Walk Like a Camel

From Walking:
“But the walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours – as the Swinging of dumb-bells or chairs; but is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day. If you would get exercise, go in search of the springs of life. Think of a man swinging dumb-bells for his health, when those springs are bubbling up in far-off pastures unsought by him! Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only animal which ruminates while walking.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Let me first say that we are not in the habit of chewing regurgitated roughage during our Saunters. That is not the kind of chewing or walking that Thoreau prescribes. Rather, we saunter. That is, we walk with intention but without agenda. The goal is not exercise, but we do get that along the way. Neither do we intend to botanize, but we usually learn some plants along the way. Butterflies and birds accompany us whether we want them to or not. And uninvited bits of philosophy surprise us. These are all wonderful, but not the reasons we saunter. If you join us this Saturday morning, you will discover why we saunter and exactly what we’re chewing and ruminating.

We’ll meet at 0730 on Saturday, July 26 in front of the barn at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa. We’ll be in the bush from 0800 to 1000, so bring water, wear long pants and sturdy shoes, and apply bug and sun protection. You may also want to bring binoculars and field guides. Please let me know if you’re coming (Jack at 402.571.7460/ jackphillipsrca@gmail.com). Read Thoreau’s essay Walking again or for the first time to prepare. You will easily find it free on Kindle or Google, or linked in previous posts below.

(There is no tuition for our Saunter series, but we do encourage a one-time contribution of $20 to help our programs.)

Wild Friends and Feral Lovers

“Give me for my friends and neighbors wild men, not tame ones. The wildness of the savage is but a faint symbol of the awful ferity with which good men and lovers meet.”

This line from Thoreau’s Walking describes¬†our time together on Saturday mornings. I believe, like Thoreau, that wild nature is human nature and that we can be enlivened by spending time together in the woods and prairies. I’m looking forward to our Saunter this Saturday morning because I could use a strong dose of ferity!

And no more rain outs! There are plenty of places to take cover, so we will saunter rain or shine. Please let me know if you can join us for a Summer Saunter on Saturday morning, July 12 from 0730 to 1000 at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa. Matt Low from the English Department at Creighton University will share insights on nature, nature writing, poetry, and seeing. 

Don’t forget water, long pants, sun screen, bug spray, or any other items for your comfort on the trail. Please contact me for more information at 402.571.7460 or jackphillipsrca@gmail.com. Please let me know if we can expect to see you.

Native Subsistence

In Walking,Thoreau writes:
“I derive more of my subsistence from the native swamps which surround my native town than from the cultivated gardens in the village.”
We have few swamps around Omaha – even fewer than when I was a small boy sauntering wildly on summer days. But we do have a wild place from which to derive our subsistence. Come and saunter with us at Hitchcock Nature Center on Saturday mornings in July. See details under the Summer Saunters post below.

Saunter on,

July Saunters

Our beautiful Saunter last Saturday took us through some extraordinary habitat. We have hiked Badger Ridge many times, but the soft quality of light and the colors of solstice greens (so many shades and hues; how could we settle for calling them all “green?”) took us to a new place entirely. Every morning brings new light, new rhythms, and a different world from the day before.

Our vantage on that ridge gave us leaves from all sides. Bur oaks from below and from above are not the same tree; the myriad creatures that live on, in, and around them stake their lives on that. How poor we are for knowing them only by sight!

I have enjoyed our Saunters and look forward to the next. Some of us will attend the Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium seminar on the 28th, so we won’t have a Saunter this week. But we will gather at 0730 on Saturday, July 5th to saunter forth once again. And we will continue on Saturday mornings at Hitchcock Nature Center through July.

If you haven’t joined us a Saunter or are wondering how one saunters, read the previous posts on this site and more importantly, read Walking by Henry David Thoreau.

As always, please let me know in advance if you plan to join us.

Happy summer. Check for ticks.


Sauntering Badger Ridge

Sauntering Badger Ridge

New Tree School sauntered Loess Hills oak savanna last Saturday morning. Summer Saunters will resume on Saturday, July 5 at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa. Contact Jack at jackphillipsrca@gmail.com if you’d like to come along.

Summer Saunters at Hitchcock Nature Center


In Walking*, Henry David Thoreau makes a sharp point in the form of a question: “When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us, if we walked only in a garden or mall?” In 19th-century New England, a “mall” was a manicured urban promenade, often lined with formal plantings. In contrast to an idle stroll through civilized landscapes, Thoreau promoted the adventurous practice of sauntering that takes us, body and soul, into the woods and fields. By sauntering we can be refreshed by wildness as we are surrounded by the “raw material of life.” Sauntering is the act of walking without agendas or expectations, but with the intent of becoming more open to what nature will reveal to us. “Life consists in wildness. The most alive is the wildest.”

In the spirit of Thoreau, New Tree School will offer Summer Saunters on Saturday mornings in June at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa. Each Saunter will last 2 hours, even though Thoreau recommended a 4 hour saunter every day! We will meet for each Saunter at the Hitchcock barn (located on the main road on the way to the lodge) at 7:30 for brief discussion and orientation. We will then saunter for 2 hours and return to the barn by 10:00.

Each Saunter will be joined by a professional naturalist with a particular interest or expertise. These guides will help us learn about a particular aspect of Loess Hills ecosystems. On June 7th, Jack Phillips (that’s me) will lead the Saunter and will focus on native trees, shrubs, and vines. On June 14th, Dr. Ted Burk from Creighton University will give is insight into moths, butterflies, and their host plants. On June 21, Chad Graeve, Natural Resources Specialist for Pottawattamie County will offer his expertise on wildflower identification and ecology.

There is no tuition for these Saunters, but a contribution of $20 (or any amount) will support NTS programs at Hitchcock.

We will be on the trails from 8:00 to 10:00, so you will want to wear long pants, apply sunscreen and bug repellent, and bring enough water and anything you need to get through the morning comfortably. Registration is required; please contact me a day or two prior. We will limit each session to around 10 saunterers.

Contact Jack Phillips at jackphillipsrca@gmail.com or 402.571.7460 for more information and to register.

*Read Walking by Henry David Thoreau here: http://thoreau.eserver.org/walking.html