STRIVE Prep -Westwood CAP students visited Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park for their winter field day this year. Situated at 9000’ and still partially covered in ice with snow around its perimeter, this mountain lake was a wintry retreat from the city! What a contrast from Garfield Lake, the local lake in the Westwood neighborhood where students meet twice a week for their CAP class. The group was on a search for snow so that they could try snowshoeing, and build some winter shelters if they found enough. The van was packed with seven excited middle schoolers, four instructors, and enough gear to support a winter survival party. A snow-squall near our destination gave us hope as we pulled into the parking lot, and a quick glance down the path showed decent snow cover. Let’s get those snowshoes on and give it a try!
The day’s agenda was packed –snowshoe the .8 mile trail around the lake, keep track of all wildlife sightings and tracks, practice reading the contour map, learn to light a stove for hot chocolate, find a spot along the lake for some water quality testing, and practice their newly acquired “Leave No Trace” (LNT) skills. The most important goal for the day, however, was to have fun together in this beautiful mountain lake setting. Any conservation ethic begins with time enjoyed outdoors.
As the students headed down the trail, they started seeing wildlife – Canada Geese on the lake, a Raven, and a Chickadee. Later they saw a Red-tailed Hawk and what sure looked like a beaver lodge on the lake. They were expecting to see more and hoping for something big like a moose (!), but the new snow erased signs of other animals. It was interesting though that the species they did see were similar to what they typically see around Garfield Lake. Okay, except for the beaver!!
About halfway around the lake, the group found a spot to break for lunch. Snow cover on this side was minimal making snowshoes unnecessary, but it was a perfect place for a game of “Okay! No Way!” This game is a version of tag where students decide whether various scenarios follow LNT principles or not. You have to be quick in your decision, though, or you’ll get tagged and have to join the opposing team!
As the expression goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” Before we knew it, it was time to start hiking back. The group took the trail closest to the lake so that we could find a place to collect water samples. The lake sure looked healthy, but testing things like pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and bacteria would tell us much more. Lucky for us, one of the instructors had a lot of experience testing river and lake water quality.
With another snow-squall threatening, the group reached the parking lot and then wrapped up their experience with a brief reflection. Did they learn some new things? Check! Did they practice some new skills? Check! Did they enjoy their time together?
Judging from the joyfulness in the van all the way home? Check!
Written by CAP Instructor Liz Goehring
See more photos from our trip here!