CLAYTON — There is something to be said for exploring the outdoors with kids.
They have a sense of wonder that adults likely envy. Perhaps it’s because children have had less exposure to things that adults have grown accustomed to seeing. It could also be that because children are small, everything seems larger to them: Trees seem to soar into the clouds, and caterpillars can take up their whole hand.
I don’t have kids, so I try to use my own senses to appreciate what Mother Nature has to offer.
On a recent outdoor outing, Clemmons Educational State Forest made it easy for me to feel like a kid because I got to stop and learn about what I was seeing, thanks to the talking trees.
Unlike other hiking destinations, the forest on the outskirts of Clayton isn’t your average respite from civilization. As the name says, it’s educational.
And though I suppose you could go walking through the forest without pressing any of the talking trees to hear their history, you’d be doing yourself a disservice.
On my 30-minute walk on one of the forest’s trails, I learned that sweet gum trees are especially good at producing oxygen. I also learned that the yellow poplar is resistant to most diseases.
Although I have no immediate use for those facts, other than to impress hiking companions on future adventures, I liked this trail because it gave me a new way to experience nature.
Sometimes on hikes, you can spend the whole time looking down at the ground, making sure you don’t trip over a tree root or slide down a rock; the only time to look up is at the end, when you’ve reached the point for the best view.
But the trail at Clemmons had me looking at trees, focusing on each type of tree as I walked.
The trail would be good for people who love to keep their mental wheels turning and would otherwise be bored out in nature.
It is probably best for children.
The trail has some cute benches that are about six inches off of the ground, obviously meant for little ones.
Outdoor gathering place
The forest also has great picnic shelters, where I could envision a family reunion or church gathering, possibly a scouting meeting too.
The shelters have big fire pits with grills, and the aroma of freshly grilled-something-delicious still wafted through the trees when I was there.
Schools from across the state come to Clemmons to use it as an outdoor classroom. But with school out in summer, I saw no visiting classrooms.
After listening to all of the trees’ stories, I made my way to the deck that overlooks a pond. It wasn’t Lake Placid, but it also wasn’t my desk. I appreciated being close to the water, no matter how simple the view.
It’s interesting to think that this forest is a working forest. It’s not just there to serve adventurers like me who want to get outdoors; it’s there too because the trees are harvested for sustainable timber production. Money from the sale of timber helps pay for upkeep of the forest.
One thing to keep in mind with this nature spot is closing time.
After my jaunt through the forest, I walked back to my car and passed a nice ranger in a truck who said he had just locked the front gate. Good thing he turned around to take a second look for stragglers who can’t keep track of time.
This kind ranger escorted me to the gate and let me go on my way. Next time I’ll bring a watch.