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Grand Adventure Inspires Catoctin Grandmother
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by Donna R. Engle | 2006

Donna Wanted to Explore and Enjoy the Planet with Her Grandkids. She Discovered A Desire to Protect It, Too.

Rosamund “Roz” and Derek Bray are qualified to “herd cats.”  And, perhaps, to galvanize Sierra Club members into taking more active roles in their local chapters.

The Brays have honed their herding skills for the past four years, starting as understudies to Betty and Jim Watters, who led the annual “Just for Grandparents and Grandkids” Sierra Club outing.  Then, in 2005, Roz and Derek took over leadership of the outing—a week of hiking, swimming, picnicking, rafting, and kayaking in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, for grandchildren ranging in age from 6 to early teens and grandparents ranging from 50s to “I remember the Big Bopper and poodle skirts.”

The evidence is strictly anecdotal that the willingness of leaders like Roz and Derek to share their time and skills may inspire participants in the outings to become more involved in their local chapters.  It is based on the unscientific report of one grandparent’s  experience—you’re reading it here.

 I returned from a 2005 outing with the thought that here were people who would spend two weeks trekking grandparents and grandchildren through nonstop days, without losing anyone or suffering visible stress-out. Elsewhere, other volunteers were weeding out invasive species, lobbying Congress, maintaining trails.  So, where was I? 

Roz’s own transition from Sierra Club member to actively involved member was similar only in that it too involved individual contact.  She and Derek, a semiconductor design engineer, had been lured to Silicon Valley from their native England in 1963 by the booming electronic industry.  Roz, a physical therapist, had done a lot of camping and hiking in the United Kingdom, “wetly, I might add,” she commented.  The couple and their four children found California to be an outdoor person’s paradise. 

Roz added, “I don’t remember when we first joined the Sierra Club, as we didn’t do any more than pay our membership (dues) for a number of years—while bringing up kids, I suppose. In the early 1980s I was asked if I could help run a women’s backpack (trip) . . .   I was hooked.  That is when I first met Jim (Watters) and signed up to go on his ‘training trip’.”  

On the “training trip,” Roz learned more about leading backpack trips.  She began leading trips through the Sierras in 1985, and when Mr. and Mrs. Watters were looking for trainees for the Grandparents outing four years ago, they turned to Roz and Derek.  It was a good fit.  Derek is retired, and the outings would provide an opportunity for the Brays’ grandchildren to spend vacation time with their grandparents.      

An advertisement for the “Grandparents and Grandkids” trip in a 2005 issue of Sierra prompted me to rope in my spouse, call our daughter to ask if we could borrow Allison and Colin for a week, sign up, and send all the medical data.  A Sierra Club member for two years, I had joined because of a conviction that our environment—the one we’re bequeathing to our grandchildren—is under attack by assorted Washington, D.C. foxes who have taken over henhouse security.  Until then, I hadn’t had any noticeable involvement other than paying dues and attending one meeting of the Catoctin Group.

Serendipitously, 2005 was the right time to build rapport with our grandchildren: Allison was 11, Colin, 8.  In about two to three years, it would become uncool for Allison to be seen with grandparents, and Colin was old enough to keep up with the activities and not get homesick.  We were admitted into a group of 12 adults and 18 children, and thus found ourselves spending a week swimming in California’s Donner Lake, kayaking around the lake, ice skating high above the Olympic flame in Squaw Valley and eating ice cream in downtown Truckee. 

Roz and Derek lived Sierra Club involvement, but didn’t preach it.  I don’t know whether other adults in the group went back to their homes in Arizona and Texas, California and New Mexico, with intentions to increase their commitment, but I did.

So, am I in line for Catoctin Group new activist of the year?  No way.  We’re talking toe in the water, not plunge.  I signed up to help edit Chesapeake articles, have gone on several Greater Baltimore Group hikes, and am looking for other niches into which I might fit.  It’s a start. 

> 2006 Table of Contents


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