Beavers, Nabokov and Great Tour Leadersby ExperiencePlus! - Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Beavers, Nabokov and Great Tour Leaders
Recently, I was leading my three young boys on a nature walk in search of clues about the "vandals" who had been cutting down trees along the Poudre River bike path here in Fort Collins, Colorado. As I read the signs and pointed them out to the kids, I was reminded of this passage from Nabokov’s little book "Transparent Things" – and of the great tour leaders I’ve known:
The vandals were, of course, some particularly efficient beavers. As we hiked along, we saw the downed trees, their trunks surrounded by chips. Here and there, where the river split around a small island, we found dams, runs and lodges – and even, for a brief instant, the guilty party himself. The boys were excited, and I was having fun interpreting what we were seeing, just as a good tour leader would.
I started to lose them, though, when I came across an old beaver dam buried in a small meadow near the river. I realized that we were standing on what had once been a beaver pond, gradually silted in and dried up to the point that it was no longer recognizeable. I described for the kids how, as the years had passed, the beavers slowly changed the course of the river, but I soon found that they had stopped paying attention.
"Sinking into its history" a bit further, that beaver dam offered so many connections. The opening of the American West by French fur traders collecting beaver pelts, and the name of the Cache la Poudre river itself, given by those very fur traders; the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, and how they drove out smaller predators like coyotes, which gave the beaver population a boost, which created numerous small pools along the streams and boosted the trout populations, which in turn. . . . And as I started to get lost in the frenzied connections (and my kids wandered away) I was reminded of an important quality in a tour leader: knowing when to stop. Nabokov described it a few paragraphs along from the passage I quoted earlier:
Travel – whether in our own backyard or the Italian countryside – is a delicate balance of "the now" and the past. There’s no doubt that a little understanding of local history deepens one’s experience, but the perfect amount of background information is different for every traveler. A great tour leader combines the broad knowledge to satisfy our curiosity with the wisdom to stop before the traveler’s eyes glaze over. According to our customers, we’re lucky enough to have found a bunch of them:
So as our summer travel season begins to hit full swing, here’s a tip of the hat to the hard-working people who make our tours so fun and fascinating. If you’ve been on tour with us before, you know what I’m talking about – and if you haven’t, well, what are you waiting for? Start looking for your perfect vacation today.