Let’s Hike!By Hannah Schardt; photos by Jeffrey MacMillan
If you think hiking requires planning, packing, and traveling far from home, think again! Join these kids on a nature hike right through their city.
On a beautiful spring afternoon, where would you rather be? Inside, on the couch? Or outside, exploring the woods? For the members of a weekly hiking club in Reading, Pennsylvania, the answer is, “Outside, for sure!”
Once a week during the school year, Laurie Grobman picks up a group of girls from the local Olivet Boys and Girls Club Clinton Street afterschool program. Some days, more than 20 girls come along. Other days, only a few join the hike. But no matter how many go, they are always excited to head out into the woods.
Get Out There!
You might think you need to sit in a car for a long time to reach a trail worth hiking. But a hike doesn’t need to happen in a big park. It can happen anyplace. All you need is a path that leads you away from bustling traffic and into nature’s quiet.
For Laurie and her group, that path is the Schuylkill (SKOOLkul) River Trail in southern Pennsylvania. The part of the trail these kids walk each week is only about half a mile long. A few years ago, it was overgrown and full of litter. But Laurie and other members of the community worked hard to clean it up. And now it’s a walkable, playable slice of nature right in the middle of Reading!
Sunshine and trees are nice. But the best part of the hike is always the river! When the club first started hiking, this stretch of the Schuylkill was quite low. There were wide dirt beaches where the girls could play, explore, and find stones to toss into the water. They could even climb on rocks halfway out into the shallow river.
But the last few years brought a lot of rain to the area. The river is now much deeper and wider, and the beaches and big rocks have been mostly covered by water. No matter—the river is always fun!
On most of their hikes, Laurie and the girls visit three beaches and an old lock that’s no longer used. (A lock is a section of a river or canal that uses gates to raise and lower water levels so boats can pass through.)
At each spot, the girls get to know the river a little better. Sometimes, they spot crayfish or freshwater clams. Other times, they make boats out of leaves and watch as the current carries them away. And they see how the forest changes through the seasons.
These weekly hikes don’t lead to grand waterfalls or mountaintop views. The wildlife the girls see is mostly pretty small and ordinary. (Though one time, they spotted an escaped rooster roaming the woods!) But this everyday nature is still awesome. And the special time with friends is lots of fun.
“We hold hands, talk about school and family, sing songs, and laugh a lot,” says Laurie. “And we are nice to each other!” Along with fresh air and a dip in a river, what could be better than that?