On May 31, 2019, the US Senate issued a proclamation declaring June the Great Outdoors Month! What? Who knew? Did you hear anything about it? Well, now is the time to get outdoors. We are so lucky to live amidst such a wide variety of outdoor opportunities. Get outside for exercise, recreation and exploration. There is biking on our 22-mile-long bike trail along the Kern River Parkway trail, as well asgreat areas for hiking, walking, and camping nearby. Boating at our big lakes like Buena Vista Lake, Lake Ming, Lake Isabella or rafting the Kern River with a guide, for a few examples. Or just enjoying a picnic by a smaller lake, such as Kern Lake, Lake Evans, and Lake Webb. Or if you will,you can even just get outside in the backyard or garden to putter around weeding, planting flowers or working in the vegetable garden. If you feel like doing something like that and don’t have a yard or garden, you can find a local farm, like Murray Family Farms, a strawberry field or orchard for picking fruit. Nothing in the world smells or tastes quite as wonderful as eating freshly field picked ripe strawberries. Of course for me as a kid, there was nothing as great as sitting outside under a tree reading a book, but then some people think I’m weird.

Getting outdoors has a multitude of benefits, not only for yourself, but for the community and the environment too. Being outside can be healthy. You can get exercise. You can explore and stimulate your mind and senses in every direction. Or you can sit in the shade and simply relax,which there seems to be far too little time these days?! There are social benefits in going out in nature with friends and family, or you can explore and meet new friends along a trail, swimming, or at the park.If swimming in a lake isn’t your thing, there is always McMurtry Aquatic Center, which includes outdoor pools.

Being outdoors can also be great just by yourself and can stimulate your senses in every direction. Beauty abounds in every aspect of nature. It can be calming and stimulating at the same time. All colors and textures, sights and sounds can surround you, like the sound of water flowing, wind blowing against your hair and skin, birds singing and calling to each other, the warmth of the sun, children playing. Squirrels may be chirping and chucking to each other as they go about gathering their meals.Scents radiate from the soil and vegetation. If being with wildlife doesn’t work for you, there are always activities like golfing at the Buena Vista Golf Course, River Lakes and others. Some species of wildlife abound even on golf courses, including many species of birds, and even the endangered San Joaquin kit fox. Or you can get outside by going to First Friday Downtown, where a wide variety of activities abound in the middle of the city.

If you don’t know much about the outdoors and want to learn, check out the bird field trips held by the local Audubon Society chapter, where you go outside and scout out birds in all different kinds of habitats, learn how to identify them, and what types of habitats they prefer. You can check out the schedule of activities at the Wind Wolves Preserve where you may go hiking or volunteer to work on one of their habitat improvement projects, such as revegetation with different species. There are many opportunities to participate in stewardship of the environment there, or in town withthe Panorama Vista Preserve supporters, or with the Kern River Parkway Foundation during one of their tree planting events along the River corridor. You may learn about a variety of our wildlife species at the California Living Museum (CALM) out near Hart Park. They also have a volunteer program. Opportunities for volunteerism and stewardship abound. Get involved and help care for the environment. Doing that not only helps the community, but also helps to create community among us!

Don’t forget the Tule Elk Preserve, where the Tule elk are bred to help their reestablishment at other locations. Tule elk are the smallest of all elk varieties, but they are still beautiful and majestic. Being raised in Washington state near Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains with Roosevelt elk, for me it was a new experience seeing elk fenced up. But it serves a purpose here, as they have been relocated to other areas in California to help build and reestablish natural roaming populations. Elk truly are marvelous animals.

If you feel like getting off the valley floor, there is Piute Peak, Frazier Park, the top of Pine Mountain and trails in the Los Padres Nation Forest, Bear Valley Springs, trails up Kern Canyon and even the Cascade Crest Trail which goes from Mexico to Canada. But of course one can take short stints on that trail where it crosses Oak Creek Canyon Road. If walking is not your thing, there is always horseback riding, which you can check into at the PDM Stables or other farms which rent horses, or if you are so lucky, take your own horse. It would probably love to get “out” too! There also are ATV groups outdoors. You can help there by keeping all those types of activities at ATV parks and on existing ATV trails. But it is another way of interacting with each other and the environment.Also, don’t forget about the outdoor concerts in the parkway along the Kern River and the CSUB amphitheater!

The great outdoors brings potential for many social and economic benefits to the city and region as well. Thousands of people come to our community just to do the kinds of things we’ve been talking about. Being in the midst of it all, we tend to forget how lucky we are to have it all!

Connect or re-connect yourself with the environment upon which we all depend— “we,” meaning us, plants, wildlife, water, air, and soils—everything. Keeping the environment clean, unpolluted, healthy and productivein positive ways depends upon you, me, and all of us.Where the environment may be damaged, you can help to restore it! So, get yourself outside and enjoy this “Great Outdoors Month,”if only for a few minutes. 

Indeed, not just June, but every month be reminded how important our environment is to us, and how important you are for caring for the environment!

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