Sometimes I forget how much of an uphill battle rewilding is. We, both as a society and more specifically as nature lovers, have been taught that nature is something to be admired, preserved, protected and left entirely alone. When someone steps out of the “accepted” outdoor activites, well meaning individualsinevitably call authorities instead of talking to the “offender.”
That’s exactly what happened today. We had two awesome families at one of our regular sites who, with the permission of the land managers, come for a morning campfire and smores. After hiking to a beautiful spot and stepping back off the trail we cleared a little space, filled up a water jug and lit a small fire. The whole experience, from gathering sticks, to striking the flint and steel, to cooking on the tips of sticks has been an experience we’ve taught our children from ancestral times and it has inspired joy and wonder ever since. This experience shared that same magic as hundreds of fire before it for those around it, but apparently not for someone who walked past.
After we enjoyed our sugary meal, we put out the fire, cleared and buried the extinguished coals, and covered the area with duff. It looked like any other spot in a forest as we intended, and our impact on the land was minimal. We weren’t following the guidelines of leave no trace, but we certainly followed the spirit. By spreading out our fire pits across a landscape and restoring each site after use, we prevent any one spot from getting too much use while connecting kids to the land in an incomparable way.
As we walked towards the parking-lot we were met with a police officer who said that someone had called 911 on us. Without talking to us or asking what we were up to, they had no way of knowing that we had permission to be there. The officer could not have been more helpful and kind, as were the fire fighters who came by behind him. While I’m truly sorry for taking up their time, we were really to have met these fine folks and even luckier that they are watching out for us here.
Please know that wherever we run programs, we have permission from the land managers to be there and run the activities we’re running. If we don’t have permission to have a fire, we don’t light a fire. If we don’t have permission to do archery, we don’t do archery. If you ever see me or any other Rewilding School staff out in the woods, come say hi. Ask what we’re up to. We’re more than happy to meet new folks who love the outdoors as much as we do and we’d love to learn why you love the parks we explore too.