Stories from the Field

Olympic Alcoa Scholars Session Two in the Backcountry

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On Tuesday afternoon, our second session of Olympic Alcoa Scholars returned to Lake Crescent campus after seven exciting days in the backcountry. Met with sunshine, wildlife, and blueberries, the group successfully hiked from Sol Duc River to the Hoh Rainforest to cover about 30 miles in total.

While enjoying the serenity and peaceful beauty of the Olympic backcountry, the group of 10 Scholars spent the time working on their science investigations, learning about the unique biodiversity in the park, discussing ways to mitigate climate change and effectively becoming environmental leaders in the process.

Led by NatureBridge educators Caleb and Justine, their trip began with the rushing beauty of Sol Duc Falls. Though they experienced a torrential downpour their second night at Deer Lake, the group had beautiful weather for the remainder of the trip (giving their gear a chance to fully dry out!)

I was really surprised and proud of myself the day we went over the High Divide. I didn’t think I could do it. But then I got to the top of the ridge and I was like, ‘Holy Crap, I did that!’
Alcoa Scholar Abby B., Sewickley, PA

Highlights from the trip include celebrating two birthdays (Abby’s and Jamie’s), seeing three bears, marmots and a coyote, lots of singing (80's classics, Disney, Amy Winehouse, Queen, you name it) and nightly open mic nights around the campsite. The group had some great backcountry culinary successes, including cookies and pancakes. They also hosted a “Master Chef” competition in which the winning group concocted a dinner complete with quinoa, summer sausage and sorel mushrooms. 

Though the whole program was full of highlights and great views, many of the Scholars cited the day they reached the High Divide as their favorite day on program. One of their most physically challenging days (complete with a six mile hike and significant elevation gain), the Scholars loved this day because of the amount of wildlife they saw, and the feeling of accomplishment they experienced when they reached the high country of the High Divide and got a glimpse of Mount Olympus. 

The Scholars reached the Hoh River trailhead on Tuesday, completing their seven-day journey. Several of the Scholars did a victory lap around the Hall of Mosses Trail, an 0.8 mile loop next to the trailhead with iconic views of big leaf maple trees covered with thick layers of moss and other epiphytes. The group stopped at Rialto Beach on the way home, giving several of the Scholars their first view of the Pacific Ocean. Back on campus, the students de-issued their gear and filled up on some fresh burritos.

On Wednesday, the Scholars collected one last data point at nearby Barnes Creek, went for a paddle in NatureBridge’s 21-person Salish style canoe, and then began synthesizing the data they collected into a presentation that they will give to their peers and NatureBridge staff, encapsulating what they learned from the program. The presentations will take place this evening in NatureBridge’s Storm King Classroom. We can’t wait to watch their presentations, and to see what these Scholars will go on to accomplish as future environmental leaders!

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