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Back From Beyond

Finally the time has come!! This past weekend I was able to take my Mountain Field Studies students out into the Lost Creek Wilderness. Lets face it, sitting in a classroom trying to explain the outdoors is a bit silly, but all of the background info had been covered (somewhat) and now was time for us to get field experience time.

We chose Lost Creek Wilderness due to the accessibility as well as the great biodiversity. Another great feature is the fact that the actual access point we used, the Goose Creek trailhead takes us through a section of the Haymen Burn which holds the title of Colorado’s largest burning a total of 138,000 acres.

The Goose Creek TH is approximately 1.5 hours northwest of Colorado Springs, CO. With ample parking and a variety of great trails this is definitely a place to go whether you are looking for a multi-day adventure or a simple out and back day hike. For the class we chose a short hike of just over a mile that took us to a great site next to Goose Creek. Another nice thing about this area is there is no shortage of great flat camp spots which are well respected and were void of trash for the most part. I kinda think that the drive dissuades most weekend warriors that could care less about the wilderness from making the trip. Which is really nice because if you camp much closer to Colorado Springs you tend to be overwhelmed with the trash strewn carelessly about the forest!

As I mentioned before this trip was the final field experience for the Mountain Field Studies class I teach as part of the Adventure Guide program at Pikes Peak Community College. The great thing about this particular program is there is no shortage of eager passionate students willing to soak in the information. Which is more than I can say about most students involved in other programs such as math, or economics!! One of the great benefits of this class is the open forum style where I will lay down the basic information concerning the area of discussion then I require the students to choose a subject they are interested in and build a block of instruction for the field experience. Among the subjects covered were flora and fauna, temperature and elevation, land navigation and route finding, water sources and filtration, and geology. I am a;ways excited to get into the field because then I can truly assess the students understanding of the subject matter as well as the undeniable fact that I usually end up learning a bit as well!

As far as the camping went, there were the usually hiccups such as ill-fitting gear and way way too much stuff (one guy hauled in a sixer of mountain dew…seriously) needless to say he was tired since in addition to the dews he had a full sized frying pan, electric lamp 4 man tent and a folding chair!!! And yes I recommended he leave some of the items behind but alas this is what it is all about, we live and we learn.

Once we got everyone situated we start the mild hike by dropping through a burned section if the Hayman Burn down to the rapidly flowing Goose Creek. Once down by the river we were able to skirt the creek and really start to feel the forest envelop us. Through the pines and birch we trekked shaded from the sun and cooled by the bubbling creek I immediately knew this was going to be a good time. After all how could it not be? WE WERE CAMPING!!!

pasqueThis time of year is is always nice to get out along these banks for the variety of flowers in bloom, the Pasque flower and wild strawberries were in full effect! Once we chose our site we quickly went to task of setting up camp which included our tent sites and breaking down our camp chores. Fortunately all of the students were eager and excited and I never once heard any griping about fetching water or cleaning the dishes.

After all camp chores had been accomplished we had a brief presentation about the area and water then we were able to set off to explore on our own. Some of the students opted to get the fire going which was a blessing because the clouds were starting to roll in and there was definitely a nip in the air.  Others chose to explore the creek searching for the elusive brookies while others relaxed and simply enjoyed life in the woods!!

The rest of the evening was uneventful as the students collaborated and made a pretty fantastic dinner consisting of ramen, instant potatoes, chicken and cheese. With bellies full we all retired to our tents and I for one enjoyed and outstanding night in the woods.

yummy camp coffee!!Saturday came on late, I allowed the students to sleep in since there was really no reason to hasten their waking until the sun crested the ridge to our east, otherwise I would have a bunch of cold grumpy people on my hands! After my morning cup o joe I was ready for some blueberry pancakes to which I have to say the Krusteaz Blueberry pancake mix is the best (just add water)! After we enjoyed our warm breakfast, we cleaned up the camp site and headed off to make a push for the top of Harmonica Arch. Once atop this grand blob of pikes peak granite our efforts were rewarded with views down the valley to our south of Pikes Peak and to the north the continuation of the magnificent Lost Creek Wilderness.While on top of the granite formation we were able to look down through Harmonica Arch into the valley below. I am fairly certain this was the most enjoyable single aspect of the hike, because none of the students had been to this area and to be able to soak it in from 1000′ higher than our camp was pretty impressive and allowed us to appreciate this phenomenal wilderness area.

After the hike we headed back into camp for a late lunch and prepared for the rest of the presentations. And believe it or not I actually think some of the students really got into some of the tasks especially the tree identification. I am not certain what my favorite part of these trips are but I do love to see the spark of wonderment and self satisfaction when minds are opened to our amazing surroundings!

Enjoy these pictures I took during the trip and as the students send me more I will be sure and add them as well.

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