SOLE-Ful Seven Series: An Interview with Erik Olson

img_4549Erik lives in Sandpoint with his wife and 2 kids, a daughter in 1st grade and a son in 2nd. As an active member of this community, Erik is Principal of Farmin Stidwell Elementary School (where all the 5th graders go to SnowSchool) and has been a member of SOLE’s board for a couple years with a strong passion for the outdoors.

 

MW: What brought you to SOLE?
EO: I moved here from Greenbay, Wisconsin, and I grew up where NOLS is (Lander, Wyoming). We used to call them NOLS-ys; they were the tree huggers! When I was asked by Joy to be a part of SOLE, strictly because I was part of the school community, I was staggered by the amount of kids who had never been on Schweitzer, so giving that opportunity to the kids was awesome. It’s interesting too that SOLE has this unique opportunity to give this to the kids, and I like seeing the level of engagement that our kids had with SnowSchool.

MW: What is your favorite part of being in this community? (Sandpoint/N. ID)
EO: I grew up in the outdoors, in the Windriver Range near Lander, WY, and I had outdoor opportunities growing up. I would drive up the mountain and ride my mountain bike whenever I wanted, but the mountains weren’t right there; you had to drive 2 hours to get to them. So I decided with my wife and kids that we wanted to be where we had the opportunities that are available here and now we take advantage as much as we can.

img_4376MW: What is your favorite Outdoor Experience? Most memorable?
EO: I have two, I was the tripping director at a YMCA camp and I was in charge of the offsite trips. Through that experience we had a lot of foreign staffers and I connected with this fellow from Australia, a crazy Australian climber. I was pretty into climbing at the time and growing up in Lander, it was a huge climbing community. He wanted to go climbing and so we road tripped and drove to Devil’s Tower. We slept in my car and then climbed it. It’s technical climbing but I trusted him so much; it took us about 6 hours to climb, 8 hours total. It was a huge experience that I just loved.
The other one was I was involved in scouting, and we had a great, active Boy Scout group. Our leader would give us so many opportunities to go on hikes. I was young, and I had the opportunity to go The Boundary Waters, and it was awesome. We canoed forever.

MW: What is your passion in the outdoors? Favorite recreational activity?
EO: I like it all! Moving here I definitely have taken up skiing, my family we weren’t really avid skiers but took it up. I do a lot of trail running, and from time to time mountain biking. In WY it is cold so in the winter we hunker down, so it’s a nice change of pace. The whole family skis now!

MW: What are you most excited for this season?
EO: I definitely love the SnowSchool piece, I am glad the district is picking up those loose ends because it has been so positive in this community and for those kids. I love that SOLE is getting exposure not only in this community nationally and beyond (because of our film SnowSchool: Exploring our Winter Wildlands being selected as a finalist in the Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Festival)

img_4645MW: What has been your favorite SOLE experience so far?
EO: Picking up trash! Kidding. No, my kids have been in the Junior Naturalist Program for a couple summers, and when they come home from that experience they want to go back. My daughter was 5 and she didn’t want to go, but after three days she wanted more, and ended up going to the week long program later.
I also love the Backcountry Film Festival. It’s a good chance to expose SOLE and its mission to the public.

MW: Do you have a favorite Deschutes beer? Which one and why?
EO: Mirror Pond Pale Ale is pretty good. Inversion. Fresh Squeezed. It’s all good! I am an IPA guy, so any IPA I am good with.

 

Get to know Erik and the other board members at our SOLE-Ful Meet & Greet: A Pre-Backcountry Film Festival Event. It will be a great opportunity to see what SOLE has lined up for the winter, a chance at a ‘sneak peak’ of our film SnowSchool: Exploring our Winter Wildlands (to be featured in the international Backcountry Film Festival), as well as a look into the phenomenal silent auction and raffle prizes, all while enjoying some tasty brews from Deschutes Brewery. See you there!

 

Maegan Ward
Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexperiences.org

SOLE-Ful Seven Series: An Interview with Mary Weber-Quinn

dmarshall_pafeboard2016_dsc_5618Mary has her Masters in Interpretation and after some stints in the National Park Service and Rocky Mountain Academy, Mary now works up at Schweitzer Mountain Resort as the Director of Events and Activities. She has three daughters who grew up skiing at Schweitzer and still live here. Although new to SOLE’s Board of Directors, she has lived in Sandpoint for over 20 years and feels strongly that getting kids outside is vital for their emotional and physical well-being. Mary is passionate about providing opportunities for kids to “use winter” and believes that SOLE has the expertise to show them how.

