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Travelling to the Tetons

Written by Sam Huenink
    Tuesday, 25 August 2015
Travelling to the Tetons

“Twelve high schoolers spending seven days in the wilderness without their cell phones? We will see how this goes!” I thought as we boarded the plane on our way to Wyoming. This adventure is a highlight of our two-year High School Outdoor Leadership internship that introduces teens to environmental careers and gives them solid employment experience they can put on college applications.

Interns are mentors and role models as they teach young summer campers, study animals and engage the public. They also help plan our annual Teen Survival Challenge.

After the first year of their internship, the High School Outdoor Leaders are given the opportunity to take a trip to Wyoming. The goal is to develop leadership skills at the Teton Science School and learn about the ecosystems around the Teton Mountains and Yellowstone National Park. For some it was their first time on a plane and travelling outside of Wisconsin.

Here’s how the week went:

Day 1 - Milwaukee to Jackson Hole

An afternoon flight and quick layover brought us safely to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Greeted by staff of the Teton Science School, we headed to their Kelly Campus where we’d be staying for a few of the nights. The Outdoor Leaders were excited to get their first taste of Wyoming wildlife. They were satisfied when we saw a couple of huge moose grazing across the creek.

Day 2 - Teton Science School

Studying the four major plant communities of Wyoming (sagebrush, conifers, aspens and riparian) helped the Outdoor Leaders realize how different the ecosystems are from those of Wisconsin. Everyone kept a positive attitude even while continuously swatting at the swarms of mosquitos. Through a variety of fun leadership and teamwork exercises, the Outdoor Leaders started to figure out their strengths, weaknesses, and strategies for being a leader.

Day 3 - String Lake

A full day on the lake is just what the doctor ordered. Residing at the base of the Teton Mountains, the picturesque String Lake was the perfect spot to launch our canoes and get away from the clouds of mosquitos. Most Outdoor Leaders stayed dry while finding out the challenges and rewards of teamwork and communication both on and off the water.

Day 4 - Yellowstone Lake

We boarded a bus and headed north to Yellowstone National Park. At the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, we visited the geothermal features (geysers, hot springs and mud pots) and learned about the volcanic nature of the park. On the way to our campground in Mammoth, we saw herds of bison, pronghorns, a grizzly and two black bears! Seeing these groups of large wildlife was the highlight for most on the trip.

Day 5 - Mammoth Springs

We started the day with some volunteer work with the park rangers of Yellowstone by painting picnic benches throughout some campgrounds. Next came a visit to Mammoth Springs (with an ice cream break), a relaxing wade in a secluded river and a search for packs of wolves at dusk in Lamar Valley. A day packed full of adventure!

Day 6 - Artist’s Point

After packing up camp, we headed back to Teton Science School stopping at Artist’s Point where the students reflected on how they had grown during the week. The gorgeous waterfall tumbling in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was the perfect spot to wrap up the week. A lot of thoughtful conversation came from the Outdoor Leaders on how they learned to be more patient, genuine and appreciative throughout the week.

Day 7 - Return Home

Six days full of hiking, mosquito bites and no cell phones meant the Outdoor Leaders were ready to get back to Milwaukee. The weary crew arrived home full of new experiences and new stories to share.

Sam Huenink

Sam Huenink

Sam is the Community Program Educator at our Riverside Park branch.

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