nick, in another life I would have loved to know the real native names for all the plants, the names that is, given to them by the people who interacted with them and used them for centuries, based on experience of their qualities.
These names tend to be very accurate and descriptive. The 'scientific names' are pure fictions and mean nothing to me at all. Some guy or woman just made it up on the spot based on some random factors they decided were important at that moment.
Big difference between the two methods. Some things even had inner and outer names, names most people used, and names given for more secret uses. Those names would be even more interesting to know. But I suspect this type of knowing of where you are requires staying around for a lot longer than a quick pass through on a hike. But I would love to be able to read and know the plants around me as well as people used to. The notion of passing by great foods out of pure ignorance, then cooking up a drab dried meal and ignoring all that actual food, is somewhat annoying I have to admit, and not knowing the herbs and healing qualities of plants is likewise pretty annoying, but there's only time for so much in a life I guess.
Fungus are especially fascinating, piper s, The Kingdom Fungi is I think the name of a recent book on them, really solid and enlightening, albeit a bit dry and scholarly, he spends too much time debating what should be applied to what genera etc, gives a good feel for the pointlessness of scientific naming, but after that, it's all fungus action, cool read.
"It's the lack of connection more than anything that diminishes the experience. "
You nailed it, slam dunk. Exactly right. Don't be too hard on those hippy kids though, their hearts are in the right place, way ahead of most. At least they saw that banana slug in the first place, and considered it noteworthy enough to keep pestering it, heh. If I have to pick between some yuppy ul type, or type A overdriven speed hikers, or some clueless hippy kids wandering around thinking how wonderful it all is, I'll take the hippy kids every time.