Behind my residential street flows the Mighty Temecula Creek. This is a fancy way of saying that for most of the year, a dry river bed abuts our backyard. All of my kids, in particular my son Eli, delight in roaming back there and piling trash (shopping carts, wooden store flats, trash, rocks, you name it) into some semblance of a  ‘fort’. Lately a man has taken to sitting near Eli’s ‘fort’ and smoking while he chills out to music through his ear buds. This infuriates my son and worries my daughters. They call this man a ‘hobo’. They make all kinds of nervous remarks about the dangers of hobos roaming the creek and the neighborhood.

So yesterday afternoon I decided to venture down into the creek bed and see for myself what this ‘hobo’ was up to. Turns out, our ‘hobo’ was a teenage boy with long hair, sitting down there smoking with clusters of other teens. As I walked the length of the creek bed, I discovered these teens had been busy. There were wooden bike ramps for performing tricks scattered here and there, an old bed propped beneath a tree (ew!), even a row of ripped movie seat chairs placed eerily close to the bed. This seemed like the kind of teen hangout you didn’t want your teens hanging out in.

As I pondered what to do about this, my daughter spied numerous gopher holes with no idea what they were. I explained and she said, “What’s a gopher?” Dumbstruck, I caught my other daughter trying to ‘catch’ a cluster of red ants with her hands. Ack! We walked away unharmed, only to stumble across a buzzing bee hive, then catch a glimpse of a quick-moving bunny. Suddenly, a red hawk appeared overhead, a rat dangling from its talons. Whoa! Our breath caught as we watched the hawk land in the tree just north of us with its supper.

The creek bed really is a fascinating place to walk around. It’s unfortunate that the local teens are acting a bit beastly down there. According to humans are more and more altering their interactions with nature so that they are less, well, natural:  This, according to University of Washington psychologist Peter Kahn, is leading to a generation of people who so rarely experience true nature, that their psychological bond to nature diminishes. This is a real problem.

“The larger concern is that technological nature will shift the baseline of what people perceive as the full human experience of nature, and that it will contribute to what we call environmental generational amnesia.”

I have lived in Temecula for fourteen years now. Yesterday was my first time walking the length of the Mighty Tem. Now it appears that if I want my kids to discover its magic as well, I’m going to have to accompany them, so that they experience nature without the nature of the beast.