It was a beautiful day at Fire Tenders last Friday and a time of giving back!
Last Friday the Fire Tenders explored the amazing watershed of Shingle Mill Creek. Beginning at one of the highest points on Vashon, we delighted in the long grass of the field. Fire tenders could disappear in the tall grass by just laying down. Others explored for vole tunnels and nests. Walking out as a single file group into the tall grass we leave a trail and created a spiral that may be wondered at by others coming after us. There are so many ways to explore the landscape there we divided up into smaller groups.
Annika’s group took the lead down the trail. Their goal was the beach far below at the outlet of the creek at Fern Cove. This group of savvy adventures new that the tide was forecast to be super low and they knew there would be a great expanse of flat beach to explore. Salmon berries were a great temptation, slowing us down at every patch, but the determined group forged on and made it to the beach in record time. Now all was timeless unstructured exploration. Red sea worms, spiral foot paths, ospreys fishing in the Sound, herons hunting in the shallows.
Hawk took a group down the trail with the intention of finding ways to challenge ourselves physically, looking for opportunities to practice animal movements and parkour. As we got down to the creek we got to play on some unstable logs and a couple of folks took unexpected falls into the water. Jumping across the creek was the main fun activity. Traveling in this way made us feel like a coyote mixed with a monkey.
Ari’s group focused on looking and listening closely. They explored vole den corridors discovering latrines and pantries in an open field before heading down the trail. With particular interest paid to all native plants, the group delighted in Salmonberries in particular. The group collected the juicy berries and fresh shoots and popped them in their mouths. They also explored local trees and low lying bushes and ferns. Practicing sneaking, the team crept off trail and found new routes, taking on challenging and unexplored terrain. They played along the edges of creeks and gravel bars and sat to listen to the Language of the Birds. All were excited to explode out onto fern cove beach to find a super low tide.
Ted’s group was filled with Epic Storytelling. Do you know how the ridge along shingle mill was made? Do you know why the Oregon Grape is sometimes red? Do you know why the plants are so green? The answers actually might shock you. And in the realm of the physical, there were: Tunnels through the earth! Fish under logs! Orange goo hiding orange-brown frog! Mystery holes in alder trees! Crawling through sword ferns! Clear conversations and self-mediated conflict resolution! Beautiful sit spot on logs over the stream! Delicious salmon berry shoots! So much, so great. Eventually all made it to the calm and spacious beach. Who knows what mysteries they found there….. ?
It was a beautiful day on Saturday as the Forest Trackers met at Wrangler! Our morning began with a few different games including awareness-building “Flinch Master,” the fast moving “Foxtails,” and the altogether fun “Oh no! I’m Poop.”
After much play, the Forest Trackers met together to sing a song, speak out their gratitude, and share nature updates from the past month. When asked about signs they had noticed alerting them to the arrival spring, the Forest Trackers excitedly created a long list: new buds, daffodils, hatching turtles in Hawaii, nettle shoots, chickweed growth, more sun, and miner’s lettuce.
Ari told the story of the spring she became a turtle mother while rescuing eggs and doing research on snapping turtles in Acadia National Park, Maine. Excited to continue searching for signs of spring, the Forest Trackers split into choice based groups. Steph led a native plant wander. Her clan stopped to observe, sketch, and learn new species. All members of the group made it down the to beach and back-up–an awesome and challenging trek that provided great views through a variety of forest habitat
The remaining Forest Trackers learned about essentials to survival and the importance of making shelters when lost. We traveled about to find a good shelter site with an abundant supply of sticks and leaves and split into four groups to create. The Forest Trackers began by building a skeleton made of a long ridge pole with many rib sticks. One group experimented with their design using stumps than Y-sticks to prop their ridgepole off the ground. Another group used two ridge poles to create a wide shelter that five people could sit under, and one group choose to build a shelter in a tree. With a strong foundation set, the teams interlaced hemlock whispies and downed branches, and began piling up leaves. Debris is important in creating a shelter that is warm and dry. Leaves, pine needles, and sticks provide dead air space for body heat to get trapped and keep all inside warm. The tight debris huts were built to keep two to five people warm and dry and needed over two feet of leaves to get the job done. The students pulled together to collect all they could while still taking moments to snack, talk, have fun, and notice signs of spring.
At the end of our day, all the students climbed into their shelters to endure a “rainstorm”. Over two water bottles were poured on the debris shelter and not a single head, toe, body, or nose got wet! The clans came back together to share skits and play a final game of Nutty Squirrel.
We hope your Forest Tracker had a great day exploring.