Teen Naturalists

All posts tagged Teen Naturalists

By Carrie Scheick, Teen Naturalist Leader

The Delaware Nature Society Teen Naturalists have been out adventuring again!  At the end of October, we headed up into Pennsylvania to explore Wind Cave and the Conestoga Trail.  The cave is located about a half mile from the trailhead so we eagerly hiked this short distance, ready to explore the cave.  Steve Rombach  is one of the leaders of the Teen Naturalists, and being the only experienced caver in the group, went over safety rules and taught us about the 3-point rule, where you always need to have at least 3 points of contact between your body and the rocks.  From narrow hallways and turns, to places to duck under and crawl through, Wind Cave presented us with a number of different challenges which kept the adventure exciting.

Teen Naturalists in the cave.  Photo by Carrie Scheick

Teen Naturalists in the cave. Photo by Carrie Scheick

My personal favorite part of the cave was an area where you had to brace yourself between the rocks with your back up against one and your feet against the other.  We had to shuffle ourselves over to the other side while holding ourselves up about 8 feet in the air.

Caving is fun!  Photo by Steve Rombach

Caving is fun! Photo by Steve Rombach

For many of us on the trip, it was our first time caving.  Luckily, we enjoyed the experience.  Can you tell from our smiles.  Photo by Steve Rombach

For many of us on the trip, it was our first time caving. Luckily, we enjoyed the experience. Can you tell from our smiles. Photo by Steve Rombach

After caving, we hiked a bit further on the Conestoga Trail, a system of 63 total miles that partially runs along the susquehanna River.  We hiked along the river up to a rock outcrop called House Rock and spent some time enjoying the view.  The autumn colors and view of the Susquehanna made for a beautiful hike.

Our view of the Susquehanna River from House Rock.  Photo by Carrie Scheick

Our view of the Susquehanna River from House Rock. Photo by Carrie Scheick

 

So ends another fun, successful Teen Naturalist outing.  Photo by Steve Rombach

So ends another fun, successful Teen Naturalist outing. Photo by Steve Rombach

If you know someone who is 13 to 17 years old who likes to study nature, be outside exploring, and making friends that do the same thing, tell them about the Delaware Nature Society’s Teen Naturalist group.  Find information here about registering for the January through August season or call us at (302) 239-2334.

By Carrie Scheick, Teen Naturalist Leader/Teacher Naturalist

What better view is there than a beautiful river stretched out in front of you from the seat of a canoe? This is what the Teen Naturalists got to enjoy for a full week this August.

Jealous? Photo by Dan Kenney.

Jealous? Photo by Dan Kenney.

 Every summer the Delaware Nature Society’s Teen Naturalists gear up for a weeklong adventure. This year, the teens and leaders (“Canoe Man Dan” Kenney, Hannah Greenberg, and myself) headed up to northeastern Pennsylvania to paddle through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. This section of the Delaware River is generally slow and calm, with a few areas rated up to Class I rapids. The Delaware River is classified as a Wild and Scenic river and it definitely measured up to that classification.

We put in at Milford Beach eagerly wanting to get on the water. We had nothing but smiles on our faces as we paddled the 2 miles to Namanock Island, our first destination to camp for the night.

Happy Teens! Photo by Carrie Scheick.

Happy Teens! Photo by Carrie Scheick.

After the initial check of the campsite, we started unloading gear and noticed a Black Bear on the opposite shore.  This area is known for its sizable Black Bear population. We all were very excited for such a great wildlife sighting early in the trip. Cameras were out as we tried to capture the moment and observe this awesome animal. We were even more excited when the bear got into the water and was swimming around…until we realized he was swimming right towards us.

So what exactly do you do when a Black Bear swims towards you? Photo by Dan Kenney.

So what exactly do you do when a Black Bear swims towards you? Photo by Dan Kenney.

We quickly moved as far up shore of his projected landing site as we could.  We blew our whistles, thinking we would scare the bear because Black Bears usually spook easily. We successfully managed to scare this bear, but not to the point where he turned around to swim away from us, but to the point where he swam more frantically towards the island. We watched the bear scramble out of the water less than 100 feet from where we were standing and run up into our campsite and take off down the island. We ceased blowing our whistles and went to check the campsite for evidence of bears such as claw marks on trees or scat. We didn’t see any evidence, and decided to camp at this site despite the bear.  Thankfully, we didn’t have any other bear encounters that evening.

