The week before our final trip was one of my favorites this year at the Alderleaf Wilderness Certification Program. On Wednesday we went to Three Forks natural area in North Bend to practice our trailing skills. We started the day finding a wild cucumber plant which we later learned is poisonous... darn. We traversed through one meadow and at its edge picked up a fresh elk trail. The heavy rains the day before were a tremendous help in differentiating fresh from old sign. We jumped on the trail at around 10 am, followed it across a small wooded stream into another meadow, where we found lays in the ever-growing reed canary grass. We lost the trail after the beds so we skirted the edge of the meadow until we picked up the tracks again entering the muddy maple/cottonwood forest. Each of us took turns taking the lead and stayed on it for 3 more hours, skipping lunch. We began to see large amounts of hair stuck to snowberry branches and as Dixie led us around a corner the butt ends of the spooked Rocky Mountain Elk left our field of view as they trodded off loudly through the woods. We did it! Found em' baby. I'm ready for a cougar now... well, maybe.
Thursday Karen Sherwood of Earthwalk Northwest came out and taught us about the botanical gifts the sea has to offer us. We learned that Nori, an edible seaweed, actually grows all along the west coast. We were all under the impression that it only grew in the Asain pacific parts of the world. We also learned that nearly every seaweed found in the tidal waters is edible, except for one kelp species named acid kelp. This is distinguished from others by its flattened laminae (leaf like blades) which are segmented and bleach out acidic liquids onto things they touch. Other edibles we learned about were Rockweeds, Sea Lettuces, and Kelps. She also taught us about which tidal zones each one inhabits.
On Friday we were put on the teaching stage at OWLE, a seasonal children's class offered by Hawkeye at his school, Quiet Heart. We used all of the tools he had given us throughout the year to teach lessons of animal movements, awareness, and camoflauge. By the end of the day the 13 kids we taught were covered in clay, mud, charcoal, Pine needles and grasses. It was a very fun experience and we learned that keeping control over a group of young people can require much more energy than expected. All in all it was a good learning and teaching experience.