When hiking on difficult or obscure trails, I often find myself guided by cairns. Cairns are delicately stacked piles of stone that often start out with a large base and come to a point. They are built by hikers to mark a new trail, or to show the way through dangerous passes, and are used on trails in the U.S. and across the globe. With their presence, they guide hikers in the right direction.

     I like to think that we are guided by many cairns during our lifetime, and that these cairns can take a human form—that of our mentors, leaders, and role models. These people guide us through life’s roughest paths and steer us clear of potential dangers.  And, just as with hiking, we may want to change course if we suddenly find our route devoid of these helpful beacons. The biggest ‘cairns’ in my life are my parents, who introduced me to a love of hiking and a sense of wonder in nature. 

     I met a new set of human cairns during my participation in the Natural Leaders Network Legacy camp in the summer of 2012.  As I learned there, the Natural Leaders Network is comprised of thousands of delicately balanced, unique individuals who encourage and engage people in all that is outside and outdoors. And just like cairns, these natural leaders help facilitate outings, guide us to safety, and keep us on a path free from Nature-Deficit Disorder.

     To learn how you can engage with the Natural Leaders Network, visit http://www.childrenandnature.org/movement/naturalleaders/ or check out the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NaturalLeadersNetwork. If you are under 29, I would also encourage you to apply for the Natural Leaders Network Legacy Camp. This is a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engage with other natural leaders and gain skills and a whole new set of cairns in your life! Visit the Facebook page for more details.

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