Maybe you’re one of those intrepid winter camper types who thrived this past January with our record-breaking arctic chill and really got into the quinzhee-building spirit in April. If so, more power to you! But, for the rest of us, now is (finally) our time to shine. It took a little longer this year, but we can all rejoice that summer is here. Miles and miles of regional and state park trails? Lakes for days? Sunset at 9:00 pm? The great outdoors, here we come!
If we sound like a broken record about the importance of getting girls outside, it’s because research has shown over and over that the benefits of spending time in nature are unparalleled. So, whether you’re more of a laze-at-the-beach type or the rock-climbing at-Tettegouche type, there’s something for everyone out there. Here are four ways to get your troop outside this summer.
Participate in Girl Scouts Love State Parks
Did you know that Minnesota has the second oldest state park system in the country? The state earned that title with the establishment of Itasca State Park on April 20, 1891. Minnesota’s second oldest state park (and the oldest one in Wisconsin) is my personal favorite: Interstate State Park.
Whichever park you decide to visit, all registered Girl Scouts who visit a Minnesota State Park or a Wisconsin State Park the weekend of July 13–14 can receive a Minnesota State Parks and Trails/Girl Scouts River Valleys patch or a Wisconsin State Parks patch. (Be sure to request your patch by July 22.) A Girl Scouts of the USA Girl Scouts Love State Parks patch will also be available to purchase online and in our shops in July.
Try a New Outdoor Sport or Activity
Swim. Bike. Kayak. Rinse, repeat. We love these activities, but it can be easy to fall into a rut and never flex our muscles by trying new things. This summer, challenge yourself and your troop and seek out an activity that’s a spin on something you already enjoy. A SUP champ? Venture on to SUP yoga. A lake-canoeing expert? Try whitewater canoeing. You get the gist! See if you can push yourself further and complete three (or more) outdoor adventures to earn the Adventure Club patch.
Out of This World
The downside to those 9:00 pm sunsets? You have to stay up a little later to view the beautiful starry night. It’s worth it though! There’s nothing like spreading a blanket outside on a balmy summer evening and waiting for the sky to darken. (Make some s’mores while you wait!) This particular summer boasts a few special astronomical events. Saturn will be at opposition on July 9—that’s when the planet will be closest to Earth and fully illuminated by the sun, so it’s your best chance to view Saturn and its moons (with a telescope, of course). The Perseid meteor shower happens every August; this year, the shower will peak the night of August 12.
Speaking of telescopes, if you don’t happen to have one laying around, check out the University of Minnesota’s Universe in the Park. It’s a free program hosted by University of Minnesota’s astronomers that enables attendees to learn about astronomical topics and view the night sky through telescopes. Bonus—they have a July 13 viewing at Lake Maria State Park—what a cool way to earn that state parks patch.
Because the warmer seasons tend to be so fleeting here in the Midwest, we often try to cram in as much as we can during these brief months. How many of you drafted a summer bucket list before the snow even melted? This tendency to do all the things can detract from the true spirit of summer, which is time for resting and recharging before the start of another go-go-go year. This is where the concept of friluftsliv (pronounced “free-loofts-liv”) comes into play.
A term originally coined by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, friluftsliv roughly translates as “free air life,” and can be defined as spending time with nature without the pressure to achieve or compete. Friluftsliv embodies the simplicity of engaging with the outdoors. That means that you don’t need to plan a two-week backcountry camping expedition to qualify as “being outside.” Instead, friluftsliv reminds us that there are many ways to connect with the natural world. Sitting on an Adirondack chair and watching goslings waddle across the lawn? That’s friluftsliv. Walking through a local park and noticing all the different types of mushrooms that have sprouted? Also friluftsliv.
Sometimes making the most of the summer can be accomplished by doing the least. As a society, we’re programmed to be productive around the clock, but that quickly leads to burnout. We can’t (And shouldn’t!) do it all. Mark a few dates on your calendar, but resist the urge to fill them all. Instead, head outside and recharge those batteries—you’ll be thankful you did!
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Daisy troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (and rescue dog, Neil!).