Monday, June 15, 2015

Washington Coast Hike - May 18 - 22, 2015

Cedar Creek Catch - May 19, 2015
Our May adventure started with a hike on Ebey's Landing. It was a beautiful day to catch a glimpse of the Salish Sea and Port Townsend, our late-morning destination. The group was able to slip in this hike due to the low tide closure of two early morning ferry runs out of Coupeville. It felt good to move for awhile before our long van trip to the coast.
Douglas Fir Shadows - Ebey's Landing - May 18, 2015
Looking back on this trip, I would summarize it as being "positive." Throughout the entire trek, I never heard a single complaint from students. This really made it a joy to be a part of. Students were willing to help each other by shouldering extra weight when times were tough for smaller members of the group. I would like to thank Emma, Mathew and Caden for their willingness to take on extra pack weight for the success of the whole. These actions perpetuated the positive feeling that encompassed the whole of this journey.
"Love" - Twigs and Stone on Log - Unknown Artist - Yellow Banks Beach - May 20, 2015 
At Cedar Creek, the group embraced their natural surroundings. Mathew had brought a small fishing pole that he shared with others. In twenty minutes, the group had landed five medium-sized trout that were hanging in the shadows of the logs a short distance up the creek. Later, the group carefully cleaned the catch near the mouth of the waterway. Laying the fillets on hot, flat stones in the campfire was a successful cooking method for this light-tasting fish. This first course was followed by steaming fresh mussels gathered from the sea side of the thumb-shaped rock that extended into the ocean in front of our campsite. I was extremely impressed with the willingness of students to enhance their trip with fresh seafood. The chefs were more than willing to share their bounty with those interested in trying their delicious offerings.
New Ultralight Tent at Cedar Creek - May 19, 2015
I noticed a large amount of litter on the tideline this trip. It is a stark contrast to the natural setting. For years, I have been searching for a glass fishing float. Most everything that I have seen on the Pacific beaches has been made out of plastic or Styrofoam. While working my way toward Sand Point, I had been looking for about an hour at the fresh debris from the last tide when... Eureka! I found one!
Small Glass Fishing Float - Sand Point - May 21, 2015
Walking through the rainforest on our last day, I spotted a slip of paper on the trail. I believe that a hiker had intentionally left it. I found it thought provoking enough to integrate it into a classroom discussion the following week.
Quote Found on Ozette Trail - May 22, 2015
After arriving at the parking lot, Charlie and I helped a couple from Camano Island jumpstart their vehicle. They had only been waiting for ten minutes. They were happy to get on their way.
Jumpstart with the District Van - May 22, 2015
I would like to thank Rocco Gianni, Erik Jokinen and Charles Snelling for giving their time and energy to this trip.


Nels Bergquist

- - - - -

Below is a letter to parents from Rocco Gianni, SWSD Director:

Dear Parents:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your children. I chaperoned on the Adventure Education trip to the coast with these students: Fulton, Andrew, Cormac, Aidan, Zoe, Farriss, Kody, Emma G., and Max. I have had five surgeries in the last three years and the most recent was my right hip in March. Needless to say, my body is still in the recovery mode.

The wilderness is my spiritual and physical sanctuary. The Washington coast is the most rugged in the world.  Most people only see this on TV, the internet, or from someone's pictures who were there. We take kids out there to share this great wildness that only the wilderness can provide. By now they have shared their stories and pictures with you.

I want to tell you what kind of kids you raised. If you are like me, when another adult pays a compliment to you about your son or daughter you wonder if they are talking about the same child.

This trip was very important for me to answer the "Call of the Wild" that my wife and I always joke about. I will not single kids out for what they did for me and each other because I would surely miss something or someone. They can share that with you.

I told them that I was so tired and in pain that I wanted to quit a thousand times! They encouraged me when things did not go well. They saw some climbs that were very steep and offered to carry my pack (thanks). They helped get water in some tricky places that were usually no problem for me.  They coached me over some rough rocks. They had already been through them, set up camp, and came back to check up on me. The kids took turns staying back to keep me company. These kids made it impossible for me to quit because of their support.

May 21st was the day I became a senior citizen. Yes, they even threw me a wild party. There was chocolate cheesecake (Mountain House) provided by my friend Mr. J., a gift of a seal vertebra, a carving of one of my quotes, and many good wishes. It was one of the best birthday parties I ever had! Thank you.

I came back much stronger in mind, body, and soul. Thank you again for your kids.

Rocco J. Gianni
Director, SWSD

- - - - -

Student comments follow:

I think being able to be out there was a real gift to me because I think I found another part of me that I have never really seen or experienced. Taking this trip really impacted me in a positive way. You see, if I had not gone on this trip, I think I would have not have really seen Washington for what it really is.

I also enjoyed getting to sing as loud as I could, with the group joining in. Every time I think about us singing, it puts a smile on my face.

- Caden

Going on this trip was a very cool experience. It was a lot harder than I expected but it was very fun. I hope everyone eventually gets to go on this trip, and I do mean everyone.

- Marla
Reader, please identify the function of this hose. Leave a comment. - May 20, 2015
After this trip, I learned that we have so much here at home. We have instant purified water, better food than the food you live off of out there, an actual roof over my head, and a comfortable bed to sleep on.

This was definitely a challenge that I wanted. I got to see who I am and I got to connect with others the way that I wouldn't have been able to any other way. It was tough because there were times that I just was done, but that's when I'd boost myself up, I'd give myself that extra little bit of energy that I had left in me and I'd fight through it. I feel like this trip has made me more grateful for what I have handed to me.

- Emma L.

The hike will prove to be a challenge no matter where you are. This is the whole point of doing things like this, it's for the challenge. Any challenge is always hard at first.

The water
runs smooth
and sound.

A point
so distant
and high.

To get there
you must learn
to fly.

- Andrew
Matthew's Reflection Essay - Page 1
Matthew's Reflection Essay - Page 2
One important thing I learned was tying different knots. Some of these knots came in handy during the trip, some didn't. The knot I used the most I believe was called the bowline knot. I used it to tie one side of my rain cover to a tree when I couldn't find the stake.

