Summer Saunters at Hitchcock Nature Center


In Walking*, Henry David Thoreau makes a sharp point in the form of a question: “When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us, if we walked only in a garden or mall?” In 19th-century New England, a “mall” was a manicured urban promenade, often lined with formal plantings. In contrast to an idle stroll through civilized landscapes, Thoreau promoted the adventurous practice of sauntering that takes us, body and soul, into the woods and fields. By sauntering we can be refreshed by wildness as we are surrounded by the “raw material of life.” Sauntering is the act of walking without agendas or expectations, but with the intent of becoming more open to what nature will reveal to us. “Life consists in wildness. The most alive is the wildest.”

In the spirit of Thoreau, New Tree School will offer Summer Saunters on Saturday mornings in June at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa. Each Saunter will last 2 hours, even though Thoreau recommended a 4 hour saunter every day! We will meet for each Saunter at the Hitchcock barn (located on the main road on the way to the lodge) at 7:30 for brief discussion and orientation. We will then saunter for 2 hours and return to the barn by 10:00.

Each Saunter will be joined by a professional naturalist with a particular interest or expertise. These guides will help us learn about a particular aspect of Loess Hills ecosystems. On June 7th, Jack Phillips (that’s me) will lead the Saunter and will focus on native trees, shrubs, and vines. On June 14th, Dr. Ted Burk from Creighton University will give is insight into moths, butterflies, and their host plants. On June 21, Chad Graeve, Natural Resources Specialist for Pottawattamie County will offer his expertise on wildflower identification and ecology.

There is no tuition for these Saunters, but a contribution of $20 (or any amount) will support NTS programs at Hitchcock.

We will be on the trails from 8:00 to 10:00, so you will want to wear long pants, apply sunscreen and bug repellent, and bring enough water and anything you need to get through the morning comfortably. Registration is required; please contact me a day or two prior. We will limit each session to around 10 saunterers.

Contact Jack Phillips at or 402.571.7460 for more information and to register.

*Read Walking by Henry David Thoreau here: