The lyrics of an old song were on my mind when I first discovered the small, nondescript stone monument hidden in the thick brush. "Headstones cure the living Dear, they're no use to the dead," was the tune.
The stone had been placed along the shoreline of a remote pond high upon a hillside off of Cranberry Lake. Obviously, it was intended to remember someone, and it will remain there, weathering in the lonesome wind.
I knew the marker was special to someone, but it's not likely to be seen by most since it sits far off the beaten path. Surely it was intended as a monument to a man, and certainly it is of great value to his family and friends.
This memorial stone sits beside a secluded pond on a hillside above Cranberry Lake.
(Photo — Joe Hackett)
Dated May 9, 1967, the marker honors the life of a man I may never know, even though he is "Gone but not forgotten." It is a memorial to a "Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Friend."
Visitors to the small trout pond continue to honor his name and they share a strange connection to the dearly departed. In a manner known only to those who care to roam to such desolate recesses, we all share his obvious love for wild places. He has now returned home to them while the rest of us only visit for a spell.
Get out and play
"We do not quit playing because we grow old; we grow old because we quit playing."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
"I don't know of any parents who take videos of their kids playing video games."
- Jerry Jenkins,
I've always appreciated these quotes, as they encapsulate an attitude I've lived by for many years. And if they were to be adopted by more families, I believe there would be far less troubles in this land. However, a child doesn't simply decide one day that they're going to become an outdoor enthusiast, even though childhood is the best time to expose a person to the outdoors.
A lifelong relationship with the outdoors usually starts when we're young. We go canoeing or hiking with a Boy Scout or Girl Scout group, or a relative teaches us the how to hunt or fish. Under the right circumstances, that first taste of the outdoors may blossom into a lifelong passion as we become adults.
Numerous studies have verified the fact that children from recreationally active families grow up to become adults who are more satisfied with their lives, families, friends and careers.
However, today's kids are spending less time outdoors than any generation in human history. On average, kids spend just four to seven minutes a day on unstructured outdoor play, while spending an average of seven and a half hours every day in front of electronic media.
In 1969, 50 percent of U.S. children walked or biked to school. In 2004, less than 13 percent did. In 1969, fewer than 35 percent of the families owned two vehicles. By 2009, over 62 percent of US households had at least two cars in the yard.
In the 1960s, four percent of children were overweight. By 2011, the number had quadrupled to 16 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the Institute of Medicine, childhood obesity has doubled over the past 30 years for preschoolers and adolescents, and more than tripled for children aged 6 to 11 years old.
At the same time, one in three American kids is overweight or obese; more than half of all children in the United States are deficient in Vitamin D; instances of attention deficit disorders are on the rise; and stress, anxiety and depression rates among youth are increasing.
Nature-based recreation as a whole has been on the decline every year since the 1980s, for a total decline of roughly 25 percent. The area in which children are permitted to roam free from home has shrunk by 89 percent in the past 20 years.
Although some may claim it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly helps to have a forest and a lake or a mountain and a stream nearby.
Boots and boats have transported me to the some of the most exciting and interesting places I've ever traveled. But I never would have gotten anywhere without the kind hands and eager instruction of the numerous mentors who helped to show me the way.
It was from them that I learned to cast a fly rod, handle a rifle and j-stoke a canoe. The more high-tech our lives become, the more mentors we will need to build connections between children and the natural world.
Fortunately, there is just such a program available. On Tuesday, May 22 at 7 p.m., representatives from Northern Forest Canoe Trail will be at the Paul Smith's College VIC telling stories from their successful youth program, "Northern Forest Explorers," and encouraging registration for trips this summer. All interested parents, kids, and community members are invited.
Northern Forest Explorers is the signature youth program of Northern Forest Canoe Trail. According to program director Roger Poor, beginning in June, 20 week-long trips will take place in the four states of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
The trips will accommodate 225 youth aged 10-14, from communities along the trail. Participants will learn basic paddling and outdoor skills, environmental and ecological relationships and the fundamentals of leadership on these five-day adventures. Local outfitters will guide all trips.
Three trips will take place in the Adirondacks this summer: Old Forge/Long Lake region, Tupper Lake/Saranac Lake region and the Plattsburgh area. Attendees will have an opportunity to register their children for upcoming trips.
For more information about this event, contact Roger Poor at Roger@northernforestcanoetrail.org.
To learn more about paddling the NFCT, to become a member or to purchase a guidebook and maps, visit www.northernforestcanoetrail.org.