- Clay

I really liked hanging out with new people and getting close to them. I usually only hang out with a few people but I'm nice to everyone and it was a good chance to see who people really are and have them know the real me. I feel like I got closer to my friends I had there.

- Zoe

I had an amazing time on the trip, and I was glad I didn't get homesick during the trip, but when I got home I got very emotional. I realized I have a very close family. We eat dinner together and watch a show together every day. All my emotions that I held inside on the coast came out when I got home and sat down with my family.

Names drawn in the sand.
Waiting for the waves to come.
I watch from my tree.

- Max
Whale Vertebra - South of Yellow Banks - May 20, 2015
Throughout the trip, people got walking sticks and I got one that I lost. We whittled points on them and used them on the hard terrain.

The trip was the hardest and greatest experience in my life so far. I learned a lot, I got a month's worth of P.E. exercise in one week. I hope to do something like this again.

- Aidan

Even though the toilets were bad and the terrain was tough, I loved everything about it - nature calling, fire crackling. The trip was so amazing and I will never forget this great journey. It was full of lessons, mistakes and regrets. This was a great learning experience. I learned how to fish. Also, you actually learn that our world is way more important than people explain how important it is. I also heard and saw wildlife - beautiful birds and many more creatures. I saw animal tracks like raccoon tracks. Everything about this trip was truly memorable and amazing.

- Mya

On this trip, I learned the value of getting out in the woods with friends and being disconnected from the world we are usually in. I learned to be used to the sound of the ocean. The smell of smoke became familiar, a part of me. The smell of the forest put me to sleep every night. The backpack became my best friend. I learned to enjoy the simple things life has to offer.

- Wes
Emma's Reflection Essay - Page 1
Emma's Reflection Essay - Page 2
Emma's Reflection Essay - Page 3
The fourth day, which was Mr. Gianni's birthday, would have to be the most enjoyable part of the journey. We made him a Native American life stick which had 65 pebbles for 65 years of his life. Our present to him completely was a freeze dried cake while Dodd and I gave him separate presents. I gave him a hand carved piece of wood which read "You frickin' yo-yo." Next, Dodd gave him a piece of vertebrae that he found.

My most fond memory was me being by myself at Yellow Banks. There was a rock that was carved into a chair looking over into the ocean. I probably sat out there for three hours just looking out at the tides.

- Fulton

This is stuff I see people do on T.V. and I did it in person. Climbing the rocks and just sitting there for minutes was like heaven on earth. The view was fantastic!

Overall, it was a blast to get away from technology and drama. On the ride home, my mom asked me, "Would you do this again?" I didn't even hesitate when my response was, "Heck yeah I would!"

- Kody

I learned a lot of new things on the Adventure Education trip, but the most important one I learned was never give up.

With a 30 - 40 pound bag on your shoulders, I learned it is better to keep a stable and steady pace, so you do not get tired in the first ten minutes. In the very beginning of the hike, that is what I did. I rushed and got tired (even though I kept going). But when we got to our campsite, I was so tired, I could barely set up the tent! The next day though, I made sure I kept an easy speed to make sure I didn't wipe out mid-way through.

- Cormac

One of the most important things I learned on this trip was the value of teamwork. We had to help each other pack, clean, cook, boulder, and survive together for five days out on the coast. In doing this, I found that you're only as strong as your weakest link so it makes sense to support them as best you can. If everyone supports each other all the time, think of all the great things you can do.

I was satisfied with how much I loved the trip. Who I was on the trek. How everyone came together. It was exactly what I was expecting.

- Farris

I had many, many lessons in self-reliance. On the trip you're really doing everything for yourself and if you forget something it's your fault and you just have to deal with it and make the best of your situation. I believe learning from your mistakes the hard way is the best way.

This trip was one of the best times I've had in my life. The experience has taught me so many things and I'm glad I got to share it with my friends. I'm extremely grateful that this opportunity was given to me. After this trip I've been drawn into backpacking and hiking. It's peaceful and just so enjoyable.

- Julian
Alder Decoration - May 20, 2015
I thought making up songs about what was around us was very funny. One of the best songs was "Born by the River" where we went down the line and everybody put in a phrase.

The Adventure Ed. trip was the most challenging but the most fun and unforgettable experiences I've had in a long time.

- Brent

Once we caught our seven trout, we brought them back and gutted them in the stream. Next, we all decided how we wanted to cook our fish. Everyone except me decided to cook theirs on a rock near the fire. I decided to put some nettles in and boil the fish in some water all together. The final result was a lot better than I anticipated, mine was a little bland but still tasted alright. The people who decided to make theirs by the fire were a little bit harder but had the smokey flavor. Overall, I was very pleased with the amount of fun and experience I got out of it.

- Graham

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

New Backpacks! Thanks, PTSA! - March 31, 2015

New REI Packs!
The Langley Middle School PTSA came through again this year for Adventure Education. My grant for two REI backpacks was approved - they arrived in the mail just the other day. Honestly, this program could not continue without their support. I'm looking forward to issuing these new packs to students for the upcoming Washington coast hike in May. These will replace two well-worn, first-generation backpacks from yesteryear. Thanks, PTSA!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Washington Coast Hike - October 6 - 10, 2014

Hand - Cape Johnson
In early October, the weather cooperated with us once again. We didn't experience a drop of rain until our hike through the rainforest on the final day. The slightly overcast skies kept the sun off our backs. The natural air conditioning of the coast took the edge off the grueling hikes. The tides also played a roll in breaking up the hiking day.

Due to the tides, our trek became an exercise in patience. The highs peaked out at around the noon hour. Both hiking groups had to hunker down for about four hours each day and wait for the tide to slack back a safe distance from the rocky headlands and logs. Surprisingly, I started looking forward to this unique rhythm of the day. We would wake, have a little breakfast, pack our gear and hike for a couple miles.

