Hiking, biking, rafting: kids experience more than a weekend outdoors
May brings blooming flowers, budding saplings and fresh faces outdoors every year to the Hike, Bike and Boat event on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Fifty Seattle high school and elementary students ventured out last Saturday to experience the rush of rafting down the Sauk River, hiking through an old growth forest and biking along a campground trail.
The Wild and Scenic Institute has brought low income, disadvantaged and special needs children out to this event the last seven years for no charge. “These kids don’t have the same opportunities we have,” said Sara Sokolowski, WSI president of the board of directors. “We provide the knowledge, man-power and mind-power it takes to get these kids out on the water, the trails and having fun in nature,” she said. Staff organized the event as three rotating concurrent activities: hiking, biking and rafting the river.
Youth learned how to identify forest flora and fauna hiking the Old Sauk Trail, as well as about Leave No Trace ethics and the 10 essentials necessary to take with them. “We help the kids tell the difference in trees by their bark,” said Phil Kincare, Forest Service assistant river manager. “The students are awestruck by the size of the trees and are surprised that these trees start their journey as small seeds.” he said. A trail runner helped along the hike. The customized, wheeled carrying device for people who cannot walk looked like a trail version of a rickshaw. Students learned the basics of cycling and exercised their abilities up and down the paths of Clear Creek Campground.
The biggest hit was rafting, as students took turns going down sections of the Sauk River through stretches ranging from a Class 3 to a Class 2, with the lower the class the slower and less technical ride.
The safety talk prepared everyone for boarding the raft. “Check your personal equipment, make sure all straps are tight on your helmet and lifejacket, then check your friends,” said Hunter Henderickson, river guide and founder of WSI. The lifejacket needs to be tight but loose enough to slip two fingers on the top of the life vest when lifting up. “This how we are going to pull you out of the water,” he said.
The first group to brave the river was the Foster High School soccer team. The boys were a little anxious about the idea of donning wetsuits, especially outdoors in a tent. After they geared up, all reserve turned to teenage bravado, then excitement as they loaded onto the boat.
Sitting on a six-person river rafts requires balance and agility, with the rider propped up on the edge of the boat wedged into one of the corners with a foot secured by a strap and leaning over the side to paddle. “Always keep the t-grip tip of the paddle covered with your hand,” said Henderickson. “You don’t want to accidentally hit another rafter,” he said.
The boys returned wet, cold, grinning ear-to-ear and hungry after two hours of rafting the Class 3 section of the Sauk. “You paddle your hardest just to avoid rocks,” said Carlos Vega, 17.
The rain didn’t stop anyone’s excitement to try something new. “The kids are getting cold and wet but no one was complaining. The kids don’t care,” said Sokolowski. “They are happy to be here,” she said.
Kids participated from Seattle Parks and Recreation Outdoor Education Program O2, Special Populations, Tukwila School District, Foster High School, English Language Learner
Program, Swedish Pediatrics Rehab Without Walls and Seattle Youth Care.
Learn more about the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest at www.fs.usda.gov/mbs.
Wild and Scenic Institute - http://www.wildandscenic.org/
Outdoors for All Foundation - http://www.outdoorsforall.org/
Seattle Parks and Recreation - http://www.seattle.gov/parks/
Tukwila School District - http://www.tukwila.wednet.edu/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1
Seattle Youth Care - http://www.youthcare.org/
Swedish Medical Center - http://www.swedish.org/