By Lindsay VanMieghem
After two weeks at EcoCamp, discovering the natural world that Idaho has to offer, we have so many memories from our adventures and discoveries, but here are some of the highlights!
Week 1: Discovering Wild Idaho
Our first week of EcoCamp is open to rising 5th and 6th graders, and on Monday we had 7 campers rearing to go. Their shy and tentative demeanor was a sharp contrast to how they would be on Friday with their goofy good-byes. It wasn’t long into lunch and games that they started to open up. During dinner that night, we were visited by two young deer also hungry for dinner, munching on plants around the yurt. Tuesday began with a big hike up to Mill lake and by the end, the campers were experienced creek crossers. They were introduced to the seven Leave No Trace principles and how we would be incorporating them into the rest of our week together. At the lake, a few campers helped filter water for drinking. Even though the weather was not very conducive to swimming in the chilly lakes and creeks, we always had some brave swimmers take the plunge.
On Wednesday, the ERC’s summer interns came to guide the campers on a noxious weed pull along the Rip and Tear trail at Galena Lodge. We then spent the afternoon in the creek looking for macroinvertebrates under every rock! In the evening there was a lot of excitement and discovery during owl pellet dissection. However, most of this was outshined by our Thursday camping trip. After setting up their own tents we took one last hike up to Baker lake, where the campers got some time to play and reflect on their time at camp. That night, pita pizzas and S’mores covered everyone’s faces as we sat around the campfire.
Week 2: Environmental Leadership
This week, 12 EcoCampers (rising 7th -9th graders) stood on our porch with backpacks packed for a week in the wilderness. They didn’t let a strange day of weather ranging from hot sun, to thunder, to rain, to smoke, and then clear blue skies stop them from enjoying a hike up to Titus lake. When thunder cut our lake visit short, we grabbed our binoculars and spent the afternoon birding around Galena Lodge. All of this was in preparation for the next morning when we met three Intermountain Bird Observatory (IBO) representatives to help band hummingbirds and songbirds. This meant an early wake up call, but all of the campers agreed that it was worth it. They witnessed the process of capturing the birds and recording all the necessary data to determine species, age, gender, and more. Most of the campers even got to be a part of the release process! Some favorite species were the Western Tanager and Red-naped Sapsucker. After this, they too participated in a noxious weed pull and learn about different removal methods, including bio-controls that are being used in Blaine County. All the campers were excited to jump in the cold river in the afternoon and channeled their inner Bob Ross with watercolors to paint their favorite bird from the morning.
Thursday morning was spent preparing for our backpacking trip, the part everyone had been waiting for! With packs loaded, we set off on the trail up to Norton lake. For 10 of the campers it was their first time backpacking and everyone thrived. It was a difficult hike, with the sun beating down and steep terrain, but our crew persevered. After arriving at camp and setting up tents everyone was at the lake swimming and skipping rocks. Spirits were high after a dinner and s’mores as everyone retreated to their tents. The birds had us up early the next morning and campers enjoyed a wild flower scavenger hunt before hiking back to the cars.
The two weeks of EcoCamp were a whilrwind of discovery, exploration and new friendships. We are already looking forward to more camp in 2020.
Thank you to the Lightfoot Foundation, Papoose Club, Campfire Foundation, Rocky Mountain Hardware, KMV Builders, an anonymous foundation, and individual ERC supporters for making this camp experience possible for so many Blaine County youth.
Want to see more pictures of our adventures? Check out our Facebook photo album here!