Knowing this stretch of coastline quite well, I was able to tuck us into relatively comfortable resting places to wait for the tide. Students and adults alike soon became accustomed to the down time. I never heard a single complaint. While waiting, time was spent around a warming fire. Students often brought out their sleeping pads and caught a nap. Others socialized while having a bite to eat. Chaperones took their time stretching out.

Waiting Out the Tide - North Norwegian Memorial
At Chilean Memorial, I placed each individual in a secluded spot for about thirty minutes. During this solo time, I encouraged them to be completely aware of their surroundings. After some quiet contemplation, I encouraged each student to capture the moment in a poem. It's important for students to remove themselves from the banter of camp-life and reflect. Many students shared positive thoughts related to the experience. Although I have used "solo time" activities in the past, I was inspired this time by a book called "Naturography" by Erin Waterman, the mother of Carli (a student on the current trip). Her blog post can be found here.

On day three, we came across what was left of the grey whale we first spotted in late March. It's amazing to me how quickly it has broken down. Bones were scattered down the beach. I was able to identify many vertebrae, ribs, a shoulder blade and the lower jaw. The light was fading fast at the time of encounter. I took a few pictures, but wished I'd had more time to search the area. It took approximately seven months for the whale to completely break down.

Jawbone - South Yellow Banks
The northbound group had a strong desire to help each other. Damien, Aryeh and Anthony constantly positioned themselves on slippery areas to help other group members over difficult areas. Carli and Sophie offered to fill water bottles in streams on a regular basis. Witnessing these selfless acts always confirms what I already know to be true about Langley Middle School students - they are wonderful human beings.

Shoulder Blade Scale - South Yellow Banks
The hike photo album can be viewed here.

I would like to thank Sheila McCue, Beth Mead, Erik Jokinen and Charles Snelling for their selfless support on this trek. Your experience and leadership made this another successful hike.


Nels Bergquist

- - - - -

Below are student reflections on the recently completed trip on the Washington coast:

During my dinner, I sat myself on a log and watched the water. For about thirty minutes I studied this Blue Heron fishing. The Heron struck and flew off with a small fish in its beak. This was the first time I had ever witnessed such a thing.

Before I went on this trip, I was not the best team worker, but now I'm better at it. I also love helping out people more, because I know how it feels to be helped, and it feels good.

The Adventure Ed. trip is something I will never forget for the rest of my life. Now that I have done this trip, I have decided that I want to do more backpacking.

- Sophie

I have never been on a long hike before. I didn't know that keeping yourself dry was so important. It is very uncomfortable hiking when you are wet. Packing your backpack as light as possible but still having everything you need is important. I learned to appreciate the clean water I have at home. Having a positive attitude even when you are tired is something I will remember. It really makes the hike a lot easier. Complaining doesn't help. I would like to do more hiking in the future.

- Alex

When things would get a little hard at times, I would just think about that fat burger I was going to get on the way home with a tall milkshake from Fat Smitty's.

Be sure to pack your patience. If not, you will quickly learn how to have some. Waiting for the tides to go out was sometimes daunting. I would have to remind myself that it's better to be safe than to be sorry.

- Anthony

This was a HUGE learning experience for me. I had to learn to slow down and help people across difficult parts. Not that I really minded. I just was not used to having to wait for other people.

I would recommend this trip to anyone with a strong mindset, a love for hiking and a strong desire to finish what you start. This program is a valuable opportunity of kids to see how far they can go. Also to find out how strong they are. It is an experience I will never forget.

- Damien

Tent View - Cedar Creek
One thing I learned was how to time the tides. I already knew a little bit about tides, but I was able to put it into practice.

I also learned not to put my bear can right outside our tent. A skunk had some interest in my bear can and we and my tent are lucky he wasn't anything but interested. The biggest thing I learned on this Adventure Ed. trip was that I am capable of hiking and camping for twenty-two miles. Every step was worth it and the Adventure Ed. trip was a great experience that I will never forget.

- Michael

The entire trip was one of the greatest weeks of my life. One of the best parts was being with other kids I don't normally hang out with. It was like a wilderness breakfast club.

Most important, I learned how strong and capable I am. If we can learn so much about the world and ourselves in just five days, I think we should spend more time outside when we are at school. I hope one day there will be more schools that give opportunities like this. When I was on the coast I learned so many things without realizing I was learning and I enjoyed it more than being stuck inside. There is no way I could have done this trip by myself. It showed me how important teamwork is in life.

I have been inspired on this trek and I hope I can use this new found inspiration for something amazing. It feels strange being confined to a classroom after being outside and free. I can't wait for another opportunity to go out and have an adventure.

- Carli

On this trip, I worked myself harder physically than I have ever worked, and it was a lot more work than I thought it would be.

The breaks were one of the best things on the hikes each day. Some of the activities we did during the breaks were ultimate frisbee, hunting for crabs and looking for animal bones.

I really enjoyed my experience and learned a lot about the outdoors and surviving in the wild.

- Russell

After going on this trip I have found that there is more to life than just sitting at home and watching TV all day. Go outside and just explore, you don't always need something to do. Go for a walk or hike and see what you can find or discover.

- Noah

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Washington Coast Hike - June 2 - 6, 2014

Yellow Banks at Sunset
I have been thinking about how to adequately summarize the fourth quarter hike on the Washington coast. I've settled on the word "SUN." It is truly beautiful being out on the coast when the weather cooperates so completely. In early June, the warm feeling was contagious. It prompted exploration, games on the beach and plenty of smiles.

At Cedar Creek, students spent hours building a sand castle and protected it from the incoming tide by constructing a massive log bulkhead. I watched as it withstood a barrage of waves before the tide finally retreated, leaving the castle intact.

On our third day, we encountered the south-bound group in our usual spot two miles north of Cedar Creek. It's always a treat for students and guides to swap stories, share food and take a short break. After shouldering the packs, we continued northward and, after about thirty minutes, came upon the beached grey whale that we stumbled upon back in early April. The change in its appearance was pretty dramatic. The outer grey layer of the epidermis, which had just begun to fall from the body two months ago, had completely shed. The whale had taken on a copper color which was quite dramatic. It had ripened to the point that it took a little prompting to gather all hikers for a group photo. I hope to see the next stage of decomposition when we head back out in early October.

