By Darryl Alder
Apr 21, 2017

Using the New Nature Trail at JJ

At the LDS Young Men 14–18 Activities site, it suggests that to build spirituality you: “Go on a hike or nature walk to explore and enjoy the beauties of Heavenly Father’s creations. Give opportunity for the youth to reflect on their feelings and think about the world that Heavenly Father has given us. Invite the youth to record their thoughts in their journals.”

This year, for Earth Day, I made a new nature trail at Camp Jeremiah Johnson than can help you, “Enjoy and ponder the wonder of God’s creations,” which is the stated purpose of this activity.

This post will help you plan for a Nature Walk for LDS Youth Activities. There are nine stations on the west side of Hobble Creek and ten on the east side and another lettered set inside the meadow. Follow the interactive map at A Nature Trail at JJ in Hobble Creek Canyon or you can just follow along below:

This is a pine tree. Pine needles are always in bundles or pairs of two or more. This is a ponderosa pine with its needles in three.
This is a spruce. Spruce needles are always sharp. This one is an Engelmann Spruce. Look at its unusual cones lying on the ground.
Chokecherries are all around the camp. See if you can find more as you move along the trail. Do you think they are good to eat? I like to make jelly out of them. 
  As you move toward the gate you see scrub oak on the right side. It is fairly early in the season for leaves, so look on the ground for brown oak leaves.
Also along the ground are grasses, clover, dandelions and lambs ear.
   It is still early for Box Elder leaves too, but look closer and you will see tiny leaflets of three.
Move a bit further down the road to find evidence of deer. There are droppings all around. Look ahead at the strange pine trees with top and bottom needles. Deer like variety in their winter browse and nibble on branches, while bucks rub their horns on tree trunks. Do you think this tree will live?
  At the base of the tree are fern like leaves of yarrow. It is used for fever, common cold, hay fever, absence of menstruation, dysentery, diarrhea, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal (GI) tract discomfort, and to induce sweating. Some people chew the fresh leaves to relieve toothache. 
Across the parking lot are our newest trees, Narrow or Willow Leafed Cottonwood. Though these were planted, the tree is native.
Listen carefully for the gobble of a turkey, we heard a wild one on the next property north earlier this week.
Turn around to search around the sky for other birds. We saw a hawk, two ducks in flight and a robin searching for worms in the grass.
Sandbar Willow runs all along both sides of our canal. Stand on the bridge and look for evidence of wildlife in the willows and water.
Return to the north side, walking toward the right of the three telephone poles, look down for evidence of burrowing animals. What could they be?
 Curled Leaf Dock is a common plant that goes unnoticed until fall, but the young leaves in spring make good greens, the seeds in fall are a cereal grain and root is edible too. This plant is surrounded by more Yarrow.
Cross the canal in the concrete cover, then cross the metal bridge. On the left a the end of the bridge is Red Osier Dogwood, not leafed out yet, but the red bark of this bush is easy to identify.
  Turn around for the Woods Rose. The leaflets are hard to see this early, but look for thorns.
  Look at the stream then compare it to the pond. What might live there? Can you see any moss? Anything else.  
The stream is full of small brown trout and sometimes a stocked rainbow trout makes it upstream. The stream is heavily used during the summer months by fly fishermen. 
Passing between the two ponds you come to a steep hillside covered with forest litter(last year’s leaves). Rocks here are covered with lichen. Both Gamble Oak and Big-tooth Maple cover the hill; since it is early, see if you can identify the maple by its bark.
The stately evergreen here is a Douglas Fir. Fir needles are always flat. I love this tree’s cones with little dragon tongues sticking out
Walk along the pond and drop down the hill to River Birch on both sides of the trail
Near the bridge and under the Dogwood are Horsetail Reeds
Look along the edge of the Dogwood for Grasses and Bee Balm (purple puff ball blossom)
Narrowleaf Alder, this is camp’s hardest wood. I has the tiniest cones
Oregon Grape, if the state flower of Oregon. The leaves look like holly and stay green all winter



So far the focus has been on trees and shrubs, but we are going to move into

now, but later in spring as more plants open up we will add some wildflowers to the trail. You can use this trail any time you camp here to help your Scouts appreciate nature or schedule a weekday afternoon for your Scouts to pass off requirements. 

Venturers Boy and Varsity Scouts Cub Scouts
  • Ranger Award Requirement: Conservation 
  • Electives: Ecology
                   Plants and Wildlife

Darryl Thumbnail

Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA. He has laid out nature trails at many council camps since 1976. 


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