(1) A journey or search of spiritual significance, often to a place that is important to one's beliefs.
(2) A journey to a place with the purpose of venerating it or in order to ask there for supernatural aid.
One of the offerings on Friday and Saturday evenings during the Allegany State Park Nature Pilgrimage is a Salamander Walk. Perhaps you will find one of these Wehrle’s Salamanders.
The term is most often used in a religious context. Here, I use it in the context of the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage which has been happening at Allegany State Park on the weekend after Memorial Day since 1959 and which has become, for me, an annual tradition. It is always such a pleasure to gather with hundreds of like-minded people to marvel in and learn about nature. I feel part of a big family of people who all have a similar ethic when it comes to reducing our footprint on the planet and who take pleasure in all the earth has to offer and teach us. The weekend serves to refresh and rejuvenate - body, mind, and spirit.
Hosted by four different nature organizations from Jamestown, Buffalo, and Rochester, N.Y.; and Erie, Pa., this weekend event brings together teachers and students of all ages and backgrounds. You can learn about ferns, birds, dragonflies, salamanders, frogs, wildflowers, beavers, butterflies and more. You can learn the history and geology of the park, or explore special habitats such as an old growth forest, or a meandering creek. Early risers might enjoy yoga or a bird walk while night owls can learn about moths and other nighttime insects, or go on an owl prowl. The crafty ones among us might want to learn how to make origami animals with Iesa Erck, or a leather-covered mini-journal with Toni Kelly.
In the evenings, there are presentations in the big tent. We'll learn about Appalachian Spring from Carole and Dave Southby on Friday night. On Saturday, Buffalo Audubon naturalist Mark Carra becomes Charles Darwin to tell stories about life in the 19th century.
In between all the learning, you can relax by joining a giant Frisbee game, listening to music, enjoying a hotdog lunch and a chicken or vegan barbecue dinner. There will even be an open-microphone on Saturday - so bring your guitar if you'd like to entertain us.
You might think that a person who works at a nature center and spends a great deal of her professional and leisure time outside would have no need of a nature pilgrimage. You'd be wrong. Ask any naturalist and she will tell you that the more you learn, the less you feel like you know. Nature is boundless in its ability to teach and I find that I learn something new every year. I look forward to seeing old friends, and to making new ones. And I love that vegan barbecue.
I'm very curious to see what effect this crazy spring weather has had on the park. Will we see the usual "flocks" of Tiger Swallowtail butterflies? Will the Pink Lady's Slippers be in bloom, or will they be passed. What flowers will be blooming? I'm already scanning the program schedule to decide what walks I will take, and I'm fretting over whether anyone will take my talk/walk (Contemplative Photography) and what exactly I should include in it.
And so, I am looking forward to my pilgrimage, my journey of spiritual significance to a place that is important to my beliefs, for nature is my spirituality, and Allegany State Park is a sacred place I venerate. I am sure I will return home refreshed and rejuvenated, having received a good deal of super-natural aid!
If you are planning to attend the whole weekend, pre-registration is requested, but not required. A registration form can be found on the website listed below. Day rates are also available.
You can learn more about the pilgrimage at alleganynaturepilgrimage.com where you will also find links to Jamestown Audubon, Buffalo Audubon, Burroughs Audubon Nature Club and Presque Isle Audubon - the four event sponsors.
Jennifer Schlick is program director at the Jamestown Audubon Center & Sanctuary located at 1600 Riverside Road, Jamestown, N.Y. For more information, call 569-2345, or check the Jamestown Audubon website at www.jamestownaudubon.org.