Cape Alava is the best spot to play games. In the late afternoon, the group was introduced to "Ninja Stealth." This game is a mix of hide-and-seek and red light, green light. I enjoyed joining in on several rounds. My strategy was to methodically work my way up while the Ninja's back was turned. There was a particular tree that I had the most success attacking from. Timing is everything. I can only say that I had a blast.

In the evening, the group played the game "Mafia." This game is best played around the campfire at night. A darkened environment adds greatly to the suspense. I played the God role while the students became villagers. Hannah won the very first game by eliminating all of the other villagers while keeping her identity as the mafia a secret. This is no small feat.

As always, students were required to write daily in their hike journal. On the April trip, Justin suggested having them compose poetry. I've successfully integrated poetry walks into my English classes at Langley Middle School. The addition of this requirement made complete sense. Place-based writing can be very powerful. I've shared some of what they wrote below.

The hike photo album can be viewed here.

I would like to personally thank Justin Stacey, Erik Jokinen, Don Zisette and Rocco Gianni for their selfless support on this trip. Your experience and leadership made this another successful trek.


Nels Bergquist

- - - - -
Northbound Group with Grey Whale
Below are student reflections on their trip experiences punctuated by some noteworthy poetry written on the hike:

Before I went on this trip, I was having second thoughts about even going, because I've never been that much of an outdoorsy person. It turns out that I had the best time I've had in a long time. I'm really glad I went, and if there was another opportunity for me to go, I would, because even though the trip was difficult, I really enjoyed it, and I learned a lot from it.

Gigantic boulders
Making my feet very sore
I wish this was sand

Cooking Top Ramen
With tasty chicken flavor
Makes me full and warm.

- Ryan

The world isn't all about being social and always talking to people. It is also about just being. Being in the moment and not thinking about what I'm going to do this weekend or when my friends going to get up and play with me. It's about being there and letting my mind soak it all in, seeing how beautiful the world is without distractions.

Do you ever
just sit
and wonder just how vast
the ocean really is?
Or just how vast
the sky really is?
I have, and I know
they only go as far
as your imagination
can take you

- Ari
Hannah's "Coon Knife"
This trip was mind-blowing. I saw so many amazing sights, and hiked to so many amazing places. I saw so much beautiful wildlife, and got to have five days where I could truly appreciate nature. I learned so much, not just about backpacking, but about life in general. I was pushed physically, but it was totally worth it. It was an exciting and incredible trip that I will never forget.

Out on the coast, so wild and free
Busy lives just a memory.
Hiking to see such amazing sights
The fun keeping me up those nights.
The trip, sadly, is over now
But forgetting it? That I'll never allow!

Petroglyphs on rocks
Remnants of the Makahs' past
History through art

- Grace

A very important lesson that I learned on the trip was that people you don't usually hang out with during school are still super fun to talk to and goof around with. It was a great experience finding out about it. I had a lot of fun laughing and socializing with them.

Running cool water
cold streams near the ocean shore
refreshing water

- Alex

Mostly I just learned more about taking care of myself. I felt a lot more independent on the trip.

- Aengus

I learned a lot about the Leave No Trace program. It teaches us how to leave a very minimal trace if any while camping or backpacking.

Logs, rocks, and sand
dirt, trees, and cliffs
all of these are everywhere
on the Washington Coast

Sand is in my shoes
and my shoulders ache
all of these are worth it
to sit around a campfire
with your friends

- Kade
Approaching Hole-in-the-Wall
The worst thing is raccoons, they take your stuff and it sucks. One thing that I love is the friends you make, like you share a bond with the other people in your group. I also learned that Mr. J is Finnish.

 - Spencer

I loved sleeping out in the open underneath all the glittering stars. I learned to find myself as a human being on this trip. I believe that I connected with myself mentally in many ways. Other people will figure this out for me for sure, but I think that I came out of this trip a different person.

The Dinner

I will spear a coon
I will make it my dinner
That coon tasted good

- Hunter

The part of the trip that was most enjoyable was the camping because you got to have a fire almost every night and find the best spot in the campground and set up your tent if you got there early enough.

Always wear your sunscreen
it will protect you
if you don't
you will be as red
as a lobster

- Mitchel

I had a fantastic group, funny jokes to remember forever, camp stories for life, and so many inside jokes I want to tell people but they won't even begin to understand. I hope the high school will come up with a program for high schoolers to go on this trip with middle schoolers as extra credit work or just for being a chaperone. So thanks to all the teachers both years, and my group for 4th quarter. you all made this my favorite trip, and I hope we can all stay friends for a long time!

Big fires,
Sore feet.
Big smiles,
Sore backs.
All-in-all it was
the best trip ever!

- Gwyn

Doing this trip can really surprise you about what you can and can't do. You really think about what you would be doing if you weren't on the trip. It makes you realize that you are not enjoying the world to its full extent. At least that's how it is for me. The first day I realized that before the trip, I wasn't enjoying the outdoors as much as I should. I noticed a lot of things about me that day. Looking at how the trees towered over me like skyscrapers made me think about how many trees and nature we have in Washington. All the time that I'm watching a movie or playing video games, I could be outside enjoying nature. I also realized that day that no matter how much you prepare, the trip will physically surprise you. This has been a life changing trip and I wish that everyone could have an experience like this one.

- Owen
Life on the Rocks
On this trip I learned a lot. One of the many things I learned was that I needed to pack less things. In my backpack, I need to make my stuff more organized. But how can I learn if I am not wrong? You learn from mistakes.