 

MW: What brought you to SOLE?
MWQ: SOLE came to me. I met Dennison through SnowSchool at Schweitzer and talked a lot and worked together on a plan to bring SOLE up to the mountain. I worked with experiential education in the past and worked with Clark Fork, so it was really appealing to work with SOLE. I appreciate what they do and have an understanding for what they do and I just really wanted to help out.

MW: What is your favorite part of being in this community? (Sandpoint/N. ID)
MWQ: Friends and family; it’s the wonderful people that I know here and it is a great place to raise my kids; they are still living here. I like the recreational aspect of this community. Essentially, I like the “vibe”. There is not one thing that stands out.

MW: What is your favorite outdoor experience? Most memorable?
MWQ: When my kids were little they couldn’t ski all day, and we would have picnics just barely out of bounds up at Schweitzer. We would just stomp out an area right past the rope and have a picnic, it seemed so far out in the backcountry, but it wasn’t. Now it’s in bounds near Stella. It was just really cool, and some good memories.

MW: What is your passion in the outdoors? Favorite recreational activity?
MWQ: My passion is peacefulness; it is a place where everything is quiet. I don’t have to do anything, I can just be. I can go for a long hike if I want to but I don’t have to. It is the peacefulness of being. My answer would have been different 30 years ago. If I want to be skiing I would love it, or hiking but I don’t have to be driven to do or accomplish something I can just be.

MW: What are you most excited for this season?
MWQ: Skiing again! I haven’t skied in a year. I haven’t really skied in about two years, because I had my knee replaced so I am going to re-learn. I am excited to see if I can ski; I just got some new backcountry skis. I will probably just go out in that and then move onto alpine gear.

MW: What has been your favorite SOLE experience so far?
MWQ: Going to Colburn Lake with the Clark Fork kids. The kids were great and the lake is a special place. We hiked out so they could see what the lake was like.

MW: Do you have a favorite Deschutes beer? Which one and why?
MWQ: Fresh Squeezed because it’s light and hoppy.

Get to know Mary and the other board members at our SOLE-Ful Meet & Greet: A Pre-Backcountry Film Festival Event. It will be a great opportunity to see what SOLE has lined up for the winter, a chance at a sneak peak into the phenomenal silent auction and raffle prizes, as well as enjoy some tasty brews from Deschutes Brewery. See you there!

 

Version 2Maegan Ward
Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexperiences.org

SOLE-Ful Seven Series: An Interview with Dr. Joy Jansen

joy1Joy Jansen has her PhD in education with a focus on neuropsychological deficiencies. She is the Chair of SOLE, and lives outside of Sandpoint with her husband Dennison and their son, Hunter. Joy is very passionate about the work that SOLE is doing and the positive impact it has and can have on this community.

 

MW: What brought you to SOLE?
JJ: I have been a part of SOLE since the beginning, as Dennison is my husband. One of the reasons I am such an integral part of SOLE is because of the awareness and understanding of how important experiential and outdoor education is to the learning process. Experiential education ignites all areas of the brain. Through the engagement of all eight senses, all 5 memory pathways are engaged and thus, provides a natural avenue for the learning of new information and the retrieval of learned information. In addition, experiential education provides the opportunity for executive functioning skills to be practiced.

MW: What is your favorite part of being in this community? (Sandpoint)
JJ: The access to the outdoors for both recreation and education. It is a special place. I love the drive over the Long Bridge; it’s like crossing into a fairyland. Sandpoint also has very progressive community in a very rural place. Sandpoint is a place that understands and supports the importance of educating our youth.

joy2MW: What is your favorite Outdoor Experience? Most memorable?
JJ: I have had a lot, probably floating the Grand Canyon is one of my most memorable. It was my gift to myself for completing my doctorate. I love just being on the river. There is so much mysticism about floating the river, and there is definitely an energy down there. The canyon is a powerful place.

MW: What is your passion in the outdoors? Favorite recreational activity?
JJ: Floating the rivers. Water is very important element; it’s an essential element. I have a lot of respect for the water and for the rivers. It’s soul cleansing in a sense. And I love to climb, I always say it’s, “dancing with the rocks”. A tower climb in Utah was my first ever over 100-foot assent.

MW: What are you most excited for this season?
JJ: I am excited for the kids to get out on the snow; It is a great opportunity. Each year SOLE provides an experience for students that they may not have otherwise. It’s about helping students understanding the systems around them and how impacts them personally.

MW: What has been your favorite SOLE experience so far?
JJ: The Journey Experience. Building that curriculum, implementing that and seeing the direct benefits that we provided.

