Stories from the Field

Olympic Alcoa Scholars in the Backcountry

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Alcoa Scholars in Olympic's Backcountry

On Tuesday afternoon, the Olympic Alcoa Scholars returned to our Lake Crescent campus after seven exciting days in the backcountry. Since setting off last Wednesday, they collectively covered 66 miles! And all of those miles on top of learning to backpack, exploring Olympic National Park and using science investigations to learn more about their surroundings. Scholars celebrated the completion of their journey by enjoying a well-deserved Rosemary Inn meal, a cold shower and some time to relax around the lake.

On Wednesday, the Scholars had a busy day back on campus. Both groups had a chance to paddle our twenty-person Salish canoes on Lake Crescent and did a great job battling the wind. Much of the day was spent analyzing their scientific data and preparing their presentations for tomorrow’s Science Night.

Tonight, the Scholars will present their environmental science research projects to their peers and NatureBridge staff, encapsulating what they learned from the program. Topics range from biodiversity and climate change to more niche categories such as the chemistry of the Dosewallips River and how many pounds of food were consumed while backpacking! Each year, this evening proves to be one of the highlights of the experience. 

Stay tuned to discover all that these future environmental leaders have learned and read more about their backcountry adventures below!

Trail Group One: The Pterodactyls

Trail group one, the Pterodactyls, experienced the green, mossy backcountry of Olympic via the Hoh Rain Forest to Sol Duc River Valley. Led by NatureBridge educators Emma and Dee, their trip got off to a comical start. While traveling on the bus to their trailhead, the group made a surprise stop at the Pacific Coast. Emma and Dee put bandanas over the Scholars’ eyes so that the beach would be a surprise. They were the ones who were surprised, though, when they got to the beach and ended up unintentionally being a part of a wedding that was taking place! 

One of the most thrilling parts of their journey was seeing a bear that was standing up on its two hind legs, snacking on some Devil’s Club (Devil's Club gets its name from the long thorns on its leaves and stems; that bear must have some tough paws!). They also had the chance to see a mountain goat with its kid.

Trail Group Two: Team Tré

The Alcoa Scholars in Olympic

Our second trail group, Team Tré led by Logan and Deneb, began their adventure in the Quinault Rain Forest. From there, they made their way through the Enchanted Valley to the Dosewallips River. Team Tré also had their fair share of animal sightings, seeing two bear bears and a mountain goat. Pasta dinners were popular among this group (especially tomato pasta) and brownie mix and chocolate pancakes. Of course, every meal came complete with a bit of trail spice (the unique flavoring that comes from tree needles, dirt, sticks and other things unintentionally getting into your food). The group hiked up to a glacial lake above Anderson Lake. There, the Scholars had the opportunity to touch snow; some for the first time in their lives! They also dunked their heads into the glacial lake. Brrr!

People understand the concept of climate change but they don’t understand how it’s affecting their lives until they see the views in front of them. Until you stand on the mountaintop and see Mount Olympus. If we don’t take action, future generations won’t be able to see the same things that we did on this trip.
Keran, United States
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