Storybook Setting for a Hike

by Amy Bradford

Accessible from multiple locations around the Elachee Visitor Center, the Geiger Trail offers an idyllic outdoor experience year-round. This paved hiking trail is a half-mile switch-back with a gentle, but steady elevation change.

Part of Elachee’s 12-mile hiking trail network in the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, the Geiger is tailor-made for an easy, low-impact stroll. Spring through autumn guests will experience all the wildlife and plant life wonders that the tree canopy and forest floor have to offer. In winter months the canopy opens. During this time, the viewing platform along the Geiger Trail gives visitors a birds’ eye view of Walnut Creek hundreds of feet below. Elachee Nature Academy Preschool students enjoy reading along the Story Book Trail in Chicopee Woods.

There is a particularly enchanted section of the Geiger Trail, referred to as the Storybook Trail. Here, visitors may leisurely stroll from kiosk to kiosk to read a children’s book. At the start of each new school year, the Elachee Nature Academy (ENA) posts an enlarged book reproduction for every visitor to enjoy.

Upon learning about the Storybook Trail through an Elachee Facebook post, Beth Geiger Bolstad commented, “Mom and Dad would be delighted! Two of their greatest joys in one, a walk in the woods and a good book. What a brilliant idea!”

All ENA students and their teachers routinely utilize this trail and its featured story. This resource gives our teachers creative ways to weave the story’s message and content into their curriculum, time and again.

ENA Preschool Teacher Angela Belanger explains, “The Storybook Trail allows us to see a book in a whole new way. There is time in between the pages, as you walk, to think about what you just heard, to share and talk about it, and then to think and talk about what may come next.”

“I love it as a teaching tool because there are so many more ways to enjoy the story when it’s on a trail,” Angela confides. “The children have been looking at the pictures and commenting on them these first weeks of school. They like to find the letters in their name on the pages, the colors they know, or watch a live bug sitting on top (of the kiosk) ‘reading’ (too).”

The Story Book Trail kiosks are interpretive outdoor exhibits that engage children and families, allowing them to get lost in a good book!As for the currently posted book, she shares, “We will officially be reading this book during our nutrition lessons. The children will be very excited to finally hear the story. It’s fun for them to discover it first, make it their own and then later bring it to life, all together, as we learn about nutrition.”

The Storybook Trail has been a welcome addition to the Elachee visitor experience for families with young children. Not only is the trail easy to navigate with little ones, it offers a relaxing way for families to enjoy being outdoors together while benefiting from reading about nature on their walk. Nature Shop Assistant Kay Adams says she always tells visitors about the Storybook Trail and encourages them to take a stroll. Many return to share with her how much they enjoyed the experience.

The added feature of the 20 storybook kiosks along the Geiger Trail is more than just a fun, interpretive exhibit for visitors and students to enjoy. Building these kiosks and maintaining them, as well as choosing and updating the featured book also bring together members of the ‘Elachee Family’ who don’t often get to work together. Elachee volunteers help maintain the popular Storybook Trail found along the Geiger Trail in the Chicopee Woods.

On a sunny day in late July, volunteer Trail Crew members and ENA teachers worked to revamp and repair the storybook kiosk display boards. Each got a facelift with a new plexiglass covering and weather proof stripping to protect the mounted storybook pages. This skilled team also expertly tackled minor structural repairs to the kiosks.

The leaves will soon start turning, so plan your visit to Elachee. Be sure to walk the Geiger Trail and lose yourself in a good book!