I saw a coon last night
I saw it eating
Next thing I know
My pot was missing

The stench is overwhelming
I wonder what it is
"What's that over there?" said Marsh
"The whale," Rohan says

- Cameron

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Washington Coast Hike - March 31, 2014 - April 4, 2014

This quarter's 8th grade Adventure Education trip was balanced by extremely beautiful weather for the first three days, followed by pouring rain the final two. Tides were difficult to negotiate and required an early start to the day. My group had to wait out a particularly high tide up on a rocky beach around a campfire for three hours on the second day. Students took this setback in stride and, throughout the entire trek, displayed a stalwart resolve and a willingness to help each other in times of need.

One highlight for me was discovering, on our third hiking day, a completely intact grey whale in the area north of Norwegian Memorial and south of Yellow Banks. In the ten years that I have been walking this particular stretch of coastline, I have only discovered one other intact whale. It was located on the south shore of Tskawahyah Island (Cannonball Island) near the Ozette village site. I'm looking forward to visiting it again in early June.

We woke to rain on our fourth day. Students donned rain gear and opened their umbrellas. We hiked for approximately five-and-a-half miles to our campsite at Cape Alava. After arriving at camp, students quickly set up their tents, took off their wet gear and slipped into their sleeping bags. The wind came up strong during the daylight hours and was accompanied with bouts of pouring rain. A few of us fussed with a smoldering campfire for about two hours. Wood is very difficult to acquire at Alava. Justin found a bunch of cedar that we split open and used. It seemed like each time the fire was taking off, the sky would open up and damper it down. For years I've noticed an enticing group site just south of Cape Alava. There is more access to wood there and plenty of old growth Sitka Spruce for shelter. I'm looking forward to giving it a try next trip. The part of the fourth day that I really did enjoy was climbing under my tarp, getting into my dry sleeping bag and journaling about the trip. In my experience, nothing really beats a well-pitched tarp. Underneath, you can stay connected to your surroundings and remain comfortably dry at the same time. Writing in the out-of-doors is especially gratifying.

I would like to especially thank Greyson and Lewis for taking on fire making duties at every campsite. The pair was a fine-tuned machine who took a leadership role role in this critical area of camplife.

The hike photo album can be viewed here.

Special thanks to the group leaders Donald Heggenes, Justin Stacey and Don Zisette. Your guidance was instrumental in making this another successful trip.


Nels Bergquist

- - - - -

Below are student reflections on their trip experience:

I learned that in times of challenging circumstances there are no social boundaries among my peers. People I normally wouldn’t “hang out with,” I got along well with. I have begun new friendships with people I didn’t really know before.

- Catherine

I thought about the crazy once in a lifetime trip that I did twice and thought, “How was I crazy enough to do that twice?” Then I realized that there may be hardships more than any that we would encounter normally, but the difficulties just add to the overall accomplishment.

- Joe

Teamwork makes life easier.

- Ben

On our second day, and we had just arrived at our campsite. Smack dab in the center of our campsite was this enormous tree with two little swings hanging off of it. The swings were fun...but we took it a step further. We scavenged around on the beach for a buoy, and a long rope. We brought them back to our campsite, and found some way to tie the rope around one of the big branches, next we knocked down as many of the dead branches surrounding it (which wasn't easy). We had our entire group including the adults to pull them down. Lastly we tied the buoy to the end of the rope and made a giant swing that looked like a wrecking ball.

- Sophia

I all around LOVED the trip. One of my favorite parts was the camp fires. We would have camp fires every night. We would all gather around the fire and play games like truth and dare, ten fingers and would you rather. We gradually began to learn more about each other and become very close.

One of the most important things I learned on the trip is how to survive. I learned that I don’t need a phone or a computer to live. I learned that I don't need the internet, however much I may like it.

- Nora

My new saying is, "Stay positive and push through it."

- Sabastian

I learned that life is actually really fun when not everyone is on their phones and iPods and are actually talking. I never knew these people that I have gone to school with were so fun to be around.

- Sam

Cedar Creek Meets Pacific
At the beginning of the trip, I was cautious and a little slow moving, because I was afraid of falling or slipping. But by the end I was faster and made quicker decisions, which helped me when I wanted to get out of the rain. And I REALLY wanted to get out of the rain!

- Mackenzee

I think the best part of the trip was the second campsite. It had two rope swings already made, plus Kolby's uncle made another one that was really fun. It swung all the way across the creek and back. Also it had a really nice sandy beach that we could run around on. That night was one of the best ones on the trip. The sunset was really pretty and Nora and I took a bunch of cool photos.

- Elizabeth

Everything was made a lot easier just by giving people a hand with something. I think that without the other people in my group it would have been a lot harder and less fun. That's why I think that helping each other out might be the most important thing that I learned on this trip.

- Greyson

I learned that when camping/hiking keeping dry is very important. I always knew that you should stay dry when hiking but I never knew how very important it actually was. Plus, I learned that trust plays a huge role while hiking in a big group or pack of people.

- Lewis

The important thing that I learned was that even when you are extremely miserable you have to keep going. On the wet rocks I was tired and wet from stepping in a puddle of salt water. I was telling myself, "I can't believe I wanted to go on this trip." When I would fall I lay there. The last thing I wanted to do was get up because I knew I was just going to fall again. What I did was get up, one because I was told to by the chaperone and two because I had to keep going. There was nothing else I could do. Where else would I have learned such an important lesson other than a five day hiking trip?

- Kolby

The first two days I didn't feel very connected to the members of my group. But on Wednesday night, we all sat around the campfire I made and talked. I can't tell you the specifics of what we talked about because we all made a vow not to, but I can say that after that night and the hard hike we had had earlier in the day, we almost felt like family. And I think that our bond increased the next day when we walked over eight miles on treacherous terrain. We were all mentally encouraging each other. We were all rooting for each other. It was a kind of vibe, you might say. A vibe that can't really be explained, but has to be felt.

- Hank

One important thing that I learned on the trip was even though some days you really feel like you can't do it anymore, you have to tough through it and make the best of that day.

- Breann

One of the most important things I learned on the trip was to be prepared. You have to expect the unexpected and adapt to any circumstance.

