The spicy aroma of pine needles, the warmth of spring sunshine and a new partnership characterized a recent hiking adventure for a group of Perkins students and a local Boy Scout troop.
Jacob, 15, Mikolai, 18, and Tommy, 17, all Secondary students at Perkins School for the Blind, explored the trails of Newton's Norumbega Park Conservation Area with members of Boy Scout Troop 3 from Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts.
The adventure was part of Troop 3's Blind Ambassador project, which seeks to share the Boy Scouts' love of hiking with people who are blind or visually impaired. The project was inspired by Trevor Thomas, the first hiker who is blind to complete an unassisted solo hike of the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail.
"For our students, it was about getting out on the trail with people who wanted to share that experience with them," said Kevin Lemaire, Perkins' assistant coordinator of residential living. "It was getting them into the whole wilderness thing."
The students met the Scouts at the 13-acre park known for its rolling pine and hemlock woods and a scenic view of the Charles River. The teens split into groups to explore different sections of the park. Some climbed up hills and over roots, while another group formed a human chain around a beech tree to determine its circumference.
While some students were initially hesitant to hike the unpaved terrain, they had long forgotten their qualms by the adventure's end. One student found the experience so enjoyable, according to Lemaire, that he announced to his dad, "I want to be a Boy Scout!"
Having just experienced hiking firsthand, the students examined a tactile map of a different trail crafted by the Scouts, using stones and pipe cleaners to indicate the route and markers for hikers with visual impairments. Two of the students also created a braille key for the map.