MW: Do you have a favorite Deschutes beer? Which one and why?
JJ: Unfortunately, I can’t drink beer.

1MW: Anything else you want to include in the blog? You want the community to know?
JJ: I think it is important to note the number of participants that have experienced SOLE.  Since inception SOLE has taught well-over 1200 students in only the 4 years of year-round programing. As such, SOLE has continued to ‘reach and teach’, and as a result, become a viable member of this community due to the intentional and transformational experiential education programming and services that we offer.  The experiential education programming that SOLE offers is not only needed in this community, but it is essential.   Words that come to mind when considering SOLE’s approach to experiential and outdoor education are – quality, intentional, and professional.  In fact, there is no other organization in Sandpoint that has the level of expertise that SOLE has.

Get to know Joy and the other board members at our SOLE-Ful Meet & Greet: A Pre-Backcountry Film Festival Event. It will be a great opportunity to see what SOLE has lined up for the winter, a chance at a ‘sneak peak’ of our film SnowSchool (to be featured in the international Backcountry Film Festival), as well as a look into the phenomenal silent auction and raffle prizes, all while enjoying some tasty brews from Deschutes Brewery. See you there!

 

Maegan Ward
Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexperiences.org

SOLE-Ful Seven Series: An Interview with Sadie Green

sadie_1In the third interview of our Sole-Ful Seven Series, we have Sadie Green, the Secretary of SOLE and a seasoned board member. She is a social worker who moved to the area from West Virginia a few years ago, and lives with her boyfriend and dog Ruuko.

 

MW: What brought you to SOLE?
SG: Basically, I have been around SOLE for a couple years. I went to a lot of the events, and I believe in what they do. They are good at what they do and that made me want to be a part of it. I’ve worked in some programs where I implemented outdoor activities and it has always been in my mentality, being involved outside.

MW: What is your favorite part of being in this community? (Sandpoint)
SG: Definitely all of the outdoor activities that are so readily available in all of the seasons. There is not a time when there is not something to do outside.

MW: What is your favorite Outdoor Experience? Most memorable?
SG: I did a week long horseback camping trip in Wyoming just outside of Yellowstone. It was fun having the horses and riding. Where my we camped (my Mom and two sisters) it was in this high meadow at like 6000 feet way up in the mountains. It was just barely over a mountain from Yellowstone. It was so peaceful. There was a stream running right through it. It was warm during the day and cooler at night, which made it perfect to warm up next to a fire. It was just fun, my sisters and I started quoting all of the cowboy movies we had seen, and tried to guess which movie the quote was from. It was fun campfire stuff like that which made the trip.

MW: What is your passion in the outdoors? Favorite recreational activity?
SG: Mostly I like hiking. Just being places, seeing new things, and seeing cool stuff. I also ski, canoe and swim. Just at water, by water, anything at the lake or something that I can bring my dog Ruuko to.

MW: What are you most excited for this season?
SG: Every year, I am just really excited to see the impact that SOLE has on the community, and each year it just seems to be greater than the year before. I also like to hear people talking about SOLE who don’t know that I am involved; it’s cool to hear the impact it has.

sadie_2MW: What has been your favorite SOLE experience so far?
SG: The Backcountry Film Festival is really fun. But another experience is when we first moved here, my boyfriend hurt his knee. This was when I first met Dennison, and I was so bummed because I didn’t have anybody to go with me (in the outdoors), so I did a LNT (Leave no Trace) hike to Harrison Lake and that was really fun. It was just a group of people going out, and I didn’t know anybody. Dennison made it a really good hike. That really showed me that SOLE really knows what they are doing.

MW: Do you have a favorite Deschutes beer? Which one and why?
SG: I love all their beer, and I just bought a Black Butte Porter. It is the perfect time of year for that beer.

Get to know Sadie and the other board members at our Sole-ful Meet & Greet: A Pre-Backcountry Film Festival Event. It will be a great opportunity to see what SOLE has lined up for the winter, a chance at a sneak peak into the phenomenal silent auction and raffle prizes, as well as enjoy some tasty brews from Deschutes Brewery. See you there!

 

Maegan Ward
Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexperiences.org

SOLE-Full Seven Series: An Interview with Kevin Knepper

kevin-knepper-head-shot2In the continuation of the SOLE-full Seven Blog Series, we have Kevin Knepper, another newer board member who wants to make a difference in this community. He works with several organizations, and lives on a ranch outside of Sandpoint with his family and a large amount of rescue animals.

 

MW: What brought you to SOLE?
KK: Joy and I have a relationship through the school district. She sits on my board (with another organization), and she has been talking about it for a while. I have a passion for anything kid related.