- Andrew

It is good if you walk with a stick. It's great for balance and stability. I went through many good staves...

- Liam

Washington Coast Hike - June 9 - 13, 2013

This June, the seventh and eighth graders enjoyed the usual mix of sun and rain. Students took it all in stride and made the most out of the five day, four night trek.

At the Cedar Creek site, students fished among the shadows of logs that have, over the years, accumulated in the fresh water. This was the first time that anyone from the program cast their line in the creek. Ian and Maxfield successfully landed trout. I was impressed by their patience and skill.

After a rainy hike to Yellow Banks, the group tucked in against a rock face and built a warming fire. There was plenty of driftwood in the area and a slight wind to stoke the flames. Although the smoke was a unpredictable, the group was able to dry clothing, socialize and get a little reprieve from the rainy conditions. Making the best out of a difficult situation is an important skill that everyone can improve on.

To be honest, I don't mind experiencing a little adverse weather on the coast trip. How can a person really appreciate comfortable conditions if they do not know the alternative? Hardship brings people together. Respect is earned through shared, difficult experiences. The coast offers challenges that require serious work to solve. Although this adventure demands much, I have not tired of presenting it to the students of Langley Middle School.

Feel free to view the hike photo album.

Special thanks to Danielle Gianni, Rocco Gianni, Erik Jokinen and Justin Stacey. You folks made this trip possible.


Nels Bergquist

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Taking Shelter at Yellow Banks

Washington Coast Hike - October 8 - 12, 2012

In October, the seventh and eighth grade Adventure Education class had a successful twenty-five mile journey on the Washington coast.

The hike photo album can be viewed here.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank trip leaders Ryan Davenny, Rocco Gianni and Don Zisette. You were the drivers behind another successful trip to the rugged Washington coast.


Nels Bergquist

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Campfire at Cedar Creek
Below are student reflections on their trip experience:

This trip has everything and is very beneficial to students in many ways. This trip has every school subject in it plus more all rolled into one.

- Hannah

Sometimes you need a moral boost. And who better to provide that then friends. On the second day I was not feeling well. My stomach churned from the horrid meal I had eaten for dinner. My head was pounding with pain. I sat by the small fire, miserable. Around me, everyone was talking and laughing. But soon they noticed that I wasn’t joining in the fun. After they learned of my discomfort, they did all they could to make me feel better. In a few short minutes, my pain seemed to disappear. All of my mind was on the good time I was having. I’m thankful for that. Friends are really the best.

- Cory

I have to say one of the most important things I learned was at night you have to be very careful where you put your backpack. If you put it in the wrong place, it could end up an utter disaster. The first night, for example, I left my pack away from my tent and near a creek. In the middle of the night, I groggily heard, “bang, bang, boof, boof, boof, splash.” When I woke in the morning, I couldn’t find my stuff until I looked down toward the creek. There it was, sitting in the water. The raccoons had gotten it, but thankfully everything was still there and dry. I sure learned my lesson. For the rest of the trip I kept my pack inside the tent!

- Joe

The main thing I learned was friendship. When we were walking we waited for the others when they were behind. When someone was taking a rest I took a rest with them, even if it meant I would be behind. It made me feel good. It made me feel warm inside. What I learned is important to learn, most people don’t get this and that this is important. I wish everyone would learn this. I wish I had learned this sooner than later. I don’t know anything more important than friendship. Friendship is amazing!

- Kaylah

All in all, I definitely learned something. Adults don’t need to help you with most of your life, nor do you need them to remind you to do things like ‘put everything under the fly at night’ (which I did pretty well). We can be self-sufficient, not always needing someone else to help. If your stuff gets soaked, don’t blame your friend for not helping you. Blame yourself for not taking care of the problem! This trip taught 18 (most of which were pretty immature) middle-schoolers independence. There aren’t a whole lot of ways you can do this, especially at this age. That is the most important thing I learned from this trip.

- Sean

When I signed up for the Adventure Education course I wasn't sure of what to expect. Once I finished the trip, I learned a lot and hope every kid could have the chance to go on this trip. It was enjoyable and difficult at the same time, but that was what made it fun. It was beautiful and inspiring and I loved being in the outdoors and always will. I recommend this trip to anyone, and hope this course will be around for a long time. I had a lot of fun and ended up making a lot of new friends.

- Sophia

The most important thing that I learned was how important it was to have a friend. If you plan to go on this trip, a friend can cheer you up, comfort you,  laugh with you, help you, and, most of all, be a friend.

- Sylvanus

When we got back into the car to go to Fat Smitty’s I just thought about all those Ozette people who had lived out there just like we live on Whidbey Island. I kept thinking how they had to hunt for there food. We just have to go and pick it up at the grocery store. No hunting for us!

- Taylor

The most important thing I learned was I am way stronger than I thought I was because I used to think I couldn't even put on a 30 pound backpack much less carry one 25 miles along the coast.

- Wren

Monday, March 28, 2011

Elwha River Hike - October 25 - 29, 2010

Fine Catch - Elwha River, Washington
Due to large waves on the Washington Coast, the 7th/8th grade Adventure Education class chose to hike the Elwha River Trail on the Olympic Peninsula.

The class was met with pouring rain immediately after exiting the private bus. Wet and cold defined all of Monday. It was a relief for both students and chaperons to climb into their tents and slip into relatively dry sleeping bags at the end of the day.

Tuesday was devoted to building and maintaining a campfire. Mr. Snelling found several large chunks of dry cedar in the forest. He and several students busied themselves splitting kindling. This wood helped build the foundation for our late-morning fire. By the early afternoon, students had dried most of their damp gear and clothing. Many students kept warm sawing downed alders into rounds and carting them to the fire area. Maintaining a fire in the forest was a formidable task in late October. The group succeeded through hard work and cooperation.

Wednesday through Friday was spent hiking/exploring the Elwha River Trail. At the Mary Falls campsite, rudimentary fishing gear was provided to students. Anthony caught a trout that was hiding among the rocks on a slow-moving portion of the river (see above). The weather held, and students started warming fires that lasted into the evening.

