I work with Wild South, and organization dedicated to conservation of the natural, wild, and beautiful places in the southeast. On the first day of summer this year, I had the bittersweet pleasure of bringing a group of teenagers to work with me in Linville Gorge Wilderness. The objective of the day was to hike from the rim of the gorge, down to the river, and to dig up and remove nonnative and invasive plants that threaten the natural and healthy ecology of these forests. These guys were participating in a long term Wilderness therapy program where they were facing the habits and beliefs in their lives that were holding them back from really thriving. From the moment this group arrived, I could sense the challenges in each of them were not small, and many of them clearly wore their emotions on their sleeves. We took a slow but steady hike to a site where invasive plants were taking over the area and began digging them up. Moral was seeming really low and so I decided to give these guys a break, and something to be excited about. We climbed the rocks above the treeline to a view that would rock anyone's world, each of their faces lit up with excitement and big smiles, and their entire disposition changed for the rest of the day. After that, digging was done with laughter, and the entire group hiked and joked on the way back to their van. Yes, nature heals, and it is one really cool thing to witness. Because this group was all boys under the age of 18, I was not allowed to take any pictures or videos. But just imagine, glowing smiles on faces that had seen a lot of worry. It made my day!
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