Study of thermal energy, physical and chemical changes, and animal adaptations to extreme environments

Words by Anna Clements / TEA MS & HS Science Teacher

Hello 8th Grade Families,

I hope that your students had the weekend to rest after our jam packed fall fieldwork trip to Mount Shasta and Lassen National Park. What follows is a recap of our week-long journey.

Monday we spent the day packing and traveling to our first camp at Red Fir Flat in Mount Shasta. The mountain was visible through the trees at sunset, but that would be the last we saw of the peak until Thursday morning due to weather conditions. Shortly before camp we were able to visit McCloud Falls via a short walk which provided us with a much needed leg stretch. Once at camp, we all settled in and enjoyed a warm meal around the campfire before tucking in for the evening.

On Tuesday, we woke to low lying clouds at our 7,000 foot campsite, and then made a short drive to Bunny Flat Trailhead to go on a guided hike with Jared and Rebecca from the Sierra Club. Our guides were full of knowledge on the flora and fauna of the Mount Shasta area, as well as the geological history of the Cascade Range. Despite a steady drizzle, and cool temperatures, students were attentive and engaged by our guide’s wealth of knowledge. We were even given special permission to eat our lunch within the Horse Camp Hut due to the weather conditions. We drank water from a spring flowing straight out of the mountainside, and enjoyed a short reprieve from the cold. After a long day outside, students once again gathered closely around the campfire to laugh and fill their bellies as we reflected on the day.

Wednesday brought sunshine to Red Fir Flat campground, for which all of us were joyful to see and more importantly feel. After breakfast, we ventured into the town of Mount Shasta to meet once again with our Sierra Club guide Rebecca and review material she had covered with students the day prior. After our goodbyes and appreciation to Rebecca, we embarked on what most students found to be the best part of the trip – the sweat lodge. A truly amazing experience for students, Walking Eagle of the Karuk Tribe led most of the 8th graders through a purification ceremony where sages, cedars, and sweet grass were burned over a roaring fire within the dome shaped lodge. Afterwards, students were thrilled to share their experiences within the lodge, whether they had to exit due to the heat, were up and dancing within the lodge, or were seated and focused on their intentions the entire time, all were elated. Our day concluded with a trip back to Mount Shasta City Park where the headwaters of the Sacramento River flow directly out of the mountainside, taking 50 years to reach the exit point that lies in the park. Janet, another member of the Karuk tribe sang a song of appreciation to the waters and guided students through a grounding ceremony focused on rooting oneself to the Earth and showing your appreciation for living things. Tired and full, students played a game around the campfire led by Anne and went off for a restful night of sleep.

Thursday, we ate a hearty breakfast before packing up camp and heading to Mount Lassen National Park where we met our guide, Ranger Eric. Once again, we had the opportunity to work with an excellent and knowledgeable guide within the park. He discussed with students how glaciation in combination with sustained chemical weathering from the sulfuric acid of the geothermal features has carved away the landscape of the park. He led us on a short hike to the Bumpass Hell Region of the park where he discussed how organisms have adapted to live within these acidic environments, as well as the history of misuse of geothermal features, such as locals attempting to do their laundry in some of the geysers. After our hike with the ranger, we had some spare time within the park for students to decompress after a couple of long days engaged with content before heading to our new campground for our last evening in the field. This camp sat at 5,000 feet of elevation, and was considerably warmer than our previous camp. Students and adults both rejoiced in the more comfortable temperatures, and several students elected to camp out under the stars. Friday morning we traveled back and had the opportunity to enjoy milkshakes and burgers at The Polka Dot in Quincy, CA before returning to school.

Overall, this was an excellent week! It brought us great joy to see students gathered around the campfire each evening telling jokes, giggling, and getting to know one another better. I am proud of the students for the respect that they gave our experts and guides out in the field, and hope that they take the knowledge and experiences gleaned from this trip into the future.

Photo Gallery