The group hiked a total of sixteen miles over the five-day trip. Adults were proud of the work ethic and never-quit attitude of the group.

We are all looking forward to the salmon returning to the river after the dam comes down.

- - - - -

Special thanks to chaperons Charlie, Jessica, Tracy, Christian and Kat.


Roc Gianni and Nels Bergquist

Friday, June 25, 2010

Washington Coast Hike - June 7 - 11, 2010

Setting Out - Yellow Banks, Washington Coast Hike
In June, the 7th/8th grade Adventure Education class ventured out to the Washington coast for a five day backpacking trip. Students experienced a downpour on the second evening that tested the quality of their tent pitching skills. Those that woke up damp were reminded of their dry beds at home. I'm guessing that they were more appreciative of their houses on Whidbey Island upon returning. Students hiked to the top of the pinnacle at the Cedar Creek site for a breathtaking view of the coastline. Many enjoyed a short dip and wave-hopping in the Pacific at the Yellow Banks campsite. Groups stopped at the Wedding Rock site and hunted for Makah petroglyphs. One particular design, discovered by Cali, depicted a hunter firing at what appeared to be a deer. Beachfires, which offered a social place to dry shoes and get warm, were built all four nights on the coast. Students spent ample time warming themselves around the campfire. Mafia, a campfire who-done-it game, was played most every evening after the sky grew dark. Malika, after taking milkshake bribe from Mr. Sage, carried a blue and white buoy approximately ten miles to the trailhead. Students and staff signed the buoy, making it a valuable keepsake for centuries to come. The trip ended with our traditional stop at Fat Smitty's restaurant where everyone enjoyed a large burger and shake.

Student hikers on this trip exceeded my expectations. Their willingness to step out of their comfort zones and positive attitudes are a pleasure to be around. Adventure Education students prove that the youth of today still find pleasure amongst adversity.

- - - - -

Special thanks to chaperones Charlie Snelling, Roc Gianni, Tom Sage and Christian Gaggia. Your expertise made this trip another success.


Nels Bergquist

Friday, April 23, 2010

Washington Coast Hike - March 22 - 26, 2010

In late March, the Langley Middle School seventh and Eighth grade Adventure Education students hiked twenty-five miles of Washington coastline. Once again, the weather cooperated (with the exception of day four). The most memorable experiences that I had on this trip would have to be skipping rocks and climbing the pinnacle at Cedar Creek. I took a video camera along on this trip. The raw footage was cut and uploaded to YouTube. Press the play button.

The Washington coast presents students with true adversity. Over the years, students, in their reflective writing, have consistently stated that this trip was the most difficult activity they have ever encountered. The experience presented here is impossible to recreate withing the four walls of the classroom.
- - - - -
A heart-felt thanks to another group of outstanding chaperones: Charlie Snelling, Roc Gianni, Greg Bennett, Kevin Lungren and Lars Bergquist.You burn bright in the eyes of the students.

Nels Bergquist

"Adversity introduces a man to himself." - Author Unknown

Monday, October 26, 2009

Washington Coast Hike - October 5 - 9, 2009

Trail Snack - Washington Coast Hike
Adventure Education students were extremely lucky to experience fantastic weather on our latest trip to the Washington coast. The group worked well together as they tackled slippery terrain, steep overland routes and swarms of kelp flies while trekking from Rialto Beach to Cape Alava. As always, it is a pleasure working with the students of South Whidbey. Students' comments follow:

The most important thing that I learned on the trip was probably how to survive in the outdoors. That consisted of cooking, hiking and getting water from streams. And last but not least, I learned ow to make friends.
- Finley

The most important thing I learned on this trip was that teamwork gets things done faster than you can yourself.
- Matt
I learned that people can't always be there to guide me. I had to make good decisions about both where to go and how to get there. If I made the wrong choice, them I am there to fix it too.
- Taylor

One time we saw the sun as it set below the horizon. The clouds were pink, and the sky was purple. The sun slowly sank down until there was nothing but a sliver of gold, then went out of sight and everything started to darken...
- Chris

I learned that you really need to take things seriously and be safe.
- Rhylie

The most important thing that I learned on the trip was that we are very spoiled living here.
- Maia

I noticed that I don't need all the "required" things to live like makeup, my hair straightener and all the right clothes. I also noticed that my mom and dad aren't going to be there for me my whole life. That taught me to be self-sufficient and confident. This program is on of the best things I have ever been a part of.
- Odessa

One thing that I learned that I think is most important is to use space well.
- Mac

I learned how to sort my backpack. This was a key thing because I had to keep the pack level so each shoulder would share the weight. Another thing I learned was how much I relied on others and they relied on me to help them. On this trip, one of the most important things I learned was the souvenirs were not just a key chain, but a memory and memories tell thousands of words.
- Davin

I think the most important thing I learned on this trip was how fun it is to be out in nature away from civilization with a good group of friends.
- Sage
Overland Route - Washington Coast Hike
When we went to bed I was awoken by a growling noise. I looked out my tent and there were like four raccoons going through my garbage bag. Luckily they didn't get much. I really loved the group I was in.
- Anders

This trip was great, it was so much fun for me and I learned more on the coast then I would have in about a month in classrooms. My favorite thing I learned is that being away from home and away from things like the computer and TV for a week is really good for you. It changes how you feel about things like that.
- Jack

I think one of the most important things I learned on this trip was that working in a team really works. When someone needed help people would help them. As a group we really learned how to work as a team and I think that really made all the difference.
- Malika

I wondered what send flies tasted like so Donald tried one and he said it tasted like beef jerky, so I tried one but it was too small to taste. I would say that being strong, not giving up and committed is what I learned on this trip.
- Alexa

This coast hike was the funnest while at the same time the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Probably the most important thing I've learned was that no matter how short or long your life is, live it to the fullest. Sure, some parts will be terrible. It's about the good parts in life. Live it with your friends and family before it's gone.
- Riley

Whale Petroglyph - Wedding Rocks, Washington Coast Hike
We learned things about people that we wouldn't even talk to at school. By the end of the trip, we were truly like a big family.
- Helen

This experience has reminded me that I am physically and mentally strong and able to accomplish difficult things if I try. It has given me confidence in whatever I do. It has been the best class I have ever took.
- Chloe

- - - - -
Hats off to another amazing group of chaperones: Charlie Snelling, Lars Bergquist, Sara Diers, Johan Davis and Ryan Davenny. Your desire to test students' limits is noted. I will continue to push to keep this program at Langley Middle School.


