Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School Public Land Trail Service Project

For over seven years now students at Cedar Ridge Academy have been helping to establish a hiking trail on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. A group of Cedar Ridge Academy's therapeutic boarding school students recently hiked the route and did some service work on the trail. They were accompanied by their science academics teacher, Chad, and two other staff-members. One of the staff-members brought her dog, Archie, on the trip.

The trip started with a brief geology lecture by Tom Elder, Chad's associate from a public high school. Tom talked about the different geological layers visible from where the group was standing, and how the different layers formed over millions of years in different climatic conditions. The area is now high desert habitat, but past habitats have included rivers and large lakes that sediments deposited into. The different rock and sediment layers that are present today support different kinds of plants. Students learned about how each of the different layers has a different name, based on the location where that layer was first studied.

After learning about geology the group left the road and started hiking the trail. Students and staff tied flagging ribbons onto trees and shrubs to help mark the route, and in places where the trail crossed slick rock they sprayed white paint on the rock to show the route (white paint works well because it's visible but not so noticeable as to distract from the scenery).

The trail took the students through various types of terrain and vegetation. Periodically Chad would stop to teach the students about a particular plant species, or to show them some kind of animal track or other sign. One of Chad's favorite things to show the students is a packrat nest that the trail passes by (the official name of the species is the desert wood rat).

Students and staff ate lunch under a sandstone overhang in an area that resembles a large, but shallow cave. The area provides shade, shelter, and an amazing view of the canyons and cliffs that rise to the north.

After lunch it was back to hiking. It was not an easy hike, with a lot of ups and downs, but the scenery remained beautiful and the students and staff enjoyed each others' company and had great conversations while they hiked. Eventually the group came to what is possibly the most scenic part of the trip - a spectacular arch! The arch is huge and amazing to see, and right next to the arch the group explored cave-like features.

After spending some time at the arch, the participants hiked the last leg of the trip - ending up at the highway. At this point the students had hiked across an entire mountain face. The hike had been long and hard, and the fatigue could be seen on people's faces, but smiles where abundant as students and staff talked about future hiking adventures together.

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