The Bird Word: Go Walk the Seminary Hill Nature Area

The Cure for Nature-Deficit Disorder: Go Outside
By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle

My best memories of childhood are all tied up and tangled in the bow of Nature.

Skiing, backpacking, trail riding, boating, fishing and sports. Caring for horses, chickens or dogs — any kind of beast or creature on four legs, two legs, eight-legs or no legs (I’ve always been a big fan of the mighty worm). My parents worked hard to make sure I enjoyed and appreciated the whole of God’s creation.

One of my earliest memories is of driving through the beginnings of a fierce storm in southwest Arkansas with my Grandpa Frazier. Hanging on to dashboard and peering out through the windshield, watching Mother Nature wind up for the storm, ready to unleash her power on the farmland. As we hurtle down the long driveway, I see the waters of the catfish and water moccasin-filled lake tossed to and fro with each inhale and exhale of the wind’s breathed passion. Grandpa gripping the wheel with determination, driving like Nature’s fury herself, anxious to get me home and safe.

I have thrilled with every storm ever since. Thunder rolls over me like a shiver and stops me in my tracks every time I hear it. Lightening storms send every good southerner running for cover — it’s serious business in the South — but I’m always drawn in and transfixed by the show of power in the sky. Rooted in place, full of admiration and filled with yearning, savoring every moment.

I’m not an athletic sort, but I’m bold. I’ve never been able to hurl myself down long black diamond ski runs, but I’ve pushed my own personal limits every time I’ve strapped on skis.

I’m small and I didn’t inherit the “freakishly strong” arms of my delicately beautiful mother. (She could beat my teenage boys in arm wrestling up until the time they stopped testing her strength — it was getting too embarrassing to keep trying to beat her, I’d imagine that’s why they stopped challenging her.) But I did inherit her toughness. Put a task before me that is beyond the boundaries of my skills and I will work at it until I can do it.

It’s not an everyday sort of toughness; I am not — not by any stretch of the imagination — a whirlwind of constant activity. But if you set me down in the middle of the great outdoors — whether forest, field, mountain or lake — and set a challenge before me, I’ll do my best to rise up to the task.

There is something about being outside, something that lifts me up and inspires me to be a better person and to try a little harder. It heals my heart and soothes my worried soul. If I’m feeling anxious and stressed, it is most likely a symptom of a disorder that seems to be quite common nowadays: Nature-Deficit Disorder, or NDD.

There is only one cure for NDD — go outside. Go outside and breathe the fresh air. And if you can’t go outside, look outside. Every little bit helps.

NDD is a serious disorder — it can make you cranky, destroy your ability to thrive and survive with joy, dampen your creativity and dull your wit.

Living in Lewis County, we have the good fortune to be blessed by the beauty that surrounds us. Mountains call to us from one end of the county, forests and pasture land and lakes lure us through the middle and out towards ocean waters beyond our boundaries.

Much of the beauty of Lewis County lies within our very own backyards, alongside our freeways and inside our city limits. One of the best places you can visit locally, a place that is sure to destroy any last vestige of lingering NDD, is the Seminary Hill Natural Area.

Take a Walk in the Park
At 10 a.m. this Saturday morning, you can join the Friends of Seminary Hill Natural Area for their first walk of the season.

The main entrance of the park is located at the corner of East Locust Street and Barner Drive in Centralia.

If you haven’t been on a walking tour of the park, this would be an ideal time to get started. Robert Godsey will lead the 2.25 mile walk through the over 70 acres of hilltop property overlooking Centralia, and the Chehalis and Skookumchuck River valleys.

The Seminary Hill Natural Area is typical of an aging second-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest. This walk is designed to help you understand and appreciate the local flora and fauna, to connect to the nature that is right outside our front door.

“This is a lovely time to go, the very earliest signs of spring are just starting,” said Sandy Godsey, president of the Friends of the Seminary Hill Natural Area. “The trillium is in bloom and the trees are starting to bud out.”

While this is a walk in the park — it isn’t always a walk in the park, the hills can be slippery when it has been raining, Sandy said. Come prepared for the weather and wear sturdy walking shoes. Bring a walking stick if you think you will need a little help up and down the hills.

The group will have coffee and cookies waiting for the walkers at the end of the tour.

The group will walk, rain or shine. Call the Godseys for more information, 736-7045 or email

For more information about Seminary Hill, go to
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer who enjoys watching and photographing the wildlife in her own backyard in Cinebar. Contact her via email at
Friends of Seminary Hill Natural Area 2011 Events Schedule:
Saturday, March 26th
Early Spring Walk
Come and join Robert Godsey to see what’s up in the Natural Area. Many things will have leafed out, and some will be blooming. Robert can help you identify the plants and trees.

Saturday, April 23rd
Earth Day Work Party
Join Friends of Seminary Hill as they prepare Seminary Hill Natural Area for the hiking/walking season. Bill Wamsley, noxious weed control specialist, will lead the outing of preparing the trails. There are many opportunities to help, with varying degrees of difficulty and exertion (trail bed maintenance, ivy and blackberry cutting/pulling, debris/litter removal, etc.). Some tools and gloves are provided, or you may bring your own. Refreshments will be provided for helpers.

Thursday, May 5th, 6:30 p.m.
Wildflower Walk
Join Dr. Lisa Carlson, professor of botany at Centralia College, for an evening walk in the woods. She will teach how to identify native wildflowers and guide on the trails to enjoy the beauty of the season.

Saturday June 4th
Where the Wild Things Are
Dr. Blake Murden, wildlife biologist for Port Blakely Tree Farms, will lead a hands-on family friendly activity and walk. Those attending will be looking for the creatures that live in and around the forest and learn more about their habitats. Bring the kids and join the fun.

Saturday, June 11th
Summer Poetry Walk
Join this unique walk led by David Underwood. Come to the woods and hear wondrous verses by renowned bards, plus some stanzas by our own Northwest poets. Stretch your legs, breathe fresh air and nourish your spirit.

Saturday, July 9th
Summer Walk in the Woods
Bruce Craig has been involved with the Natural Area for many years, through the Boy Scouts, and as a long-time member of the Friends of the Seminary Hill Natural Area. He knows the trails well, and will share information about the history of the Natural Area.

Saturday, July 23rd
Children’s Nature Activity
Barbara Fandrich, Margie Joy Murray, and Marshall Murray, retired forester, will be your guides as you and your child explore the flora of Seminary Hill. Children ages 5 to 12 and their parents are welcome.

Saturday, August 20th
Geology Walk
Join geologist Jim Ward on a trip back in time as he explains the geological history of the Seminary Hill area. Walk and see examples of and learn about development of the present-day land forms of this region. For the Geology Walk, follow Seminary Hill Road past the Armory, then past Saxon and Baker streets to the large blue gate on the right (just beyond the small pump house). Enter through the large blue gate to park and meet the event leader.

All events are held on Saturdays at 10 a.m. except for the Wildflower Walk which will be held on Thursday, May 5th, 6:30 p.m.
With the exception of the Geology Walk, all events begin in the parking lot at the main entrance to the Seminary Hill Natural Area, located at the corner of East Locust Street and Barner Drive.

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