“My dad used to take me fishing and hiking, and I like to do that for my son, too,” a father told us the other day while we displayed and discussed snakes at White Tank Mountain Regional Park. His son stood nearby dressed smartly in his Cub Scout uniform.
“I love seeing snakes on the trail,” one visitor mentioned, while another remarked, “Snakes really scare me, but I know they have a job to do, and I leave them alone.”
“We come to the Park just about every day to hike,” an older couple told us. “It’s convenient, relaxing, and uplifting!”
What’s in it for You?
Sometimes people ask us what we get out of volunteering. We have as many reasons for volunteering as people have for visiting a place of nature. For one thing, we hope to help people become more comfortable around snakes and reptiles in general. And in a park where people will be hiking, we like to make sure they are aware of watching where they place their hands and feet and what to do if they encounter a snake.
More than that, however, we enjoy interacting with visitors. Adults often are as interested, or more so, than their children, and they embrace any opportunity to encourage their kids to learn about snakes, other animals, and nature in general. Some relate interesting experiences they’ve had in nature, some look for exercise when they enter the Park, and some merely come to enjoy the views and fresh air. Whatever their reasons for being here, most are respectful of the terrain and its inhabitants.
But perhaps the best part of volunteering during this past year of pandemic has been the Park itself that has brought to us and to the visitors a sense of normalcy. Whether it’s the father who is passing on outdoor traditions to his son, the hikers who love or hate snakes, the campers, the exercisers and sightseers, or anyone who enters the Park, no one can leave without feeling some release from the tensions of social distancing, mandatory mask wearing, and confinement to their dwelling.
When normalcy finally returns, those who have been able to experience nature and the “great outdoors” will emerge intact and will resume and enjoy life as before. The healing powers of nature will have proved crucial in their restoration.