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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Youth Go Hiking – A Partnership between Seattle Parks and Recreation and Washington Wild

On Saturday, September 29, 2012 a group of energetic teens and their two trusty leaders arrived at the Ira Spring trailhead for the first ever Seattle Parks and Recreation Meadowbrook Teen Life Center-Washington Wild Youth Hike.  The parking lot was overflowing with other eager hikers and a large party of trail workers from Washington Trails Association and Volunteers for Outdoor Washington, but they still managed to find their Washington Wild counterparts, Interim Executive Director Nancy Osborn Nicholas and Volunteer Coordinator Christine Scheele.  Kevin J. Roberson, Recreation Specialist at the Meadowbrook Teen Life Center helped to forge this partnership, and leaders Glenn Hubbard,  Teen Development Leader, and Brittney Sims, Recreation Attendant, both from the Meadowbrook Teen Life Center were brave enough to lead the youth into the woods.  The sky was overcast and there was a light mist enveloping everything, which served to make the entire endeavor feel seriously adventurous.

After a short talk about Leave No Trace principles and learning the federal government’s definition of “wilderness,” we were on our way.  The youth took photos while they hiked, so I will let their pictures tell the story from here.

At the trailhead – looking fresh and ready to go.  The trail begins in a dense second (or third?) growth forest and enters the alpine zone, and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, after approximately 2 miles.

Trail break – rocks make great seats

Sisters go hiking!


Fall colors + amazing views + sunshine = why wild places in Washington are so amazing

Leader Glenn is a hiking blur

Nancy & Callie the dog enjoying the scenery and the exercise

Exposed talus slopes are an entirely different environment from the lush lowland forest the trail starts out in.  94% of designated wilderness in Washington’s National Forest lay in the alpine zone – high rock and ice-filled places with minimal tall trees.  Washington Wild is working to change this statistic.  The lower part of the Ira Spring trail is in the proposed Alpine Lakes Wilderness addition.

About one third of the way into the hike, the trail gets steep (not that the first third was flat… it wasn't flat at all).  Two of the teens were surprised to learn that they were hiking on the side of a mountain (Bandera) and, looking up, were even more surprised that they were “going up there.”  The trail crosses multiple slide areas that provide unobstructed views both up and down the mountain.  This can be awesome because the views are amazing, but it can also be intimidating because you can really see how far UP you still need to hike.
Getting down to Mason Lake (yup, you climb up and up, only to have to hike DOWN to get to the actual lake) by clambering over boulders was a new experience for some.  All participants, however, deemed arriving at Mason Lake to be worth the energy, sweat, and effort required to get there.

While at Mason Lake, we asked the group to record some of their thoughts about the hike on paper.  These are the responses we received:

At first, when I knew we were going up a mountain, I was like, “Oh HE§§ NO!”  But when I got here, I was like, “This is worth it!”

This was such a great experience.  It was very scenic and peaceful.  I feel very blessed to have come on this journey!  There is a distinct presence of serenity in the atmosphere near the lake.

All in all it was a beautiful, rewarding day in a special place with great company.  With only a few weeks left before the snow flies in the high country, I encourage all of you to explore Washington’s wild places and appreciate what a spectacular state we live in.

The mission of the Seattle Parks and Recreation Meadowbrook Teen Life Center is to provide a safe environment for youth to explore, learn and grow. We build programs year round that are a platform for youth voices, including programs with a specific focus on environmental appreciation.

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