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BU Takes Broadmoor: Going Back to My Roots

The jobs of my National Park Service ranger parents kept our family in the remote Big Bend National Park for the entirety of my elementary school years, four hours away from the nearest grocery store and mall. Since we did not have any of those modern marvels to entertain us, the majority of our time was spent outdoors. We hiked, birdwatched, hiked, camped, and we also hiked.

We spent more time outside in the middle of nowhere than anywhere else. Despite the appreciation for nature that I had gained, I chose to go to school at the very urban Boston University. I did not consider this choice to be evidence of a disconnection from my roots until my older sister did the opposite of what I did; she picked up and became a ranger too.

The fact that Lauren had joined up did not bother me very much until I realized how unpleasant it sounded. She spent the majority of her days in an underground cave in South Dakota, bending down to avoid slamming her head against the ceiling. Her WiFi was about as dependable as the BU shuttle. She had to travel great distances to buy toilet paper and instant oatmeal.

Then I remembered that when we all lived in a park, I had lived in the same conditions and enjoyed them. Had living in a city made a (gag) city person? I had become overly dependent on indoor plumbing and living in close proximity to a Target. Luckily for me, one of my classes required us to take a trip to the Broadmoor Wildlife Refuge, giving me the opportunity to prove to myself that there was still a nature lover in me. 

Around fifteen students boarded the charter bus the morning of the Broadmoor trip. They plopped down into their seats with minimal enthusiasm. I observed our group and noted the traces of city life that were glaringly obvious on all of us. Rather than field guides, we held copies of The Wall Street Journal. We carried phone chargers with us, forgetting that coniferous trees do not have outlets. I wore sneakers with zero support or grip, expecting the woods to be as easy to trek through as Comm. Ave.

After a forty-five minute drive, we saw towering pine trees and uninhabited space. We walked into a clearing to sit on a collection of logs, stumps, and rocks. Our professor had just opened his mouth to speak when a girl jumped up, and hopped out of her shoe, yelling the whole way through. An ant had squeezed its way between her sneaker and sock.

“It’s really the ticks you have to worry about out here. You should all check yourselves when we get back to Boston,” our professor chuckles.

I shuddered and gathered up the ankle of my pants to try and avoid the issue. The students around me followed suit. We stood up and entered the forest in a dorky looking procession. Not five minutes in, a hairy caterpillar was found clinging to someone’s windbreaker. I struggled to tear my eyes away from its poison yellow body, twisting around the jacket’s zipper. There was a time when I used to stare at the insects in the pinned bug display in Big Bend’s visitor center with interest rather than disgust. That Anna had been replaced with the current one, who shuddered at anything with six legs and carried a can of Raid in her purse. 

I was similarly repulsed at the various other natural lifeforms we came across. The professor yelled with glee when we saw a dangerous looking white and crimson mushroom growing in the shade of a large tree. He shouted with joy when someone spotted a water snake speedily skimming over the water. I felt varying degrees of disgust upon viewing all of these things and was preparing to throw in the towel and admit that I was a disgrace to my park service upbringing when we saw the falcon.

While we were walking the final leg of the hike, a peregrine falcon sailed over our heads and landed in the grass not too far in front of us. It dropped the small mammal it had clutched in its talons and began to eat it. We had peregrine falcons in back in Big Bend. On our many hikes, I would watch them gliding through the air and perching nearby through binoculars with captivation.  I was feeling the same way now. 

Although I have chosen to live in a place where there are high-rises rather than mountains and high heels rather than hiking boots, I have not lost my appreciation of nature. I still want to learn about the life around me and how it all interacts. I still want there to be places like Big Bend and Broadmoor, where people can go to remind themselves what this kind of appreciation feels like. I can confidently say that I am not a disgrace to my park service upbringing.   

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