14 participate in High Sierra Workshop
The idea of 14 teen-agers running loose in the wilderness brings about images of “Lord of the Flies,” but the U.S. Forest Service uses the concept as more of a living laboratory than a social experiment.
The High Sierra Resources Workshop, run by the Forest Service, is a week-long opportunity to teach a new generation how to respect the wilderness environment.
Steve Hale, supervisory natural resources specialist, said the emphasis is on a “leave-no-trace approach to utilizing the wilderness,” he said. “We teach them the proper way to clean up their food so it doesn’t affect wildlife or the water.”
The students spend eight days and nights in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness learning about the problems the water, wildlife and plants are facing.
Naomi Borowick, an 11th grader at Douglas High School was part of this year’s workshop in June.
“It changed the way I think about the area,” Naomi said. “It is a really pretty area, but now I know it is not as completely healthy as everyone thinks it is.”
Naomi said the experience made her think more about what she leaves behind when she visits the forest.
Hale called it a “carry-in, carry-out” philosophy.
The students were shown examples of good and bad camps to help reinforce the idea and they cooked their own “wilderness ranger dinner.”
The rangers help them prepare one-pot, highly-nutritious meals using backpacking stoves and dried food to reduce the impact on the campsite area.
“When they leave it is supposed to look the same as when they came in,” Hale said. “I think they remember it a lot longer when they see it rather than just hearing about it from someone.”
Participant Blake Hiller, 16, who will be an 11th grader this year at DHS, said he learned a lot about backpacking, something he really enjoys.
“I didn’t know how to take care of my garbage when camping,” he said. “I know a lot more about how to keep the wilderness the way it is.”
Kelly Mogab, 17, will be a 12th grader at Douglas this year and said she heard about the program through her teachers.
“It looked like fun. I wanted to learn about backpacking,” she said. “It was really fun. We slept in tents and we were outside morning to night.”
Kelly said the experience changed the way she thinks about her surrounding and her future.
“When you are outside, you just start looking at things you don’t notice before,” she said. “It opened up a lot of interests to me, a lot more stuff to study like bugs and plants.”
She said her favorite activity was the legend of the Soda Cone.
The Soda Cone is a geologic formation that looks like an upside-down ice cream cone formed by hundreds of thousands of years of mineral deposits left by a bubbling spring.
The Soda Cone has significance to the Native Americans, Hale said, and the students are asked to make up and act out their own legend of the Soda Cone.
“There is a spectacular view from the ridge it is on. The kids can see the river below and they are pretty impressed to be able to see where they will spend the next four days from a high vantage point,” Hale said.
Naomi said the experience was overall very positive – making new friends and learning so much – but it ended with her limping out on a sprained ankle.
“Three days before the end we were hiking, and on the way back, we had to jump over all these little streams, and I fell and sprained my ankle,” Naomi said.
Blake said his favorite part was the free time the students were allowed.
“We could do whatever we wanted and I was just running all over the place and jumping in the river,” he said.
Hale said the next year’s program always depends on the funding, but he thinks it is likely they will get what they need.
The curriculum is usually about the same, he said, because the students say they like it.
“We’re not going to change something that is meeting our goals,” he said.
This year the Bureau of Land Management became a partner and they provided land on the Silver Saddle Ranch as a base camp.
“It worked out wonderfully,” Hale said. “It was an easy-to-implement partnership and we appreciate the help they gave to the workshop this year.”
The Back Country Horsemen of Nevada, Sierra Chapter, helped pack all the equipment into and out of the wilderness and also provided a volunteer cook this year.
The program could not go on without these and other volunteers, he said.
“One of the indispensible partners are the volunteers and people who contribute money to help the kids with registration and with the operation of the workshop,” Hale said.
For more information and to get on the mailing list for the workshop, call Hale at the Forest Service, 882-2766, or call Chris Miller at the Bureau of Land Management, 885-6148.
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