Thursday, January 19, 2012

Another learning day for me

Some days when I wake up, I just really don’t know what I’ll be doing on the refuge.  I like to do a variety of things, and today was a new experience for me.


First thing this morning, a group of 22 people from the Westminster Retirement Community near Mobile, AL, arrived for an outing that was billed for them as a mystery tour by their Activities Director.  These were all folks who live in apartments in the independent living unit of the Community.  Because of the size of the group, we split them in half.  Our van only holds 12 people, so while half of the group went on a van tour to see the cranes, the other half waited at the Visitor’s Center to view the movie and explore our exhibits.  Then we flipped groups.

66 MS Sandhill Crane NWR 20125

My part in all of this was to take the two groups on a nature hike on the Dee’s Nature Trail either before or after their van tour.  Since the little hike was a last minute decision, my second tour was better than the first one in my opinion.  That’s usually the way it goes.  As I learn my audience, I can better shape my tours to their abilities and interests.  Both walks included a discussion of the Saw Palmettos that are found in the wet pine savannah.

66 MS Sandhill Crane NWR 20126

So what do you do on a nature hike with a couple of dozen octogenarians?  Well, I sure hoped they enjoyed it as much as I did.  I learned a number of things working with this age group.  First, and foremost, since many of them had grown up in Mobile and the surrounding area or lived many years in that area, they were a wealth of knowledge about how things used to be before the refuge, I-10, and all of the development.  Such stories they have to tell, and I was a willing listener!

I also learned to slow my pace to accommodate their walking abilities, and to be sure to speak slowly and loudly for those with hearing impairments.  We only did about a half mile altogether, but what a fun time it was.

Last, but not least, were the sounds that gave me a chuckle along the way.  They weren’t exactly sounds I normally associate with the pine savannah.  One of the maladies (?) of growing older is the lessening of the strength of one’s sphincter muscles.  As we walked along, it kind of reminded me of my days in marching bands.  Only this time, the brass section seemed to be made up of all tubas!  Rolling on the floor laughing  Oh my!  What’s a tour guide to do?  I just kept talking!   It was a hoot of a day… or should I say toot of a day?

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy