’re still cautious not to trample on any plants.
The kids are starting to understand that they need to respect natural places, because their presence has an impact.
They can thoroughly enjoy these places, but if they want to continue to do so it must be done with care and intentionality.
“We’re going to make a pie!”
It is mid-August, and I am busy working in my office.
Kelly and the kids are on a huckleberry picking mission behind the house. It is the short window of time in the year that the little berries can be found in abundance if you know where to look.
The kids have big smiles on their faces and lips stained purple after their outing.
My oldest beams with pride as she shows me her container full of berries and tells me about the pie and muffins they’re going to make.
Whether the kids realize it or not, their regular immersion into nature has allowed them to start taking ownership of it. I say “ownership” not in the sense of possessing or controlling nature, but in the sense of being responsible for its stewardship and carefully enjoying its bounty.
The kids are learning that they are part of their environment… it is where they belong.
So, get yourself outside. If you have a family, bring them along.
Learn about your relationship to your environment.
Respect it. Experience it. Be present in it.
Even if it is a simple hike to a picnic spot.
You won’t regret it.
You belong in it.
CHECK OUT HELLY HANSEN GEAR FOR KIDS:
Written by Joel Bettner. Images by Joel and Kelly Bettner.
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For more reflections on the mountain life, be sure to check out our blog!