I was a Brownie dropout. I got a few badges and won first prize for my fire prevention poster but dropped out before I had a chance to pick up the blue ribbon. But I did stay with Troop 23 long enough to learn a few things besides how to wear that brown sash and beanie at a cocky angle.
By far the best thing I learned in Brownies was how to follow a trail in the woods. There is the Hansel and Gretel approach — tying little bits of colored cloth on the tips of branches as you walk — and the more subtle snapping of tell-tale branch tips, which I found utterly useless.
The best way to follow a trail, of course, is to walk one that’s already marked. If you’re facing a trail through the woods and see three of the same colored rectangles marking the trees, you know you are at the trailhead, or the beginning of the trail.
To follow the trail you only need look as far ahead as the next same-colored rectangle, walk toward it, and
continue on this path until… well, until you come to a tree marked with two of the same colored rectangles. These are generally placed at 45-degrees to one another, and they indicate a turn. Which way? Simple: you turn toward the higher rectangle. And if you forget, well, you can just look right and left until you spot the single rectangular marker on the trees ahead, and then turn that way.
I went walking with my daughter in the reservation last month on a truly steamy sweltering day (think Sarah, plopping down in a big puddle of mud and refusing to budge!) and was shocked to learn that she had no idea how to read and follow trail markers.
If she’d never been a Brownie, I could’ve understood her lack of knowledge. The thing is…I was one of her Brownie leaders. So I taught her then and there. Better late than never. Right?