On Tuesday we paddled 12 miles from Namanock Island to Tom’s Creek. According to Hannah, we had a “peaceful, leisurely paddle on a beautiful river”. Some of us had a more leisurely paddle than others…

Paddling...leisure style.

Paddling…leisure style.

We spent the afternoon fishing and hanging out by the river, enjoying the time we had together in the wilderness.

One of the many fish we caught and released.  Photo by Carrie Scheick.

One of the many fish we caught and released. Photo by Carrie Scheick.

We paddled another 12 miles on Wednesday from Tom’s Creek to Tock’s Island . This day on the water was characterized by a lot of singing, and we paddled through the Walpack Bend, one of the prettiest stretches of the Delaware River. We took a break from paddling and got to (safely) goof around jumping off a large rock on the bank of the river. Check out these fun pictures!

We found a deep swimming hole and a high rock to leap into it.  Photos by Dan Kenney.

We found a deep swimming hole and a high rock to leap into it. Photos by Dan Kenney.

We mixed it up on Thursday and went for a hike in Worthington State Forest, NJ. We hiked a small portion of the Appalachian Trail to Sunfish Pond, a glacial lake that sits on top of the ridge overlooking the water gap.

Sunfish Pond view.  Photo by Hannah Greenberg

Sunfish Pond view. Photo by Hannah Greenberg

Highlights from the hike included picking and eating blueberries along the trail, exploring the pond bank and building rock sculptures, and seeing wildlife such as Northern Water Snakes,  Red Efts, and the largest Bullfrog I’ve ever seen!

We found rock sculptures along the Appalachian Trail.  Photo by Carrie Scheick

We found rock sculptures along the Appalachian Trail. Photo by Carrie Scheick

It stormed Thursday night, so we had the delight of packing up muddy, soggy gear the next morning. Despite the torrential downpour as we paddled to our take out at Kittatinny Point Access, our spirits remained high and the rain surprisingly subsided by the time we reached our take out. We loaded the canoes and gear and eagerly changed into dry clothes. We continued the Teen Naturalist tradition of eating at Five Guys on our way home. It was there we parted ways with Canoe Man Dan and the Water Gap, promising them both we would return soon for another great adventure.

Here we are...warm, dry, happy, and full after our 5-day adventure on the Delaware River.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Here we are…warm, dry, happy, and full after our 5-day adventure on the Delaware River. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

If you know someone who is 13 to 17 years old who would likes to study nature, be adventuring outside, and might like a trip such as this, tell them about the Delaware Nature Society’s Teen Naturalist group.  Find information here about registering for the 2013-2014 season.

Link “here” to: http://www.delawarenaturesociety.org/seasonal_progs.html

By Carrie Scheick, Environmental Education Intern, and Phylicia Schwartz, Teacher Naturalist

Carrie Scheick, co-author, overlooking the Adirondacks High Peaks from atop Mt. Marcy. Photo by Dave Pro

The high schoolers involved in the Delaware Nature Society’s Teen Naturalist group, a group that meets once a month for various outdoor activities and gives their time volunteering at DNS events, look forward to a weeklong adventure each summer. Earlier this month the fearless Teen Naturalists and leaders (Joe Sebastiani, Dave Pro, and the two of us) headed to upstate New York to backpack in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. In preparation for the grueling, steep trails of the Adirondacks, we battled hills (and gnats) during our day training hikes at Woodlawn Trustees Preserve and French Creek State Park the week before. Top physical and mental conditions are essential for the intensity of the Adirondack backcountry. Being able to actually climb the mountains is one thing, mentally telling yourself to keep putting one foot in front of the other when you feel spent is the other half the battle.

