by Janet I. Martineau
|Wil and Sarah Reding at the end of their journey|
Wil and Sarah Reding of Kalamazoo call themselves “rambling naturalists.”
And they took that concept to an unusual length back in 2006 when they walked 1,000 miles “In the Steps of John Muir” -- tracing a journey Muir made in 1867, from Indianapolis, Ind., to the Florida Keys.
“We had always wanted to do a long walk,” says Wil, “so we did this one to celebrate my 60th birthday. We were getting older and thought we we had better do it now. John Muir is our mentor and we thought redoing his 1,000-mile walk would be fun.”
At 7 p.m. Wednesday April 6, the Redings will show pictures and talk about that “hike” during a “Nurturing Nature” program at the Green Point Environmental Learning Center, 3010 Maple in Saginaw.
The series is sponsored by the the Friends of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, and admission is free to members. Others pay $2 at the door.
Muir (1838-1914) was a Scottish-born American botanist, naturalist, author of 16 books, and early advocate of the preservation of wilderness in the United States. Numerous trails and natural areas are named in his honor, and his activism helped save Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park.
Reding says Muir remains relevant in today’s world. “He was one of the main leaders, the big tree so to speak, of the environmental movement. He helped (President) Teddy Roosevelt to understand and work for national parks. He helped us realize the importance of getting to know the environment first hand, its connection to us, the importance of living in harmony with the natural world.”
Wife Sarah thought of their company name of Rent A Rambling Naturalist and he says since 1988 they have rambled to present upwards of 50 nature, history and science programs a year -- not only in the United States but also England, Tanzania and New Zealand.
So what surprised them on their 1,000-mile Muir hike? “That we could not walk 20 miles a day, as we had planned, and that nobody was home from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. to ask if we could set up our tent in their yard.”
The couple used Muir’s journals to retrace his steps as well as other research materials. The trek took them 53 days, from May 5 to June 25.
Granted they encountered cars, which Muir did not, and more people than he saw “but we still found all the plants he cited in his journal and the other physical things.”
From 1989 to 1994 Wil Reding worked for the Kalamazoo Nature Center, in a variety of educational positions, and he also is a former secondary school and college educator. He holds a master’s degree in environmental education.
Sarah Reding also has a master’s degree in environmental education and has worked at the Kalamazoo Nature Center since 1989, primarily in offsite and outreach programs.
What people will take away from the April 6 program, says Reding, is “to get outside and enjoy, no matter your age. They will laugh a lot and learn about people and backpacking supplies. And they will be inspired to love the out of doors and understand the importance of it and fight for it.”