Hot take on Earth Day

Our forests are full of magic

By Kelsey Maxwell
Reader Contributor

My childhood “wild place” was nowhere near extraordinary by an outdoor enthusiasts’ standard. It was a truly tiny strip of forest between my best friend’s house and mine in central Massachusetts. It was mostly flat and littered with moderately large granite boulders. A mix of pine and leafy trees. No matter where you stood in our little forest, our houses could be spotted a few hundred feet away. There was only one short trail connecting our two landscaped lawns. But, oh, how that trail was traveled! 

Kelsey Maxwell experiencing child-like joy on her first hike in the Scotchmans to the summit of Star Peak. Courtesy photo.

Plush grass and swing sets went unused as we raced toward our wild and untamed forest. In the winter, we made snow caves under pine tree canopies. In the summer, we built fairy homes in dark and mossy rock crevices. Fall was filled with collecting the best and brightest leaves to preserve in scrapbooks. All year round, we remained vigilant, prepared to run from BB gun attacks from older brothers at any moment.  

My memory isn’t great, and I don’t remember much about my childhood (sorry to disappoint, mom and dad.) But I remember nearly all the times that my best friend and I spent in those woods: climbing dangerously tall rocks, sledding down dangerously steep hills, racing back home before the last light shone through the oak trees. Finding pure fear and bliss in testing the limits of our scrawny legs and clumsy feet. Changing and growing alongside the flowers and the ferns. 

I didn’t know it, but the forests were shaping me, helping me grow into a strong and fearless girl with a passion for soft ground under my feet. I grew up and eventually moved far away from my magical forest, but my passion for exploring new places, constantly learning new things and pushing my physical limits stuck with me forever. Since leaving Massachusetts, I’ve been lucky enough to explore countless other magical forests, each one providing me with child-like joy and awe. 

Getting to reconnect with your inner child, finding pure bliss and wonder from the ferns and flowers is such a precious human experience worth treasuring and protecting. Everybody deserves to have these experiences. Kids and adults, today and tomorrow, deserve the chance to grow and change alongside the trees. We all deserve to find our magical backyard forests.

Out here, we are particularly lucky because our local forests are actually magical. Our wild backyard is nothing like my tiny forest amid housing developments in Massachusetts. Instead, we have thousands of acres of forest with clear-flowing streams, abundant wildlife habitat, ancient trees and rugged peaks. 

We have mountain goats scrambling across cliffs as the sun rises over the rugged peaks. We have grizzly bears descending the mountainside to drink from crystal-clear alpine lakes. We have silently-falling snow that blankets our cedar forests. What we have here is as close to magic as you can get on Planet Earth.

Join me in making sure our forests and peaks are kept this magically wild forever. Become a Friend of the Scotchmans Peaks Wilderness. Help us keep trails open and mountain goats wild. Join us to teach kids about the wonders of our wild backyard. Join me in celebrating Earth Day, every day. Learn more at 

Kelsey Maxwell is director of communications and development for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

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