Nature lovers branch out
By Donna Rettew Post-Tribune correspondent July 20, 2012 1:20PM
Beth Hudick, a naturalist with the Porter County Parks and Recreation Department, guides members of Porter Health's Senior Circle on a tour of Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Valparaiso, Ind. | Photo provided
◆ Senior Circle
◆ Age 50 and older, $15
◆ Upcoming events include
“Wild Edibles” at 3 p.m.
Aug. 1 at Sunset Hill Farm
◆ For more information,
Updated: August 23, 2012 10:34AM
Despite the oppressive July heat, 10 hardy nature-lovers were on hand to walk a half-mile trail and learn about tree species during a recent Senior Circle presentation at Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Valparaiso.
Bonny Hildebrand, Healthy Woman and Senior Circle coordinator, said the program is run through Porter Health Care System.
“Senior Circle is an avenue for those 50 and better to be out and active,” she said. “We offer events that encourage continued learning, health and wellness activities and a variety of social activities.”
Participants enjoyed a ride to and from the Red Bud Trail on a wagon decorated to resemble a dairy cow. “Farmer” Ryan Wilson drove the tractor which pulled the wagon. He is a farm educator with the Porter County Parks and Recreation Department and oversees the handling of livestock at Sunset Hill Farm.
Leading the outdoor adventure was Beth Hudick, a naturalist with the parks department. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Hudick previously worked for the National Parks Service at Carlsbad Caverns, N.M., and for the Clara Barton Natural History Site in Maryland.
Hudick showed the tree detectives some books she brought along to use and stored in the backpack she was wearing.
“These will give you tools to work with if you find yourself in the woods,” she said, while displaying a couple of her favorite tree identification guides. “These will help you identify trees using the bark, the needles and the leaves.”
Jim and Wendy Obrenski of DeMotte attended for the first time. Jim is retired. Wendy will teach science at the new Hanover Middle School in Cedar Lake this fall and was hoping to pick up some tips before then. She has taught science for 16 years.
“We are interested in offering botany this fall,” she said, “and I’ve taught a botany class before, but this is extremely helpful for me to learn that I will have to do a lot of studying before I feel comfortable teaching it again.”
She found the information on edible plants especially helpful.
Clara and Jim Shebel of Westville were Senior Circle veterans that day. This was their third program, having also attended breakfasts and education session with doctors. They’ve been members for eight months.
“The programs are always educational and interesting,” Clara said, “and the people are all so cordial.”
Attending a Senior Circle event for the first time was Randy Bays of Valparaiso. He saw it advertised in the newspaper and wanted to learn about trees.
“It was hot,” he said at the conclusion of the walk. “But, I wasn’t sure what an ash (tree) looked like before, and that sassafras was edible, so I guess I learned something.”