MW: What is your favorite part of being in this community? (Sandpoint)
KK: It’s really a wonderful place to raise our kids. That is why we came here. I like the small town vibe. There is a lot that comes with that but we could talk about that for hours.

MW: What is your favorite Outdoor Experience? Most memorable?
KK: We are a big horse family. I ride a lot and ski all winter long, but the greatest and hardest thing I have ever done was hiking the Grand Canyon 4 days in and 4 days out with 2 other guys. I don’t do men’s trips, my free time is what my wife wants to do and she kind of forced me to go. She said it would be good. I spent 8 days and had no contact with my family. It was physically hard and emotionally difficult. There was a lot of self-examination and it really helped me find out what was important to me and what I want to do better. I also ended up buying a chair for future trips because there was nowhere to sit for 8 days. It’s a tiny little chair that I can carry from REI.

kevin-dutsMW: What is your passion in the outdoors? Favorite recreational activity?
KK: Riding horses in the summer and skiing in the winter. We have a lot of horses. I like to just take off and trail blaze. Horse doesn’t need a trail. We just head up a mountain and the horse will take you. Although, sometimes you find yourself on the edge of a cliff. I am a hobby rancher. We have about 30 animals, all rescues except for the horses. Basically we get all the stuff that no body wants and they come to our house.

MW: What are you most excited for this season?
KK: I would like to see it (SOLE) take off a little bit, so it is ultimately sustainable, providing services for kids and adults. A year from now I would like us to be healthier, whether that is larger, or more operating reserves, just healthy, successful and sustainable. It’s fun to do something that is your heart not your badge.

MW: What has been your favorite SOLE experience so far?
KK: Three of my daughters have been to SnowSchool when they were in fifth grade. If they are on the mountain they will mention it, they still belly slide on the mountain when they get bored on black diamonds when skiing.

MW: Do you have a favorite Deschutes beer? Which one and why?
KK: Mirror Pond Pale Ale. I like a pale ale, not too hoppy.

Get to know John and the other board members at our Sole-ful Meet & Greet: A Pre-Backcountry Film Festival Event. It will be a great opportunity to see what SOLE has lined up for the winter, a chance at a sneak peak into the phenomenal silent auction and raffle prizes, as well as enjoy some tasty brews from Deschutes Brewery. See you there!

 

Maegan Ward
Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexperiences.org

SOLE-Ful Seven Series: An Interview with John Gaddess

johngaddess1In the next seven weeks, we will be releasing a blog post about one of our seven board members leading up to our SOLE-full meet and greet at Idaho Pour Authority on November 30th. To begin this series, we are starting with John Gaddess, a newer board member, who is passionate about SOLE and the impact it can have on this community.

 

MW: So, what brought you to SOLE?
JG: My wife was a college friend with Joy, and when we moved to Sandpoint, we ran into Dennison at the farmers market. Became friends with Dennison and I was introduced to SOLE through him. This was about 7 years ago.

MW: So what drew you to become a Board Member?
JG: I saw there was a need, and this seemed important. I love what they are doing, and I had similar experiences when I was a child that was life changing. I love that Dennison is bringing that here.

MW: What is your favorite part of this community? (Sandpoint)
JG: Well, there are multiple scales to this community; there is the town, neighborhood and county. THE favorite would be the “we are here together feeling”, camaraderie and the respect. You just say hi to people and meet people. I grew up in a large suburban community and no body interacts, you are just “one of the thousands”, but Sandpoint is a big small town. There are a lot of helping hands, a lot of togetherness here.

MW: What is your favorite outdoor experience? Most memorable?johngaddess2
JG: Oh, there is a lot. My first solo-backpacking trip in Glacier, around 2000. It was a learning experience. I had never been and went by myself. I did fine, did a lot of miles. I made a lot of friends who could tell that I was new, and helped me out. I didn’t have a camp stove, just a water purifier and pistachio shells. There have been a lot since then, I have had some great adventures and did cool stuff but that one sticks out the most in my mind. I was only about 19 or 20 at the time, and had wanderlust; I just wanted to do it.

MW: What is your passion in the outdoors? Your favorite recreational activity?
JG: Right now it’s disc golf and mountain biking. My favorite mountain bike got stolen and I still haven’t replaced it. Although I still have the lust for it. And backpacking. I am waiting to expose my family to mountain biking.
(He has two young children, one daughter almost to the age to mountain bike)

MW: What are you most excited for this season?
JG: I am excited for the programs that are offered. To see the continuation, that much more exposure and more kids. As a board member, I am excited for the opportunity to expose SOLE through the winter contacts, and excited to get the word out. There are people here in their 30-40’s who would be huge advocates, they would be into it. How SOLE attracts interest is from the community. We should “get some stickers out”; at least half the community would put stickers on their car.

