Students wishing to take a leisurely stroll while observing Georgia’s native flora and fauna should make a trip to the State Botanical Garden on a Thursday morning for a “nature ramble.”
Sessions begin Thursday and continue each Thursday for the rest of the semester.
Each session starts at 8:30 a.m. at the Shade Garden Arbor with an inspirational nature reading by writers such as Annie Dillard, John Muir and Janisse Ray.
“Ramblers” spend anywhere from hour to an hour and a half touring the Garden, led by volunteer biologist and naturalist Dale Hoyt and author Hugh Nourse.
But the Garden’s Children’s Programmer Andie Bisceglia said this is not to be confused with a hike.
“[Ramblers] aren’t looking to get a lot of exercise,” Bisceglia said. “They’re looking to explore nature really closely. It’s a low-intensity walk through the woods that’s more focused on learning about nature than about hiking.”
The nature ramblers weren’t always rambling. The group began as nature hikers in January 2012, said Cora Keber, the Garden’s education coordinator.
“It was to pair along with the Michelle Obama movement program,” she said. “They wanted to add a few more movement classes to the Garden, so it became an opportunity for folks to come out and hike while also observing nature.”
Since then, the tour has evolved into more of a “ramble.”
Hoyt said rambling differs from hiking in that hiking is usually thought of as walking quickly toward a destination, while rambling is more relaxed and educational.
“Rambling is just kind of walking along at a slow pace, noticing things and stopping to talk about them to see if there’s anything interesting that we can share,” Hoyt said.
There are about five miles of trails at the Garden, but the ramblers usually walk about a mile. The trails are full of the native plants, insects, butterflies and mushrooms of Georgia.
These tours typically have a turnout of about 12 people each week, many of whom are regular attendees.
“We have a hard core of people who show up every week,” Hoyt said, “including some people who come all the way from Atlanta.”
At the end of the tour, everyone gathers together for coffee at the Garden’s café to chat and to discuss what they’ve seen and Hoyt writes up a nature ramblers blog — a detailed list of all the plants, animals, and fungus the group saw that day on the tour.
The Garden welcomes everyone on these nature rambles, which are free of charge.
Bisceglia says this is a wonderful event for students to take part in.
“If there are students on campus who are really interested in finding out about native species in an informal setting, this is a great way to do that,” Bisceglia said.