Our founder and website were written up in the Montana Standard!
View the online article here and below, or click the images below for scans from the paper!
Land snorkeling —
Effort reacquaints adults and kids with nature
A squirrel uses tree branches as his own personal highway.
A spider sits in the center of his web, waiting patiently for prey.
The air is cool and minty at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, east of Whitehall, on this early August morning, and the light on the soft purple fireweed blossoms is striking.
All of nature’s little pieces garner attention on a land-snorkeling expedition.
On this particular Saturday morning, a small troupe of self-proclaimed “snork dorks” ambled mindfully through Montana’s oldest state park, noting the textural differences between species of leaves and stopping to examine the tiniest caterpillar with a jeweler’s loupe.
The expedition’s leader, Carol Guzman, coined the term “land snorkeling” more than 20 years ago while exploring Sedona, Ariz., with her husband. She noticed the parallels between her exploration and recreational snorkeling, in which participants spend time closely examining the underwater world without a destination or purpose.
Guzman, a Clyde Park painter who lived in New York for 13 years, always noticed the way people flocked to Central Park, no matter what time of year. People seemed drawn to nature, even in the most urban of locations.
But it’s not only Central Park where people can connect to the natural world.
“Even in a vacant lot you can go find a bug,” Guzman said. “Nature is very invasive. Nature is every place you look.”
Guzman’s land snorkeling initiative was borne out of concern about the way 21st Century children view nature. Guzman was inspired by Richard Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods,” a nonfiction book about the disadvantage for kids leading mostly nature-free lives, and his following work, “The Nature Principal.”
When she was a kid, Guzman’s mom would just tell her, “Go out and play.” And she would, finding trees to climb and woods in which to play.
These days, Guzman thinks parents may be reluctant to send their children off into nature, and kids are learning to think that there’s something dangerous about the outdoors. Couple that fear with technology that’s so readily available indoors, and it’s pretty easy for people to stay inside.
You can watch all the nature you want on the computer or TV, Guzman said, but it’s not the same.
“You don’t get the smells, the temperature changes, the light changes,” Guzman said. “(Getting out) feeds your soul so much more than being on your computer.”
The whole idea behind land snorkeling, Guzman said, is to get kids and adults alike reacquainted with nature. But to get the word out, she and her husband antithetically turned to technology.
“We did an oxymoron and developed a website that basically says, ‘Turn this off and go outside!’” Guzman said, laughing. See www.landsnorkel.com
Guzman said goals are usually an important feature of outdoor excursions these days, but they’re not necessary.
“It’s really interesting not going with any destination in mind,” Guzman said. “It’s not like taking a march to the top of a mountain.”
In fact, over the course of about 40 minutes, the group made it a little more than one-eighth of a mile.
But the things they noticed may have been missed at any other pace: the way the stem-like fireweed seed pods open to reveal long feathery seeds; the sharp pine scent of juniper berries; the skilled weave of a small nest off the beaten path.
All those little things, Guzman said, are part of the whole web of everything that sustains us.