MW: What has been your favorite SOLE experience so far?
JG: The energy, enthusiasm, creativity and professionalism of the board meetings are great. Maybe it’s a “honeymoon” phase, but we all very dedicated to it, and all the current board members are established professionals and accustomed to success. They will live up to what they commit to. I am excited to see what they can get done. I believe we can do great things.

MW: Do you have a favorite Deschutes beer? Which one and why?
JG: (laughs) I always joke about being sponsored by Deschutes. Lots of them are favorites. My favorite at the moment is Fresh Squeezed. Its full flavor, has lots of hops and piney.

Get to know John and the other board members at our Sole-ful Meet & Greet: A Pre-Backcountry Film Festival Event. It will be a great opportunity to see what SOLE has lined up for the winter, a chance at a sneak peak into the phenomenal silent auction and raffle prizes, as well as enjoy some tasty brews from Deschutes Brewery. See you there!

 

Maegan Ward
Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexperiences.org

Welcome the Newest Member to SOLE!

Version 2“Life starts all over again when it starts to get crisper in the fall” -F. Scott Fitzgerald

Just like how I find most of the passions in life, I stumbled upon the love for snow. Growing up in Northern Idaho, I found myself resisting snow recreation and any knowledge about the outdoors in the winter. Like a large portion of kids, I snuggled up in the warmth of the indoors and just waited for the summer to return to the North. It wasn’t until I finally came to my senses in high school that I started to explore. I started as a snowboarder and truly enjoyed being on the mountain, but admittedly, did not adventure out past the hill. It wasn’t until a chance encounter with SnowSchool at the flagship site at Bogus Basin did my love for winter really flourish.

I was in Boise working towards my Bachelors in Environmental Studies, and to graduate I needed an internship. I was extremely active in College, being president of the Sustainability Club and involved in the Environmental Studies Association, as well as a large number of random clubs. This is where I met Kerry McClay, the director of the site at Bogus, who gave us some fliers looking for interns and it sounded perfect. I started heading up the mountain 3 days a week, working with kids from low socio-economic areas of town, most had never even seen more than a foot of snow in their life. It was one of the most fun, impactful experiences that I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of. Whether it was teaching students about the very active subnivean (beneath the snow) zone, to digging snow pits, or playing games demonstrating the adaptations that the animals have to survive, or sliding down hills on our bellies; each student left with more knowledge of winter, and a better understanding of the importance of it, as well as a sense of awe.

In the midst of getting students to love the winter, I fell in love myself. There is something quite magical about winter, the glow it has, the crisp feeling to the air and the mystery of it. As I became more enamored, I studied more about the snow so I could teach more. Then the season ended, and it was time to move on. However, that passion translated to my new career path of doing outdoor education. I spent the last 4 years travelling around the Northwest and Alaska teaching students about the science in the outdoors. Helping them experience the things they learn about in school. Giving them the awareness of how cool and interesting nature is. But I never forgot about Snowschool and how much I enjoyed enjoying the winter with students.

This brought me back home. I found SOLE when I was doing research on where I was heading next. The mission of SOLE lined up with what my thoughts and passions are, and I reached out hoping to get involved. I love that SOLE is near home for me and I can help make an impact on the students in Northern Idaho. I want to share my passion at home where I know there are kids who are underserved and need experiential education. Even though Northern Idaho is a winter wonderland, there are so many students who have never had the opportunity or means to explore the wilderness we have here, not only in the winter but the summer as well. I am excited to work with SOLE because they are providing these transformational experiences that will give these students the passion that I have gained, and an understanding of the importance of keeping the wilderness wild.

Let it snow!img_4113

Cheers,
Maegan Ward
Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexperiences.org

Be Bear Aware

As spring, summer, and fall arrives, it is a beautiful time to explore our local wildlands and is feasting time for all creatures – great and small – including our local bears.  As such, it’s imperative that we take Bear Aware principles with us into as we journey into the backcountry to bike, hike, paddle, camp, hunt or fish.

In the fall of 2016 several grizzly attacks occurred in Montana (see video here – caution graphic material).  This encounter happened on the heels of two other additional grizzly attacks of hunters in the same state.  What was once a rarity (to see a grizzly in the wild, western backcountry) is becoming more prevalent due to the success in the conservation of the species, and the loss of habitat that it calls home.   In addition, black bears can also be troublesome and often more unpredictable and can lead to unwanted encounters.  Whatever the species, it is imperative that when we venture into the wild, we must remain vigilant and be bear aware.  

