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“Watch out for the Branches!”

Posted by CRAIG WIEGARDT | May 10, 2012 :

My family is very fortunate to live close to several wonderful parks and nature trails. Every chance we get, we spend a few hours enjoying nature.  For my three children it is usually a toss up when deciding on the playground at the park or the nature trail. For me there is nothing better than a walk on a nature trail.  

This particular trail by my house has everything you could possibly ask for when taking a nature walk. The park has over 100 acres of forested land with 2.5 miles of hiking trails. You start the walk along a sparkling creek, surrounded by trees. Next you are walking along beautiful prairie grass and native wildflowers. My girls especially enjoy the tree-tunnels that meander through the woods.

In the winter, we find ourselves at the same park to take advantage of the fun hills for sledding. Last week we spent the afternoon zooming down the hills, crashing, and laughing. After an hour, we decided to explore the woods and the frozen creek at the bottom of the hill. We made sure our sleds were out of the way and started exploring!  

A concerned mother yelled from the hill, “Are you going in there?  Watch out for the branches!!”  

I looked over to see who was yelling. She continued, “There’s a trail down the way.”

She was trying to help us. It was a nice thing to do. But I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself. Why would she be so surprised to find a family walking into a forest?  

This experience is a perfect example of a problem we have in America. Scientific American Magazine reports that since 1987, outdoor activities such as camping, hunting, and visiting national parks has been on the decline. Similar data in Japan and Spain show the same trend.


Many blame the electronic world we live in. Many blame the child’s busy schedule. Many blame scared parents. But what are parents afraid of?  

Conservation Biologist Oliver Pergams thinks it is the fear of the unknown, the fear of animals, and the fear of getting lost.

Evidently, there might also be a fear of branches.

What do you think?