Get out! By the time I was 18, I was ready to get out of my hometown of Toccoa, Georgia. Not an uncommon sentiment for young know-it-alls in small towns across our state or the country. While I had a pretty idyllic childhood in the foothills of northeast Georgia, I took for granted that everyone had the experiences that I had growing up. Most days were spent playing with friends in the woods that surrounded my childhood home in the middle of our little town.
Both of my parents encouraged my sister and I to spend as much time outside as possible. Often my friends and I would pretend to be great explorers or build mud dams in the creeks or construct forts with fallen tree branches, from which we could launch raids on the forts of other friends. Some of my most vivid childhood memories, though, are of the occasional trips to the Chattooga Ranger District of the Chattahoochee National Forest in Rabun County with my father and sometimes his friends. With great patience, and like his father before him, my father taught me to fly fish on the Chattooga River and to grouse hunt, which mainly consisted of very long walks in the those great woods carrying a heavy shotgun. From him I learned the ancient land ethic of leaving the smallest possible footprint, that you never ever killed fish or game unless you intended to eat it and, above all else, that there is a deep spiritual relationship that forms between people and nature that must be cultivated and cherished – one that has existed since the beginning. I would complain, though, about the long walks or being cold, or ask a never ending series of questions about this tree or that sound. With the wisdom that can only be passed from one generation to the next, my father remained patient in his explanations, understanding that the seeds of conservation were being planted, not just in my head, but in my soul.
By the time I celebrated my 16th birthday, my dad deemed me worthy of participating on one of his annual fly fishing pilgrimages to Montana. The vast landscape and massive scale of the Rocky Mountains and the cold water of rivers that swelled with the annual high elevation snow melt had a profound and lasting impact on me. After graduating from high school, and a failed first attempt as a college student, I returned west and spent much of the next decade or so exploring many of the world’s most iconic and beautiful landscapes working as a fly fishing guide. Alaska, Argentina, Montana and Arctic Russia would provide the back drop for an epiphany that I would only have once I returned to Georgia.
You see, growing up, I never understood just how amazing and varied the landscape of this state was. While the mountains of Northeast Georgia where I grew up are special and amazing in their own right, so too are the Ridges and Valleys of Northwest Georgia, the Fall Line and mid regions of our state where the piedmont transitions to the coastal plain, and the amazing variety of plants that exist in the remnants of the Longleaf and wiregrass forests that once extended throughout the coastal plain from Virginia to Eastern Texas. The expansive mashes and barrier islands of our coastline are globally unique and not only draw vast numbers of tourists, but provide the nursery for so many fish and animals that we cherish. Yes, everything that we are and everything that we do is entangled with nature. Our health, our economy and our overall quality of life are enhanced when we are able to balance our needs with those of the rest of the natural world.
President Theodore Roosevelt said it best - “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” With the benefit of hindsight, and as I work to be the best parent that I can be for my children, I recognize that very gently and patiently my parents cultivated the sentiment that Teddy Roosevelt’s quote embodies. It is up to us all to ensure that future generations have the same or even better opportunities for connecting with the natural world. I, for one, promise to do my part.
When I left home to explore the great outdoor recreation destinations of our nation and our globe, I didn't’t know that back home there was a special organization operating across Georgia, doing their part to protect our great state. 20 years later I've joined the staff at The Georgia Conservancy because I believe we offer the best vision for protecting Georgia's cherished mountains, rivers marsh, barrier islands and other precious places. The places I once took for granted are now under our guardianship - and we need your help.
Please consider a gift to the Georgia Conservancy today, so that one day our children will have a beautiful and biologically diverse state to "come home to." As a friend, I ask you to please join me in support of this vital organization and the causes we champion: a Georgia where people and the environment thrive.
Over the next 12 months we’re raising the bar: conserving more than 30,000 - 35,000 acres of land, educating more than 3,500 people in “Georgia’s outdoor classroom” that we call our trips program, and helping thousands of students and parents breath a little easier with our school siting workshops. But, truthfully, the issue that gives us great concern is maintaining steady handed advocacy on behalf of the gem of Georgia’s coast: Cumberland Island.
With so much to do, we’ve had to expand annual fundraising goals. We’re currently $50,000 behind our expanded funding needs and we need your help.
For our 50th Anniversary, we've asked some of our most important donors and members to share their Georgia story as a Georgia Conservancy Storyteller.
Thank you for supporting our storytellers and the Georgia Conservancy!
|Tara and Windham Pridgen||06/15/2017||$25.00||Great Read Robert! I couldn't have said it better! So many things we took for granted growing up at least for a while until I truly started to appreciate it.|