EcoCamp – Mountain Goats, Marmots and More!

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By Alisa McGowan

2018 was our thirteenth year of EcoCamp in its present form. Read the exciting story of the sessions below.

Each year, the nervous energy is present on the ERC deck as EcoCampers show up and anxiously await the arrival of the other campers on day one of EcoCamp. Parents and counselors double check bags, and at noon we say our goodbyes to parents and the amenities of town and drive out for a week of adventure in the Smoky and Boulder Mountains.

This year, after lunch and games, the laughter and chitter chatter began to erupt and, during both sessions, couldn’t be stopped until the final “see you later” formalities at the end of camp on Friday.

The first week of camp, Discovering Wild Idaho, open to rising 5th and 6th graders, is designed to connect campers to the natural world and build a sense of excitement and an urgency to care for our precious environment. Campers explored the forest by embarking on a “Scat-venture Hunt” – a search to discover the many different predators and prey present in the ecosystem by locating scat. During this very hot week, campers were most enthusiastic when learning about aquatic ecology. We searched for macroinvertebrates in Senate Creek to assess the water quality and learned how to measure stream velocity.

Week two, Environmental Leadership EcoCamp, provides rising 7th-9th graders with the skills and tools necessary to be outstanding environmental stewards.

During this week, one of our budding environmental leaders surprised the group with his expansive knowledge of amphibians and insects. He shared descriptive details about ant colonies, long-toed salamanders, life cycles and more with his peers. Often times, counselors couldn’t even get close enough to hear or see what he was showing the group. We can’t wait to see where his herpetology knowledge and the leadership skills he learned at EcoCamp take him.

Additionally, eight of the nine campers in the second session completed their first backpacking trip ever. Throughout the beginning of the week we focused on map reading skills and building a foundation of leadership and stewardship skills. The backpacking trip, which is the final night of camp, is the culminating piece of lessons from the week. Campers divide up the group gear into each of their packs, lead the way and pick our camp spot upon arrival at our predetermined lake.

The evening at the lake is almost always the best part of EcoCamp and this year was no exception. After setting up camp we embarked on a circumnavigation adventure of the lake. On this adventure we found over 50 long-toed salamanders, watched a nannie and kid mountain goat cross one of the steep rocky faces bordering the alpine lake, saw a female marmot and presumably her two young catching the last of the evening sun, and heard pikas squealing at us. It’s these experiences and memories that we hope EcoCampers take with them to become next great environmental stewards.

We are so grateful to be able to provide this experience for youth. Thank you to The Papoose Club, Rocky Mountain Hardware, Campfire Foundation, KMV Builders and individual ERC supporters for making EcoCamp 2018 another successful year and allowing us to provide generous scholarships!

To see photographs of EcoCamp 2018, click here.

We are already looking forward to next year! Registration for EcoCamp 2019 will open April 1.

EcoCamp – Mountain Goats, Marmots and More!