A Journey Out West

Written by Lainet Garcia-Rivera
    Tuesday, 27 August 2013
A Journey Out West

Along with Community Program Educator Sam Huenink, I had the pleasure of accompanying the Center’s High School Outdoor Leaders on a trip to the Teton Science School in Jackson, Wyoming. I can attest that it was an amazing trip, full of learning and exploration, but I’ll let Patrick, one of our high school participants explain the rest.  Read on for Patrick McLinden's reflection.

A Journey Out West

By: Patrick McLinden

We all take vacations here and there. Often we travel to cities, to see museums, sightsee, and soak up the culture in a new place. However, a trip stands out as exceptional when it provides more than a few interesting eats and sights, but also has a lasting impact. This year, the Urban Ecology Center has provided me with a trip that will leave an impression on me forever.

As a High School Outdoor Leader at the Urban Ecology Center, I’ve had my fair share of amazing experiences. I’ve learned more about Wisconsin ecosystems in the year or so that I’ve worked here than many people learn in their entire lifetime. I’ve lived here in Milwaukee my entire life. I’ve had the occasional vacation to other states and cities, but most of my outdoor experiences have been within the state. Last summer we had the opportunity to expand our horizons and travel to the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as part of our training for the High School Outdoor Leadership Program. We were confronted with many learning experiences: mosquito swarms, rivers to traverse, and gorgeous wildlife. Having the opportunity to travel and learn about a brand new ecosystem while deepening my understanding of my own ecosystem was an amazing experience.

This summer we had the opportunity for an even bigger adventure. 16 Outdoor Leaders and two Community Program staff set out on a six day trip to a brand new place for all of us. We traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming! After two long flights we were finally coming in for our descent when we passed through a few clouds. Below the clouds, we were faced with one of the greatest views we’ve ever seen in our entire lives: The Grand Teton, highest mountain in Grand Teton National Park.

Our view from the tarmac when we stepped off the plane.

Throughout the entire trip, we were faced with incredible sights such as the mountains shown in the photos to the wild pronghorn grazing in fields in Yellowstone, to the Bison in the middle of the road. The glacial lakes below the Tetons, hot springs and geysers of Grand Prismatic and Old Faithful struck us with awe every time. It was as though we had traveled to another planet.

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is an environment like no other. It is one of the largest and greatest pieces of preserved land within the entire lower 48 states. As a group, we saw things that will forever be embedded in our memory. We faced challenges as individuals and as a group that have brought us closer as both co-workers and as life long friends.

This year’s trip to the Teton Science School and the surrounding lands, helped solidify many people’s ideas as to what they want to do and what they want to study. Some of my fellow outdoor leaders developed a deeper passion for the environment from their experience in Yellowstone National Park, and others discovered that working with urban children in natural environments is exactly where they belong.

Personally, I had the chance to view first hand a group of graduate students working at the Teton Science School while we were there, conducting first aid training. For me, this solidified two things; my dream of learning about responding to medical emergencies can be attainable! Seeing these students inspired me even more. Secondly, being out in nature, surrounded by incredible people and constant learning opportunities is exactly where I belong.

I look forward to another year working for the Urban Ecology Center, doing exactly that, along with my closest friends and my loved co-workers. You can hear more about our experience at our presentation on September 5th from 6-8pm at the Menomonee Valley Branch. Click here for more information and to register.  

The High School Outdoor Leadership trip to the Teton Science School and Yellowstone National Park is sponsored by: 

Lainet Garcia-Rivera

Lainet Garcia-Rivera


Lainet, Community Program Coordinator at the Menomonee Valley branch, has her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and a Master’s Degree in Zoology and Ecology from the University of Havana, Cuba.  She worked at the Ecology and Systematic Institute in Cuba for several years doing research in Bat Ecology and teaching courses and workshops related to Conservation Biology.  Lainet enjoys doing any kind of outdoor activity!



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