Sunday, November 15, 2009

Expedition Yellowstone

Beavers one,
Beavers all,
Lets all do the Beaver Call,
Ch ch ch, ch ch ch, ch ch ch, ch ch ch,

Beavers two,
Beavers three,
Lets all climb the beaver tree,
Ch ch ch, ch ch ch, ch ch ch, ch ch ch,

. . .

With crazy songs running through our heads, a filthy car, backpacks full of sleeping bags, binoculars, wool socks, ski pants, and under armor to unpack, and laundry to last a week, Mama Elk of the Elk clan and Ladybug of the Bear clan are home and recuperating from a wild week on Expedition Yellowstone. We lived in the park for a week and experienced the park as few ever do.

Was it worth it?


We left the school at 4:00 a.m. for what turned out to be a 12 hour trip to the northern entrance in Montana. Everyone slept but the driver. Grrrrr.

We were assigned into clans and responsibilities. Brandon Dawson, standing over the elk scat, was my extremely competent and fun partner in leadership. He had the boys up and working before I ever arrived with the girls at 6:00 a.m. for our clans clean up or cooking responsibilities. Oh, did you know that scat in a tight pile indicates an animal sleeping and a messier pile is from a grazing animal?

Rangers Mel and Michael teach the children in a week what normally would be a half year unit. Armed with laser temperature guns and ph kits the kids scour the thermal features to learn for themselves about the microbes, geyserite, limestone, travertine, and the chemical reactions that take place in this unique environment.

We hike in the back country to learn about ecology.

Activities teach about habitats and food chains. Elk and habitat face off, habitats choosing to be food, water or shelter. Two wolves prowl the periphery to pick off the old or weak elk. We learn how loss of habitat, not predators is responsible for population drops. We found wolf kill to examine and clues that teach everywhere. Can you find evidence of bear activity over 6 1/2 feet up?

One day, ranger Michael let us use scientific equipment to locate an abandoned wolf collar.

Another day, we discovered an ancient wikiup and tepee ring from the Sheep Eaters tribe that used to spend time in Yellowstone.

On another plain, we found the remnants of the cavalry's shooting range from when they were in charge of the park in the late 1800s.

The girls learned to do the wilderness wiggle out of doors without proper toilet paper, and with all our layers, this was quite the feat!

Late at night the girls gathered in my room for giggles. I taught tricks to survive an attack of Baby, if you love me and brought plastic cups for rounds of Parley vous France. I'm not sure about playing truth or dare with your daughter. Ladybug had to tell about her latest crush, I had to sneeze on the eggs at breakfast then pick it out, Taylor had to sing love songs to Sean at breakfast, Jocelyn had to sneak into Ms. Valerie's room to tuck her in, and Ms. Kristen had to ask a male chaperone to help her with the stuck zipper on her ski pants. That was all fine and good, BUT, I hated learning about Ladybug's crush. I was devastated and couldn't sleep that night. Moms shouldn't know everything that goes on in their kids lives. PRIVACY people!!!

We ended with a campfire... indoors, since it was a blizzard outside. After performing the skits that I DISLIKE, tears, gratitude from the kids, and feelings were shared.

Was it worth it? Well, I wish every kid could attend Expedition Yellowstone. I'd love it too, if I weren't a parent, thinking parent thoughts like, "why is my kid doing that?" and "I need to do a better job with _____" etc. etc.


  1. What a neat experience to share with Ladybug! Being the parent is hard, sometimes I would like to forget about the parenting thoughts and just be a kid.

  2. What an awesome adventure! We went to Yellowstone for a 3 day field trip when I was in 6th grade and it was something I'll never forget. I brought my grandma with me and we had so much fun! I'm sure Ladybug had a great time and enjoyed her time with you! :)