Each season poses its own potential risk. When spring emerges hibertating bears awake from their slumber on the search for one thing on mind – food. Because bears are frankly hungry, travelers should use caution when traveling into bear country. Consider the following considerations when hiking or camping in bear country, and if you do so you will be equipped and ready with a solid wildland ethic. Like spring, fall bears are quite active – storing reserves for their upcoming hibernation.  Folks often aren’t sure how to minimize their contact with a bear when exploring our wild landscapes.  So, to assist with this, we will share some Leave No Trace Outdoor Skills and Ethics  that we utilize (and teach) in the field, which are supported by our partners at The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.  We hope this information will help you minimize and mitigate this risk, and allow you to enjoy the remaining days of fall in the backcountry.  So let’s get started!

 Plan Ahead and Prepare:

As the first, of 7 Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles, Plan Ahead and Prepare often serves as the foundation.  It is a really good idea to spend some time and review the specific wildlife regulations for the area that you will be visiting, and even calling the land management agency of where you will be visiting.  Some questions to consider when doing so:

  • Do you require bear canisters and/or require that you store your food and other “smellables” in a particular manner?
  • Has there been any recent bear activity in the area that you will be visiting?

The old adage, a fed bear, is a dead bear” is true.  When we travel in the backcountry it is essential to minimize bears encounters and their contact with human food.  Once bears have been introduced with human food they will continually seek it out as an easier food source, leading to continued encounters.  This is called habituation. On most occasions, this leads to a bear being “taken down” (e.g., killed).  This also includes selecting appropriate campsites, disposing of waste properly, considering appropriate food / smellable storage, and overall respecting wildlife.

Choosing an Appropriate Campsite:

BearmudaTriangle_0.jpg

A good consideration is to local open space areas to camp versus those that are densely vegetated to allow for more awareness for both you and the bear of each other’s presence.  In addition, you may consider the “bear”muda triangle (see image to the right), which positions your cooking, shelter, and food storage area 100 yards from each other.

Dispose of Waste Properly & Appropriate Food / Smellable Storage:

bearhang

Another important LNT Principle is Dispose of Waste Properly.  This can affect whether or not we lure in one of our furry friends, and can be counterproductive.  For example, while broadcasting grey-water may be a common practice when considering this principle, it can also spread the odor when doing so on land.  Not ideal in grizzly country.  Therefore, other considerations can include digging a sump (6-8″ deep) to dispose of grey-water from cooking, cleaning and brushing teeth. Read more from our partners at Leave No Trace here.

When considering storing food and “smellable” items (i.e., sunscreen, toothpaste, deodorant, lotions, chapstick, etc.) some land management agencies in bear country allow backcountry users to utilize bear hangs (see image left) in lieu of bear canisters.

If you do decide to go old school, and “hang a bear bag”, there are definitely some considerations to take.  You’ll need to consider an appropriate set-up, including specific location, appropriate distance (e.g., minimum of 5′ x 5′ x 12′), durable “bear bags”, rope, and some know how.  Review some additional tips from The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics here and check out the image above to help get you started.  In addition, if you choose the bear hang method, make sure that the area that you are visiting actually has trees!  Alpine areas like those with tundra where bears can frequent do not, so you’ll need to make adjustments to your bear storage considerations.

If the terrain you will be traveling in is not advantageous to a bear hang and/or the land management agency does not allow bear hangs in their food storage allowances, you will have to either purchase or rent a bear canister.  There are several great models, and if you don’t want to purchase one and won’t use it frequently you can actually rent them for a nominal fee from a land management agency or gear shop.  After all, they are kind of spendy!  If you decide to go this route and are venturing into the our neck of the woods, in the Selkirks, Purcells, or Cabinets feel free to contact us to rent one directly from us!

Respect Wildlife:

As one of the 7 principles of Leave No Trace, and an awareness of what exists out there, one might think it should go without saying – Respect Wildlife.  Still it’s worth noting.  Here are some tips to assist you in doing just that.

