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

- - - - -

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

- - - - -

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