The Naturalist School Saunters are scheduled two weeks ahead to take advantage of weather, geography, and the timing of local events. We saunter throughout the year – most frequently in the hills and riparian ecotones of western Iowa, and throughout the region. Visit this website for current postings. But what is a Saunter, anyway?

Hidden Valley HNC

Ravine in Loess Hills oak-hickory forest.

A Saunter is a way of walking in wild places that creates space within ourselves as nature opens before us. It is not for science or exercise, walking dogs or entertaining children. It is for the nourishment of body and soul. Our method of sauntering seeks to deepen native intimacy and contemplation of nature.

On May 1st, 1857, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau went for a walk in the woods. Each of them mentioned that walk in their journals but described completely different experiences. Thoreau wrote about his cleverness in fashioning a specimen box from birch bark and didn’t have much to say about his companion. Emerson, on the other hand, praised Thoreau for his cleverness in his journal entry and hoped that their walk together would heal a rift in their friendship. He envisioned a new collaboration: “We will make a book on walking, ’tis certain, & have easy lessons for beginners. Walking in Ten Lessons.”

Ralph and Henry never wrote such a book. So the task fell to me. A Pocket Guide to Sauntering draws on the journals and essays of Emerson and Thoreau. Sauntering as a way of walking originates with Thoreau; The Naturalist School has clarified and adapted his philosophy. The Pocket Guide states that “A saunter, properly undertaken, explores inner landscapes as well as the terrain being traversed. It is introspective while being shaped by the lay of the land.”

If you want to know more about The Naturalist School method of sauntering, or to get your hands on  A Pocket Guide to Sauntering, you will need to join us for a Saunter to acquire your copy for a $10 donation.  You can also buy the Pocket Guide in packets of 5 or 10 at Nebraska Book Source .

Saunter forth,

Jack Phillips

waubonsie saunter

Saunterers gather under chinquapin oak, Waubonsie State Park in Fremont County, Iowa. (Robert Smith.)

Please note that New Tree School Saunters are intended for adults and are not suitable for children or dogs.