Imagine yourself as a kid again.
It’s spring and you can hardly sit still in class as you gaze out the window and watch puffy clouds drift by on a warm breeze. The early flowers have poked their heads above ground and summer is so close you can feel it. You daydream about hot days that seem to stretch on and on forever. Everyone is buzzing with energy and ready to run out the door the second the bell rings.
As summer unfolds before us, everything shifts gears. Young and old alike are energized with the longer days. Everything is so busy and full of life. But, it may no longer feel like the endless days of sun and play that it once did when you were child. Now the responsibilities of adulthood weigh heavily on our shoulders, taking much of our time. Each precious summer feels shorter and shorter. If you blink, you might miss it. Although there may no longer be someone at home making dinner so you can stay out until dark, we still must find time to go outside and play.
Recent science has found that spending time outside is beneficial for our mental and physical health. In Japan, they call it forest bathing, and it’s even prescribed as a treatment by doctors. Although that may not come as a surprise to you, our culture treats outdoor time as a luxury, not a necessity. It’s considered a recreational activity, not something fundamental for our health and happiness.
At San Juan Mountains Association, we are passionate about getting people of all ages outside and engaged with their public lands in a sustainable fashion. This summer, we will be offering a variety of ways to get active outdoors. For adults, SJMA’s interpretive programming offers free community hikes to learn about edible plants, geology, archeology and more. You definitely don’t want to miss our springtime full moon hike through Sand Canyon while learning about the human history of the area.
For the younger generation, SJMA is offering summer camps available for rising first graders through 17-year-olds. Our state child care licensed camps are led by fun, experienced outdoor educators, inspiring the next generation of conservationists. Our grade-school Junior Naturalist Field Camp is returning this summer to offer children a space to learn, play and make friends safely outside.
We’re also excited to announce a new Adventure Camp for kids ages 13 to 17 in both La Plata and Montezuma counties. In addition to spending days packed full of exploration, students will have the opportunity to spend one night camping in the mountains.
Last year, we saw a huge increase in visitors to public lands and open spaces, driven by the need to get out of the house and away from endless screen time. For the first time, many people are realizing the value of our wild spaces. There is an opportunity to shift our culture to one that not only values time spent outside as an important part of daily health, but understands why it’s important to do so in a responsible manner.
Adriana Stimax is the education program director for San Juan Mountains Association and you can find her in her spare time paddling the rivers or hiking the mountains.