I was probably six years old when I first enjoyed Bernheim Forest. This is where the family gathered for a picnics. Parents, grandparents and about fifty cousins came with food and quilts for the kids to sit on, because the adults got the tables. My father always said if the sun is shining you should be outside playing; we climbed trees, hiked, waded and searched for arrowheads.
When my three children were introduced to Bernheim, they loved the hiking and the animals in the top of the original Visitor’s Center. One hot, steamy day in August, my sister and I took them to Bernheim; they said they would hike the “old ladies” into the ground. The picture of them sitting on the ground, wiping sweat is worth a thousand words!
I started bringing my two granddaughters to Bernheim Forest as soon as they could walk. The oldest wanted one thing for her ninth birthday and that was to hike the Millennium Trail; she and her mother did it in two days. Since then she has hiked every marked trail at Bernheim, some of which she has hiked multiple times. When she had to speak as part of school, she chose Bernheim as her subject and only one student knew about Bernheim Forest.
At the age of eleven, we took the two granddaughters to Yellowstone National Park. She started telling two Yellowstone rangers about Bernheim Forest, they were amazed she knew so much. Her tree story is about the Spruce near the Visitor Center: it is a “magic tree”, because when you climb into it no one can see you. When life is hard, like when International Harvester closed its doors and my husband was left jobless, or when my three teenagers stressed me out, Bernheim is where I went – to water the grounds with my tears and/or to find peace in nature.
I have learned many things here, some bad, like invasive plants and insects, and some good, like the bees and butterflies we need. I watched as the quail were released and now I can hear the Bobwhite calls on my grandfather’s farm and I feel like a child again. I’m glad Bernheim has a Monarch Way Station and a natural prairie; I always tell people Bernheim Forest is always evolving with new things to explore, like the return of eagles, wild turkeys, etc.
I would urge everyone to become a member. Let’s keep this “green jewel” legacy for all future generations. This is why I am a volunteer, to pay back, to pay it forward, but most of all to make everyone feel welcome. When I leave this earth, I hope friends and family will leave the flowers for the bees and butterflies, and please make a donation to Bernheim Forest instead.