Seasonal Transitions on Expedition
This week as our students explore the Lower Salmon River two hours north of campus and the Owyhee Canyonlands three hours to the south, I find myself with the less exciting task of taking care of logistics to make our expeditions run smoothly. This role has me traveling to diverse corners of Idaho, in a vivid representation of our students’ experience as they travel through distinct states, countries, and ecosystems.
The contrast between our distinct classrooms is perhaps best illustrated by my drive yesterday from a cold, snowy campus to a sunny, almost balmy Treasure Valley, where students were wrapping up their Wilderness First Aid course. We noticed the effects of that change as we hiked last week: students delighted in blooming flowers in the Owyhees, and topping out on a ridge at the end of our expedition revealed a herd of pronghorn antelope migrating from their winter to summer range.
These harbingers of seasonal environmental variation--what scientists call Phenology--allow our students to experience firsthand the natural cycles of the world around them, at a time when so much of our world is climate controlled and weatherproof. They allow our students to see the wild places we travel through not as a static backdrop but a living ecosystem; to build the basis for a connection to the natural world. As George Santayana advised, “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”