Nels Bergquist

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Washington Coast Hike - June 7 - 11, 2009

Our June trip to the Washington coast offered the best weather I can ever remember. Not a single drop of rain fell on our stalwart group of 7th/8th grade Adventure Education students as they trekked the twenty-five miles of coastline between Cape Alava and Rialto Beach.

The trip's beautiful weather prompted swimming and body-surfing at every opportunity. Roaring bonfires were built and maintained to warm those returning from the waves. Blood-red sunsets and hot coals were a pleasant way to close out a day of difficult hiking.

On another note, the beached whale that we encountered in June of '08 was almost completely gone. Nature does not take long in cleaning its beaches.

- - - - -

Students were extremely lucky to have another set of superb chaperones on this adventure. Many thanks to Charlie Snelling, Roc Gianni, Sara Diers, Jon Paul Dowdell and Jess Dowdell. This quite simply could not have happened without you.


Nels Bergquist

Press play button for trip slideshow.

Friday, April 10, 2009

San Francisco Bay Area Trip - March 20 - 29, 2009

In March, the Langley Middle School Adventure Education class made its maiden voyage to the San Francisco Bay Area. The group of twenty students and three adult chaperones used public transportation throughout the entire journey. Everything that was needed was carried on the backs of each individual involved.

The trip began at the Clinton ferry terminal on Whidbey Island. The group walked across the ferry, caught the Sounder commuter train to Seattle and boarded the Amtrak Coast Starlight train at King Street Station bound for Emeryville. The ride down the coast took approximately twenty-three hours total.

The Bay Area offers an exceptional public transportation system for those willing to delve into its array of schedules. After arriving in Emeryville, the group walked to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station and took the subway into the heart of San Francisco. From there, the group navigated the city streets using the Muni, Golden Gate Transit System and the West Marin Stagecoach.

Highlights for this trip included joining an optional war protest which ended at San Francisco's city hall, camping at Mount Tamalpais State Park, summiting Mount Tam, hiking Muir Woods, two nights of camping and hiking on Angel Island and exploring the following districts in San Francisco: Tenderloin, Mission, Chinatown, Castro and Haight.

- - - - -

Many thanks to Charlie Snelling and Roc Gianni. Your quick wit and rock-solid leadership made this Adventure Education trip another success.


Nels Bergquist

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Santa Cruz Island Trip - January 10 - 19, 2009

Eighth grade Adventure Education headed south by train in mid-January bound for Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz Island. The adventure began on day one. Rain and snow caused flooding on Interstate 5. Amtrak cancelled the stretch of track between Seattle and Portland less than twenty-four hours before our departure. Fortunately, we were granted safe passage down to Portland via district bus. Once on the train, the group was able to keep to the planned schedule.

The weather in southern California was quite a change from the foot of snow we experienced in Washington prior to departure. Throughout the journey, the group experienced highs in the low to mid 80’s. Clear, sunny skies were the rule…sunscreen a must.

Santa Cruz Island never ceases to inspire. Students were treated to a show of dolphins, pelicans and grey whales on the catamaran cruise over, mission impossible at night, fresh oranges and cherimoyas on the hike to Smuggler’s Cove, island foxes, slackline practice and spectacular views from the top of Montanon Ridge.

Highlights on the mainland included a tour of UC Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara mission and courthouse, Frisbee in Alameda Park and a look at the boardwalk while seated on a bicycle built for seven.

- - - - -

This trip proved to be yet another giant success thanks in part to a mighty group of chaperones: Charlie Snelling, Johan Davis, Christian Gaggia and Jon Paul Dowdell. Your donation of time to the students of Langley Middle School will not be forgotten.


Nels Bergquist

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Washington Coast Hike - October 12 - 16, 2008

In the heart of October, the 8th grade Adventure Education class headed out to the Washington Coast. This twenty-five mile backpacking trip was jam-packed with character-building experiences due to poor weather and difficult tides. The class, once again, exceeded my expectations in their stalwart attitude toward the grueling, wet hikes and their willingness to help each other in times of need. Wildlife took center stage on the hike. Students viewed/photographed a sea lion as it walked into the surf. Raccoons were out in force at Cape Alava. Bird migration was in full-swing as large flocks worked their way south. Undoubtedly, the most memorable part of this trip was a bear viewing that lasted the better part of twenty minutes.
- - - - -

Many thanks to Charlie Snelling, Sarah Diers, Johan Davis and Nancy Scoles. Your willingness to weather the elements for a group of students interested in testing their limitations never ceases to astound me.

Nels Bergquist

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Washington Coast Hike - June 7 - 11, 2008

Gray Whale Scale
At the end of the school year, the Adventure Education class headed out to the Washington coast for a twenty-five mile hike from Rialto Beach to Cape Alava. One memorable aspect of the trip was a rain and windstorm that pounded the group on the third day. To weather the storm, a tarp shelter was built against a rock face at Yellow Banks. Students helped keep a fire burning just outside the shelter to provide warmth. A steaming foot bath was created using a half-buoy filled with water and hot rocks from the fire. The group also had a chance to inspect a beached whale that had rolled up on the shore of Cape Alava. I enjoyed hiking with this group of students who exceeded my expectations in their confrontation with adversity.
Yellow Banks Shelter
Water Source
Many thanks to Charlie Snelling, Steve Scoles, Sarah Diers and Micah Sewell. It would have not been the same without your help and leadership.

Nels Bergquist