Lifestyle

Braving the mountain: Langley Middle Schoolers go on a winter wilderness adventure

Robert Martin, Langley Middle School 7th-grader, learns about the insulating warmth of snow. Martin and Olin Bergquist were the only two students to brave the freezing temperatures to sleep all night in a snow cave, or quinzhee. - Photos courtesy of Nels Bergquist
Robert Martin, Langley Middle School 7th-grader, learns about the insulating warmth of snow. Martin and Olin Bergquist were the only two students to brave the freezing temperatures to sleep all night in a snow cave, or quinzhee.
— image credit: Photos courtesy of Nels Bergquist

Nineteen seventh-graders from Langley Middle School headed east to Montana last month for a wilderness adventure that included building snow caves, trekking through snow wearing snowshoes and dining on wild elk.

After the four-day trip to Glacier National Park aboard Amtrak, the seventh-grade Adventure Education students agree it is their favorite class, and Nels Bergquist is definitely one of their favorite teachers. Bergquist and several adults accompanied the students on the trip in January.

The students stayed at the park and took classes about wildlife in winter, fire ecology and snow science taught by staff at the Big Creek Outdoor Education center.

Students attended two three-hour classes per day.

“The better part of each day was spent outdoors on snowshoes,” Bergquist said.

As part of the snow science class, the students built snow caves or “quinzhees,” and learned about wilderness survival.

“That night about 80 percent of the 19 started the night in the quinzhee, only two students slept all night in their caves. The cold sent the others back to their cabins about 3 a.m.,” Bergquist said.

The two students who toughed out the below freezing temperatures were Robert Martin and Olin Bergquist.

“They actually braved the subfreezing Montana temperatures,” Bergquist said.

Although most students didn’t sleep all night in their caves, an important part of the class was actually building one.

“My favorite part of the entire trip was building the snow cave. When it was finished it was a good feeling of accomplishment,” said Seth Sobottka.

“You have to build it right or else it won’t provide shelter from the cold,” he said.

“I liked the snowshoeing, too. It was hard at first, but walking above the snow kept our feet warm,” Sobottka added.

Kelsey Taylor agreed that building the quinzhee was the most fun.

But she learned something else.

“I can take care of myself in the wilderness,” Taylor said.

Just as important as the science on this trip was the social learning. Students had to get along and function as a group.

“We did group challenges that were hard, but they turned out fun,” Sobottka said.

They were even served elk that one of the instructors at the center had shot with a bow and arrow.

“I liked it. It tasted better than steak,” Sobottka said.

“Overall, I thought the trip was a great experience,” he said.

On Jan. 9, the students and chaperones headed for Glacier National Park aboard an Amtrak train. They boarded the train in Everett and pulled out about 6 p.m., arriving at West Glacier at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. The trip back was a reverse, boarding in the evening at West Glacier and arriving at 9:30 a.m. in Everett on Friday, Jan. 13. They finished the day back at LMS.

“Train travel was a new experience for most students. The dining car was kept busy with groups of students taking advantage of hot meals,” Bergquist said. “Students used the tables in the sleeping car to finish homework assignments for their math and English classes.”

“They entertained themselves by socializing, viewing the snow-covered landscape, playing cards and listening to their iPods, and even watching portable DVD players,” Bergquist said.

Sleeping on the train was a challenge.

Students had to get creative in an attempt to catch some winks. They took out sleeping bags and pillows and tried to sleep in reclined seats, on the floor or across several seats.

“There was very little sleep on the way to Glacier. I think they were too excited. But it was a different story on the way home though,” Bergquist said.

“Students just stretched out everywhere and slept. I think they were dog tired from the adventure,” their teacher said.

It’s not the first big outdoor adventure for the class. This class also traveled to Olympic National Park last semester.

And this spring, Bergquist is taking another Adventure Education class on a backpacking trip to the Los Padres National Forest.

The Adventure Education program was founded in 1992 by LMS teachers Chris Burt and Charlie Davies, who both shared a passion for sailing. Previous classes have taken sailing trips that included camping in the San Juan Islands.

The trips are funded by the parents and students.

“I credit the parents’ desire to send their children on theses wilderness trips. They are really supportive,” Bergquist said.

“But we could use some donations. We need new equipment for the program in the worst way,” Bergquist said.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Oct 25 edition online now. Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates