Thursday, September 29, 2005

Naturalists-At-Large Program - Yosemite National Park

A week back in the states is just enough to settle back into the fast-food, gas guzzling culture of America. After seeing a culture more concious of consumerism and the environment I want to get right back to outdoor education. Recharged by a post TASIS vacation in France, Ireland, and Italy, and feeling reconnected to the NW by my short trip into the rainforest Wilderness of the Olympic Penninsula, I was excited to get back to work with NAL. So, less than a week after touching down in Bend, I find myself in Yosemite Valley.

Nestled amongst pines and tall granite cliffs it Yosemite all you need to do is look to the sky to see untouched nature. Yet, more easily seen is the huge impact tourism has on our National Parks: campfire smokes settles into the canyons and rivals any small urban city by early evening, trashmen come through the campground daily at 8am (getting an early start carting the daily rubish down out of the valley), the newest construction project blasts out diesel and the rumble of heavy equipment, large trucks pull even larger campers slowly round each tight corner to reach the campsite for the weekend, and the well-signed and paved trails nearly reach grid-lock on a busy afternoon.

I am there too, driving my huge truck freshly filled with gas and food from the strip-malls of Fresno. I am installing the comforts and the nessessities of a camp site than can serve 33 11th graders, 4 teachers, and our 5 staff. What we (I) can only hope for is that the work the naturalists do in educating about the natural history and human impacts in the park can bring around positive change in these students from L.A.. And build an awareness in them they will carry with them into adulthood? It is an equation, a questionable balance, I find myself pondering while noting the inherint consumptive nature of the NAL program.

Lastly, NAL staff always have a way of building an immedite family. Before flying down I was a bit sad not to see any old names I recognized on my staff lists, I'd be working with folks new this fall. My worry was quickly erased when I found myself happily back among the committed educators of the world - professional, thoughtful people that all share a common goal and consequently a common language and an amazing compacity for humor and wit.

Happy to be back with NAL and "at-home" for this short time in Yosemite Valley.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Backcountry Trip - Mildred Lakes via Hamma Hamma trailhead
(Snohomish Mountain Wilderness, bordering Olympic National Park)

After just two days of being back from Europe, barely recovered from jetlag, the weather over SW Washington was something I couldn't pass up. Michelle, starting school in just a few days, quickly agreed to meet at the trailhead. We were both quickly rewarded for the drives. Deserted trails (besdies the hunters) and a lightly used in and out lake trailhead lead us to a series of three crystal lakes ringed by the rugged peaks of the southern Olympic Range.