With the end of the trimester here I felt it would be great to look back at an overnight trip we had earlier in the year. We decided it would be an amazing experience to take a school-wide overnight field trip to Mount St. Helens. With the primary and intermediate grades studying plants and animals, and the middle school studying geology, Mount St. Helens was the perfect place for hands on learning experiences as well as an opportunity for some community building.
All of the students started arriving on Wednesday, October 10th, with their backpacks, sleeping bags, and big smiles on their faces; and we knew this was going to be a fun challenge we couldn’t pass up. We were extremely lucky to have 70+ degree weather for the whole trip, with rare clear blue skies perfect for viewing Mount St. Helens. The primary and intermediate grades first went to the Johnston Ridge Observatory.
Johnston Ridge Ranger Talk
At the observatory, students learned about the destruction and regeneration of the park from some great ranger talks, exciting short films, and interpretive walks around the vast area of the national park. The middle school started their trip by going to Ape Caves, old walkable lava tubes allowing exploration of the amazing geology. From here the students could experience the size and power of Mount St. Helens. The middle school was also able to complete a hike which included a suspension bridge at Lava Canyon.
After the first day of events were over all classes met at Anderson Lodge to get settled into the boys and girls lodging. We devoured our meal together after our busy day of learning and wound down the day with some community building activities. Everybody retired for the night to get ready for another day of exploring.
Day two for the primary and intermediate classes was spent at the Trail Of Two Forests where students were able to take hikes around an area separated in age by 2000 years, but stand side by side. One forest side is a lush, old-growth Douglas-fir and western red-cedar ecosystem. The other side is a young forest originally engulfed and consumed by the lava flows from an eruption of Mount St. Helens more than two millennia ago. The trees from that ancient forest are gone, and all that remains are the imprints left by their burning hulks in the cooling lava. The lava solidified faster than the trees burned, and as a result there are hollow impressions of trees engulfed by the river of rock. The imprints of the trees are called lava casts and students were able to actually crawl through them in some places. After a short lunch at the park the primary and intermediate grades headed back home. The middle school headed to the Johnston Ridge Observatory for the day and got to experience the ranger talks, movies and trails that the other classes went on the first day.
Trail Of Two Forests
The overnight field trip was an overall amazing opportunity and really set the tone for the rest of the school year.