Students from Klickitat and Glenwood schools attended Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School at Brooks Memorial State Park last week on May 15-17.

Teachers and staff delivered 70-plus campers to Brooks for the two-night, three-day outdoor school. The camp was made possible by a No Child Left Inside grant received by the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute from Washington State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office. Laurie Wilhite, camp facilitator, and Bill Weiler wrote the $72,000 grant for Klickitat County students which funded five separate camps.

All camps have been held at Brooks State Park which is located 13 miles north of Goldendale on State Route 97. The log cabin style lodge and adjacent cabins sleep 72 campers. It was a full house last week as the two schools came together for Pathfinder Adventures.

The campers rotated through eight outdoor sessions at Brooks in the mornings and participated in a wide variety of recreational options in the afternoons. Session topics included: Hiking for Health, Watersheds & Recycling, Animals & the Food Chain, Search & Rescue Strategies, Global Position Systems (GPS) & Orienteering, SECRETS of the Shrub-Steppe Environment, Nature Leathercraft projects, and Science, Technology, Recreation, Engineering, Art, and Math (STREAM) macroinvertebrate identification. Recreation time was also offered each day which included hiking, leathercraft, art, field sports, and photography.

Elaine Harvey from the Yakama Nation led campers on an ethnobotany hike to examine the native plants at Brooks. The students learn-ed about the traditional uses of plants found at Brooks which is also home to wildflowers this time of year including Lady Slipper lilies, Balsam Root, and Lupine.

On Wednesday night, Troy Carpenter from the Goldendale Observatory, and with Washington State Parks presented an astronomy program to the kids at Brooks. Carpenter engaged campers with a discussion about black holes and even brought a copy of the first photo ever taken of a black hole in space. As the heavy rain last week prevented campers from being able to study the very dark night sky at Brooks, they continued to learn about the planets, Milky Way, and Sun through posters purchased with a grant from the Mid-Columbia Economic Development Council and chosen by Carpenter.

Students followed up with astronomy education by completing a fact scavenger hunt from the posters on the walls of the lodge. Students who completed the task got their name put in a drawing for a glow in the dark Goldendale Observatory t-shirt and a dozen students earned a shirt.

The Washington State Parks Recreation Commission visited the Pathfinder Adventures camp on Thursday afternoon. Their first stop was the leathercraft station where campers taught the adults how to create a leather bookmark or coaster stamped with nature designs. The Commissioners had been in the area meeting at the Klickitat Community Center and touring area Washington State Parks. The group meets six times a year around the Washington State to get a first-hand experience by observing various park locations.

After the leathercraft session, the Washington State Parks Commission and parks staff joined campers for dinner in the lodge. Presentations were made before dinner by leaders of the field trips to area state parks scheduled for Friday. The field trip options were outdoor cooking with Cindy Brown and outdoor painting at Maryhill State Park. Local artists volunteered to teach students how to use acrylic paint on canvas to create landscape painting. The art volunteers included Charlotte VanZant-King, Margaret Burkhart, Barb Patterson, Pat Horn, and Pat Walker. Donations of art supplies, easels, and paint brushes were made by Pat Walker for the field trip.

Another field trip option to a Washington State Park included fishing at Horse-thief Lake and a Petroglyph hike up the trail to see the famous “She Who Watches.” This trip was hosted by the Klickitat Chapter of Trout Unlimited and volunteers helped bait hooks and cast rods. Several campers caught fish including a large rainbow trout and a small mouth bass. Brock Warner of Washington State Parks at Horsethief led the interpretive hike and provided a historical perspective regarding geology, Celilo Falls, and The Dalles Dam.

Friday field trip options also included a hike with GPS units at The Dalles Mountain Ranch to investigate the shrub-steppe habitat. The hike was led by Abby Brandt, Klickitat County 4-H, and Anna Wagner from the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute. Students studied the flora and fauna at The Dalles Mountain Ranch which is part of the Columbia Hills State Park.

During Thursday’s dinner, the Washington State Parks Commissioners and their spouses mingled with campers and other guests. Barbara Robinson from the Klickitat Trail Conservancy and Dan Bell from Friends of the Gorge also joined in on the leathercraft session and stayed for dinner.

On Thursday night, Ralph Kiona from the Yakama Nation donated enough Chinook salmon for 100 camp-ers and guests to add to the camp dinner. He prepared the salmon in his traditional way next to the lodge and spoke to the group at dinner about the importance of volunteering and career opportunities in the trades.     

A stewardship session was offered Thursday afternoon which included planting trees along the East Prong of the Little Klickitat River which runs past the lodge. Students had a choice of one of two stewardship activities. The planting session was sponsored by the Underwood Conservation District and serves to improve the riparian area at Brooks. The other stewardship activity was building a birdhouse that the students could take home or donate back to be mounted in the forest at Brooks.

Glenwood teacher Justin McWethy led an energetic campfire with skits and singing on Thursday night. McWethy teaches science and wood shop in Glenwood and he also helped campers build a bird house during the stewardship session. Pat Patterson also volunteered to help students construct the bird houses to take home with them after camp.

The goals of the No Child Left Inside grant include both outdoor conservation education and increased awareness of area Washington State Parks.

On Friday of each camp, students climbed aboard a school bus with a sack lunch, new water bottle, and headed out on an adventure field trip to an area Washington State Park. Charis Weis, Ginger Remington, and a team of health professionals worked together with Laurie Wilhite to plan the menu. Betty McKune served as head cook and was assisted by Martha Parsons, Pat Shamek, Charlie Kelley, and Brynn Dawson.

The No Child Left Inside grant from Washington State Parks has funded four Path-finder Adventure camps for Klickitat County youth so far this school year. Students from Centerville, Wishram, Lyle, and Goldendale attended Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School in September. The last camp will be held at Brooks on June 3-7 and will host 112 sixth graders from White Salmon. This camp will be held through a partnership with the White Salmon School District. Bringing students to Brooks for outdoor school has been a tradition of White Salmon and this year’s group will be led by instructor Kelly Sullivan.

Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School could not happen without these communities and volunteers coming together to provide a quality outdoor education program for our Klickitat County youth. Over 60 mentors, governmental agency representatives, nonprofit guest speakers, and volunteers have worked together to make this No Child Left Inside grant project a success.

Klickitat County students have gained outdoor skills and a better understanding of both themselves and the area in which we live. For more information contact Laurie Wilhite, Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute, at 509-941-9979.

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