Thoughts from Dr. Joe:

A miracle around every canyon

May 20, 2010|By Joe Puglia

“Don’t forget the ribbons,” Kaitzer warned.

“Kaitzer, we’re going backpacking; why do we need ribbons?”

My wife stared at me as though I had no clue. I had been backpacking for 50 years, and I couldn’t comprehend the utility of ribbons.

“The girls want to tie ribbons on their backpacks,” she said.

You gotta be kidding. How am I supposed to know all the idiosyncrasies of girls? Ribbons! Go figure!

The members of Girl Scout Troop 889 were making their first backpack trip into the San Rafael Wilderness, northeast of Santa Barbara. We were exploring the upper canyon of the Manzana River drainage. I hoped they would understand that some of our classrooms aren’t classrooms. I believe that those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find an inner strength that endures throughout life.


The order of the universe abounds in symbolism and beauty. The migration of birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, and the evolution of the sun brings a consistency that is infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature.

We need wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. It can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.

The week prior to our departure had the girls in a tizzy of excitement and anticipation. I tried to explain to the Scouts that a successful experience would require exacting logistics, the ability to accept discomfort and fatigue, stamina, a good attitude, a high tolerance for dirt, and a certain trust in the equipment. This was a new experience for all; there were lots of questions about bears, snakes and mountain lions. Nevertheless, the anticipation of this adventure fueled the possibility into reality. We gassed up our trucks and left.

En route the girls sang until we reached the trail head. I learned every word of Taylor Swift’s, “Today was a Fairytale.” After a scrumptious meal of hot dogs, beans and river water, the troop gathered around the campfire.

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