  1. When traveling in bear country make noise!  Yelling, “Hey Bear!” is the go-to, but should be done on average of once every 5 – 10 seconds.  Some people recommend every 30, however, you can carry a lot of ground in 30 seconds and your voice doesn’t carry too far in dense vegetation or near a noisy mountain creek.  In addition, when entering dense vegetation, around blind corners, and near loud creeks we recommend to also add some clapping to really let you presence be known.  One of the main contributing factors to unwanted bear encounters is alarming a bear, and catching them off guard.  Not a great scenario, especially when it’s a healthy sow with cubs.  While we all love to have those pristine, peaceful moments in the wild, it’s important that when traveling in bear country to also minimize encounters for their sake and yours.
  2. Travel in groups of 4 or more.  It has statistically been shown that hiking in groups of four or more is safer while traveling in griz country, however one could argue that it may be a wise practice in any type of bear country.
  3. View at a distance.  Bears can cover a large distance in a short amount of time.  While they are amazing to view in the wild, putting real estate between you and a big ‘ole bruin is a good thing, so use binoculars at a distance.  To give you some perspective, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service a grizzly can cover 50 yards in 3 seconds, or 40 miles and hour.  That’s faster than a racehorse over short distances!  Learn more bear encounter facts from the Fish and Wildlife Service  here.
  4. Effective use of bear spray to deter an encounter!  Bear spray has proven itself to be quite effective, and often the last resort.  However, it is only as effective as the actual user.  We recommend that you research what type of bear spray to purchase, and educate yourself on how to use it.  Here is a great little introductory video from Rich Landers of the Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA) on how to use bear spray effectively, and here is a great powerpoint from the United States Geological Survey on bear spray.  Also here is an excellent blog entry written by Todd Wilkinson that shares evidence-based research on bear encounters and the use of bear spray.

Blog support from our partners at The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: http://www.lnt.org

For more information and to become more backcountry savvy, consider taking one of SOLE’s Leave No Trace Courses, or design your own!  These courses allow participants to learn and master these skills in the environment that they will be traveling in.

See you out there,
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director

Are you in the know?

Nowadays, it’s easy to get lost in translation as technology grows by leaps and bounds, even daily it seems.  As a grassroots nonprofit, grounded on a sustainable and forward-thinking vision and mission technology provides the ideal platform to share upcoming events, important updates and other specifics related to who we are, what we do, and how we do it.  As such, it is our aim to keep you up to speed on how to actually stay informed and up to date with all things related to SOLE!  Social media platforms like Facebook continue to evolve, and while we are sure their intention is to maximize efficiency and streamline their process for some (including us mind you) it becomes cumbersome!  In fact, us recently we have become aware that SOLE’s Facebook Feed has been dropping out for some of our followers.  So we’ve done some digging, and we have found a solution which will allow YOU to stay in the know!

First, you need to go to SOLE on Facebook.  There you can follow the simple steps below to ensure that SOLE shows up consistently in your Facebook Feed.  Again, go to the SOLE Facebook page which can also be found at the following URL: https://www.facebook.com/SOLEExperiences/ to begin the process.

Are you there?  Great!  You can now complete the simple (3) step process, which is shown in the following image and described in detail below.  This will allow you to stay up to date, and in the know!

How to follow SOLE on FB

  1. “Step 1” (yellow circle in screenshot image) in the process is to click on the RSS Feed button.
  2. “Step 2” (orange rectangle in screenshot image) in the process scroll down and under “In Your News Feed” select “See First”.
  3. “Step 3” (red rectangle in screenshot image) in the process scroll down and under “Notifications” select “On (Events)”.

There you are all done!  Now you will receive up to date info from our News Feed, including upcoming events, programs, online lessons, and all good things related SOLE!

SOLE receives generous support for our SnowSchool Experience program!

Since it’s inception in 2014, SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience SM program has become a cornerstone of our organization’s experiential education program offerings serving over 800 youth over the past (3) years.  While SOLE strives to custom-tailor all SOLE Experiences SM for individual participants, schools, and other stakeholders we serve, this program primarily serves 5th – 12th grade local area public and private schools.  Each season program participants are able to experience a rich interdisciplinary curricula which includes lessons related to  SOLE’s 4 Cares SM, snow science, winter ecology, avalanche awareness, and winter outdoor living and travel skills.  SOLE aligns SnowSchool Experience SM curriculum to state standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Common Core to ensure that goals, objectives, and learning targets are met.  Coupled with novel organizational philosophies, evidence-based best practices, and pedagogies related to experiential education to include outdoor education, place-based education, and project-based learning – students come to SOLE each winter to be immersed in a natural learning learning environment where they can truly explore, achieve, and lead!

