Cottonwood Institute was excited to collaborate with the College of Menominee Nation Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) in a unique Fire and Flood Project exploring the foothills and gaining a deeper understanding of fire, water, and flood issues in Colorado. After an early morning pick-up at DIA, a group of 17 from Wisconsin, began their trip at The Alliance Center in Denver, CO, the hub for sustainability in Colorado. The Sustainability Leadership Cohort (SLC), as the group is known, heard from local sustainability experts to learn more about fire and water issues facing Colorado. With full bellies after a lunch from Smiling Moose Deli, the crew packed up and headed to Cal-wood Education Center just outside of Jamestown, CO, for the next 5 days and 4 nights.
The participants spent their first morning indulging in the finest of instant coffee and no-name oats and granola. They welcomed the morning with a “sit spot”, at Solitude Point, taking in the beautifully rugged landscape of the Colorado Rockies. In the afternoon the group left on an educational driving tour through Gold Hill and Fourmile Canyon. The group learned basic fire ecology while walking through a burn area near Goldhill and as an afernoon thunderstorm drenched the landscape, they watched in awe as fresh water cascaded down the canyon with them as they drove. It was a unique opportunity to witness the power of mother nature, and see the relationship between the fires and floods of Colorado.
The SLC spent the next day re-opening the Mika Mine Trail at Cal-Wood Education Center. It was a hard days work hammering away, building new stairs for the trail. With sore backs and newly blistered hands, the crew finished out the day cooling off in a near-by creek! The following day they traveled down to Lyons to do volunteer work for the community which has been visibly devastated by the flood. A group broke down and rescued re-usable materials from a collapsed greenhouse, while the rest were picking up debris and clearing out sediment that was deposited during the flood.
The following morning they shared their final meal at the campsite, sat and appreciated the quiet wisdom of the mountains, and then returned to Boulder for clean-up. For their closing initiative they met with Jeff Morisette from Rising Voices, a program through the North Central Climate Science Center. He led an inspiring conversation about the collaborative efforts being made to integrate indigenous knowledge and “western” science to combat climate change.
The days were packed full of laughter, learning, and wilderness. As a group they learned how to work hard and build together. They learned about the elements and chaotic weather patterns of the Rockies. They learned how to not shower and still survive; to conserve water, to remember to breathe at 8,000 feet, and build community around a fire.
“This will definitely be on the top of my ‘greatest experiences in my life’ list!”. – Cherie
“I am so humbled and in awe of this experience and these amazing young people I got a chance to get to know. It makes me feel good for the future of the world to know that there are people like this becoming adults soon. Colorado is amazing and our trip was epic.” – Justin, adult participant
It was a beautiful exchange between Cottonwood and SDI, and we hope that the relationships built will continue in the future. Many thanks to all who made this trip a success: Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, Your Water Colorado, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Colorado State Forest Service, Project Learning Tree, Smiling Moose Deli, Cal-wood Education Center, Town of Lyons Volunteers, DOI North Central Climate Science Center, our Cottonwood Institute Instructors, and the remarkable natural world that continually teaches us everything we really need to know.
To see more pictures from this trip visit our Share Site: https://menominee.shutterfly.com/
Article Written By: Marissa Sieck, Cottonwood Institute Instructor