Last week-end I went down to visit my dad for the first time since my stepmother died nearly two months ago. One of the reasons I had delayed my visit was our plan to visit the Highlands Sanctuary, which we had to decided to postpone due to the heavy, wet, and destructive snowfall two weeks earlier.
Because the preserves of the Sanctuary are private and managed with an eye toward preservation rather than human intrusion, a permit is required for hiking there, and we missed the one-week pre-registration deadline for our own trip. So my dad signed us up for a guided prarie hike instead, which turned out to be a completely different experience than we would have had on our own. We were with a group of about 20 people, many of them experienced birders and expert botanists. Since I can't recognize bird calls other than those most basic to our neighborhood and know absolutely nothing whatever about wild plants, it was a treat for me to be among knowledgeable (completely obsessed, actually) folks. I'm not sure that I would have otherwise noticed a single wildflower of the many we spent hours photographing.