Crow’s Nest Campers take to the Schuylkill Canal and Schuylkill River in kayaks
Friday, August 3, 2012
By Brandie Kessler
MONT CLARE — Though a wet and wobbly experience for some, two dozen young nature-lovers recently came away smiling from a day spent exploring the Schuylkill Canal and Schuylkill River by kayak.
Thanks to their summer camp leaders, Pete and Eloise Smyrl and other volunteers, the campers were guided safely down the Schuylkill Canal from Fitzwater Station to Lock 60, where they had lunch and then portaged to the Schuylkill River.
The two dozen youngsters from Owen J. Roberts, Pottstown and Twin Valley school districts, including some who are home-schooled, were taking part in the kayaking experience thanks to the Nature Camp at Crow’s Nest Preserve in Elverson, held in conjunction with the Natural Lands Trust.
The camp, which has a waiting list, allows campers the opportunity to not only learn about nature and all its glory, but also to go out and experience nature.
Although some of the campers had been on the water in a kayak or canoe prior to their recent paddle at camp, Lea Wunderlich, 11, who lives close to Crow’s Nest, said kayaking was a new experience for her.
“I was iffy about it because I wasn’t sure of what to expect,” she said after kayaking down the canal. “I think I’ll try it again,” she added, shrugging her shoulders.
Wunderlich, like many of the other campers, explained that she has gone to camp each summer for the past several years. Given all the experiences one gets to have at camp, and in the company of their camp friends and family, it’s hard to pass up.
“I just enjoy it because I like going through the woods, which I normally don’t have the time to do,” she said.
That sentiment was echoed not only by other campers, but also by some of the camp volunteers.
“It’s a chance to get outside and play with the kids; explore in the woods, splash in the creek; play in the mud,” said volunteer Molly Smyrl, who is a summer intern at the camp this year. “I love the mud.”
Molly Smyrl has been volunteering at the camp since 1998, missing just a few summers here and there, and sharing her love of mud with the children she’s met along the way. Like many of the volunteers, she is sort of like a liaison for Mother Nature, encouraging the children to get out and explore, and leading by example.
“For a lot of the camp, we just try to take the kids into the woods and say ‘You have an hour. Stay in sight, but go play,’” she explained. “It’s OK to get completely covered in mud.”
For some children who have difficulty embracing nature, or more specifically mud, with ferocity, Molly Smyrl said mud tattoos are a helpful tool and “dragonflies are popular.”
Fellow camp leader, Sean Quinn, who spends most of the year working in land management for the Natural Lands Trust, said his time working with the campers “is definitely the best four weeks of the year.”
Quinn said it’s “most important to get (children) out of their house and off their front yard. Their parents may frown upon them getting muddy or catching frogs,” but those experiences help foster a love for the outdoors, and cultivate an interest in conservancy.
Being out in the woods, it can be easier to spot a piece of litter on the ground. But the value for nature and Leave No Trace, which is practiced at Crow’s Nest and promotes leaving little or no impact on natural environments, can be applied in local park or on local streets.
Jack Onderdonk, 12, of Glenmoore, was attending the camp recently and kayaking with his peers after a trip to New Hampshire where he got to go kayaking and climb Mount Washington. Onderdonk said kayaking down the canal with his friends was just as great an experience as he had in New Hampshire.
When asked why he looks forward to coming to camp, his answer was simple: “I like nature.”
To learn more about the Natural Lands Trust, and Crow’s Nest Preserve, located near French Creek State Park and Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, visit www.natlands.org