Our group assembled early Monday morning to load our packs and gear into the trailer. We all piled into the van to commence our very long drive to upstate New York. Our first stop once we arrived in Keene Valley was at the Mountaineer store to pick up bear barrels. Bear barrels are small, cylindrical barrels that fit in a backpack and are used to store food and “smellables,” anything that could attracts bears to a campsite. These are required for any overnights in the Adirondacks because the area is smack in the middle of black bear country. After unloading, repacking, and reloading our backpacks, we drove up to the Garden parking lot where we would leave the van and trailer to hit the trail. Unfortunately, upon our arrival at the Garden, the lot was full! Disappointed but relatively unphased, we put Plan B into action and camped at a local campground adjacent to the beautiful Chapel Pond. We figured we would have better luck with the parking lot the next morning.

The early morning sun reflecting Chapel Pond. Photo by Carrie Scheick

Tuesday morning we woke up with the sun, quickly packed up camp and drove back up to the Garden parking lot. After squeezing the van and trailer into open spaces, we laced up our hiking boots, hoisted our loaded packs on our backs, and eagerly set out following the yellow trail markers into the beautiful wilderness.

Our goal for the day was to establish a base camp; campsites were first come first serve, so we wanted to find the first available site and snatch it up. We knew that there were campsites near the Johns Brook Lodge (approximately 3.5 miles in) as well as other sites a couple miles past the lodge. We ended up hiking about 4.5 miles total from the Garden lot to what ended up being our home for the week; the boys commandeered the leanto (and quickly proceeded to spread out all their belongings) while the rest of us set up our tents.

A happy camper at Bushnell Falls Lean-to #1. Photo by Adam Carl

It was too late in the day after we set up camp and ate lunch to go for a day-hike, so we spent the afternoon exploring and swimming in the stream near our campsite. The evening was low key with our dinner menu consisting of boil-in-bag brown rice and a freeze dried meal to share with a buddy. After dinner we secured all our food in the bear barrels and we hiked a little ways back up the trail to drop them off for the night. As previously mentioned, the Adirondacks is home to black bears so it is important that we store our bear barrels and brush our teeth far away from our tents. After spitting our toothpaste out in various directions, we hung out until the sun dipped below the treeline and darkness settled. We crawled into our respective tents and leanto shortly after, needing our rest if we were to climb and conquer the tallest peak in New York State the following day.

Wednesday morning we woke early, eager and ready to climb Mt. Marcy, at 5,344 feet. After about a mile and a half, we realized the water filter and the first aid kit were sitting back at camp instead of embarking on our adventure with us. Thankfully we had some swift hikers on our trip (Dave Pro and Joe Cirillo) who knew how to motor, so they turned back to acquire the missing gear while the rest of us moved forward, knowing it wouldn’t be too long before they eventually caught up to us. (Which they did quite quickly!)

The trek up to the summit of Mt. Marcy was an intense hike, scrambling (and occasionally slipping) on the steep, rugged trails of tree roots and slick rocks. We schlepped through mud that squished under our boots and in many places it seemed as if we were simply hiking in a stream bed. Safety on the trail is really important, so we stuck together and took lots of rests as we climbed in elevation and the air became thinner.

Photo by Adam Carl

As we slowly rose in elevation, we saw changes in the vegetation as it shifted from the temperate deciduous forest we are used to in Delaware, to boreal forest, to the alpine zone. The boreal forest is characterized by coniferous forests and the dominant tree species shifted to spruce trees. We got to see a Boreal Chickadee which was really cool; this species has a brown head instead of the black head that distinguishes the Carolina Chickadees we usually see back home. The spruce trees slowly grew shorter as we neared the alpine zone, the high elevation habitat above the tree-line. The alpine zone is characterized by hard rock surfaces, small plants and a short growing season. It is extremely important to protect the alpine vegetation because it takes a long time to grow; it is imperative to only step on or place packs on hard, solid rock when you’re at these elevations (all you hikers reading this make a mental note!)

Stay on the trail and step on only rocks in the alpine zone. One footstep on an alpine plant can kill it. Photo by Carrie Scheick.

Once in the alpine zone, much of the trail became large, steep slabs of rock, requiring us to hone our rock climbing skills (little did we know we would need them even more the following day but more on that later…)

Trails go straight up in the Adirondacks sometimes. Photo by Adam Carl.

