By JESSIE THORESON
Snorkeling in the Swan River for Watershed Dynamics class
The weather was promising a high in the mid 30's the morning we packed our bags for a three day trek into the mountains. We made our way towards Upper Holland Lake (approximately 6 miles from the trailhead) to learn about the geology, land management, watershed dynamics and the wilderness of the Swan Mountain Range. True to its word, the weather hovered in the 20's and 30's for the next three days. Luckily, our base camp at the lake was just below snow-line for most of our stay. Looking up at the surrounding hillsides, we could see the freshly snow-capped trees and looming clouds at the mountain peaks, as mist from the lake gently floated up from the water.
We awoke in our tents the first morning and set off on a hike after breakfast to learn about the geology of the Rocky Mountains. The rocks we were hiking on are some of the oldest rocks in the world (formed 1.6 billion years ago). Their rippled surfaces revealed the nature of their formation in a prehistoric shallow sea during a time before mammalian life existed. After lunch, we returned to camp for a lesson on weather systems and watershed biodiversity before firing up the propane stoves for dinner.
On the second morning, we awoke to several inches of snow on our tents and we decided it best to hike out a day early. But before we left, we quickly trekked up to a nearby pass to learn about threats to the whitebark pine tree population at the Bob Marshall Wilderness boundary.
The stark, jagged peaks and tough, weather-worn pines and firs are a humbling sight under their dusting of snow in the high country and make for an unbeatable classroom. There are a lot of complicated land management issues in this seemingly pristine environment which the students will continue to ponder as we prepare for our trip into the Mission Valley this week.
Making fresh Salsa with Celeste for Agriculture and Sustainability class
Forest and Fire Ecology day with Maria Mantas
Upper Holland Lake
Walking to class
Meeting Smokey the puppy