A noteworthy and consistent goal of our organization is to provide affordable access to the transformational experiential education programs we offer, including our SnowSchool Experiences SM.  As such, SOLE staff and board works diligently constructing grants, soliciting sponsorship, and fundraising during our Annual Backcountry Film Festival events held each fall.  And the hard work is continuing to pay off.  Over the past few months we have had the great fortune to receive two grant awards from local foundations to support our SnowSchool Experience SM program, allowing us to ‘reach and teach’ into 2017!

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Earlier this summer, SOLE received notice that we would be awarded a $7,000 grant award from the Panhandle Alliance for Education (PAFE) to support our 5th grade SnowSchool Experience program with Lake Pend Oreille School District.  This noteworthy support will provide access to a (3) day experience for over 300 5th students in Lake Pend Oreille School District.  Students experience a pre-lesson in the classroom where they are oriented to what to expect “in the field”, introductory experiential lessons related to watershed geology, hydrology, and geography; mountain snowpack as it relates to a community natural resource including an orientation to the ever important concept known as Snow Water Equivalency (SWE).  Once in the field students deepen their learning comprehension as they experientially learn the finer points of snowshoeing, winter ecology, and snow science.  This full day portion of the program includes experiential lessons on introductory outdoor living and travel skills, winter ecology, and snow science.  The later includes the completion of a thorough snowpit profile where students collect data and assess the snowpack to include, hardness, snow crystallography, temperature, and SWE.  Once back in the classroom students synthesize the data they collected and compare and contrast their findings to local historical SWE trends to draw conclusions related to their communities’ water resource needs.  This includes completion of a line graph detailing their findings.  As one might imagine, this program provides a novel gateway to address academic standards related to math, science, and other core subject, as well as those related to physical education, leadership, and character development.

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More recently, SOLE was also awarded a $10,000 grant from the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, Equinox Foundation Grant Program for our SnowSchool Experience SM program expansion. This support will continue our work within Bonner County schools to include providing custom-tailored SnowSchool Experiences SM for schools like Clark Fork Junior / Senior High School, as well as expand offerings into the Boundary County School District.  Areas of focus will include those aspects previously mentioned, as well as providing opportunities to teach snow science related to avalanche awareness, and outdoor living and travel skills for the youth of Bonner and Boundary County.

We are truly grateful for the continued support that these three organizations have shown towards our SnowSchool Experience SM program, and SOLE at large.  Because of this support, will be able to further our mission and students will be afforded access to the transformational experiential education programming that our SnowSchool Experience SM program offers.  Additionally, we are also grateful for the continued support that Schweitzer Mountain Resort, the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center , and the Winter Wildlands Alliance has shown to underpin our work in the field.

Still the work continues, as the grants awarded will only partially support our SnowSchool Experience SM program as it is currently established.  In addition, we have a greater vision which includes the establishment of yurts at our SnowSchool Experience SM Field Campuses, including Schweitzer Mountain Resort so our programs have access to a classroom space in times of severe inclement weather, and so these programming opportunities are available for future local area youth in our region.  You can do you part by attending and participating in our Annual Backcountry Film Festival, becoming a program or event sponsor, or by making a tax deductible in-kind or financial contribution by clicking here or simply contact us.

For those seeking further evidence of the benefits please take time to look at our SnowSchool Experience SM videos, and review some of the numbers, comments, and student story below:

Elementary SnowSchool Experience SM program video:

Middle & HighSchool SnowSchool Experience SM program video:

Some relevant numbers:

  • Between 60-97% of the students that attend our local public schools qualify for a free-reduced lunch (at or below the poverty level).
  • Over 80% of the students rated their SnowSchool Experience as 4 or 5 (on a 1-5 Likert-type Scale)
  • Over 70% of students acknowledged snowshoeing and exploring their local mountain ecosystem for the first time.
  • Over 80% of students demonstrated a greater understanding of the importance of mountain snowpack as it relates to our communities water resource needs.

Some of the many positive comments.

  • “I really liked learning about different trees.”
  • “Best trip Ever!”
  • “I hope that they will never stop SnowSchool! Fun and education!!”
  • “I learned so many new things at SnowSchool,such as: snow-shoeing.”
  • “I had fun because I got to do science I might not get to do anymore unless I become a hydrologist.”
  • “I would like to share that I would go again if I had a chance.”
  • “The most awesome field trip I have ever gone on!” 

A student’s story:

SnowSchoolStory1

Personally, when I reflect on our organization’s accomplishments with this program and view the view the pieces above I recognize the significant benefits that this transformational experiential education program offers our local area youth including the ability to make sound academic connections in a novel manner, as well as the opportunity to be immersed in a natural learning environment to further develop a relationship within themselves, with their peers, with their environment, and with their community.

See you out there,DennisonTeaching
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director