After what seemed like a long ascent, we finally reached the summit of Mt. Marcy, a whole 5,344ft high. It seemed like we were on top of the world, I mean we kind of were, just look at these views!

Mt. Marcy Summit. Photo by Adam Carl.

After spending what seemed like too short of a time on top the mountain, we began our descent. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent similarly to the day before with some much needed stream time after hiking over 8 miles. Before bed that night we had story time with Joe, who read us excerpts from a book that discussed the right way to, ahem, go to the bathroom in the woods. A thoroughly entertaining piece of literature.

Thursday was our longest and most challenging day of hiking. We did a loop of 9.5 miles and two mountains. We climbed Basin Mountain, 4,827ft in elevation and Saddleback Mountain with an elevation of 4,515ft. These mountains may not have been as high as Mt. Marcy but the climb was much more steep and intense. At one point during our climb near the top of Saddleback Mountain, we were scaling up rocks with not too much to hold on to and a long ways to fall! Talk about exhilarating!

We enjoyed a bit of lunch after summiting our second mountain of the day and then began our descent back to base camp. As we descended down the mountain we walked through a year-old landslide brought on by heavy rains from Hurricane Irene. It was amazing to see how little soil is on the mountainside and how trees and plant life are able to grow with such little support.

Landslide caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Photo by Adam Carl.

Friday morning we broke camp early and made great time back to the van; we were ready to head home. After eating freeze dried dinners and granola for a week straight, our stomachs were eager to eat some “real food,” so naturally we stopped at Five Guys on our ride back. As we pulled into the familiar parking lot of Ashland, relief spread through the van, knowing that mattresses and showers were shortly into our future. We all parted with smiles, satisfied that we enjoyed the time together that week, and knowing that we all survived the challenging but rewarding experience of hiking in the Adirondacks.

If you know someone who is 13 to 17 years old who would likes to study nature, be adventuring outside, and might like a trip such as this, tell them about the Delaware Nature Society’s Teen Naturalist group.  Find information here about registering for the 2012-2013 season.

By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

The Teen Naturalist club of the Delaware Nature Society ventured to the Appalachian Trail on Monday.  We hiked the famous Pinnacle loop, which is an 8.7-mile hike to one of the most scenic overlooks along the trail in Pennsylvania.  You have to stop to look, however, because if you take your eyes off the rocky trail, you are going to trip for sure!  It is a 5-hour hike, but we did it in 4 hours, even with a 20-minute search for a lost wallet. 

This overlook is called Pulpit Rock and at 1,560 feet in elevation. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

The Teen Naturalists learn how to hike safely in a group, stay together, and know how to have a good time.  Some of the slopes on this hike are steep, and the terrain is jagged and boulder-strewn in spots.  After the first few miles of the hike, in which you climb about 800 feet in elevation, the trail levels off and is easy.  You pass Pulpit Rock, then gradually ascend to the Pinnacle, which has an outstanding view of farmland in the valleys, the Kittatinny Ridge to your left, and the Reading Prong hill formation to your right.  You can see Allentown about 30 miles away in the distance.

 

Dave Pro, an experienced outdoorsman and the Ashland Land Steward for the Delaware Nature Society, is my co-leader for the Teen Naturalists. Dave conquered The Pinnacle and always has a great time with the kids in the group. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

 

The route down the mountain is a gradual slope along a bubbling, Rhododendron-lined clear stream.  Eastern Hemlock, the Pennsylvania state tree, line the creek as well.  Hemlocks in our region are seriously afflicted by exotic woolly adelgid insects, which weaken and kill the trees over time.  We did not see adelgids here, but the trees did not look as lush as they should and probably have been attacked by the adelgids in the past. 
 

The Pinnacle is a spectular location for lunch and a quick book break. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Teen Natuarlist adventures are a great way to get high schoolers outdoors, have fun, and learn about our environment.  The Delaware Nature Society takes great pride in the programs we offer for teenagers.  Know a teen?  Contact us if you think they would like the Teen Naturalists, Summer Camp Counseloring, or our Young Waterfowlers program.