Recap: Hike & Learn 2016 Season

“It was so enjoyable just being out in the woods” --Hike & Learn participant

As the days grow longer, sunrise also comes earlier each day in the Rogue Valley. Pink, orange, and lavender light illuminates Grizzly Peak from the Valley floor, a daily reminder that our Monument has been expanded and can now be seen from our local hamlets of Ashland and Talent. The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument now encompasses 50,000 additional acres of beautiful scenery and protected safe zones for wildlife. With additions such as Horseshoe Ranch, the Jenny Creek watershed, Grizzly Peak, Lost Lake, and the area surrounding Surveyor Mountain, it is undeniable that Monument supporters will be seeking out opportunities to explore and learn about the natural history of these places in the coming months.

 Hikers hug a ponderosa pine tree on the Lone Pilot Trail. K Boehlnein photo

Hikers hug a ponderosa pine tree on the Lone Pilot Trail. K Boehlnein photo

Luckily, the Friends have begun gearing up for another exciting Hike and Learn season starting in May, events that are certain to highlight new additions as well as visit old favorites. The Hike and Learn series has been the Friends’ most prominent ongoing education program over the past five years, offering citizens in our region opportunities to learn about the Monument from local experts and experience its biodiversity first-hand.

The 2016 Hike and Learn season followed a similar structure to previous years’: two-day monthly educational events that focus on a natural history or art topic. Participants attend a Friday evening informational workshop which then leads seamlessly into an immersive Saturday hike in the Monument. Last year’s line-up featured geologist Jad D’Allura, botanist Doug Kendig, aquatic ecologist and expert bushwhacker Michael Parker, artist-writers Mary Silva and Katie Boehnlein, poet-ornithologist Pepper Trail, and photographer David Lorenz-Winston.

There was overwhelming support for these programs, with 96 individuals attending over six different weekends. A large majority of participants who filled out an evaluation said they had an “excellent” time and that the experience had been an incentive to learn more about biodiversity. This incentive is demonstrated by our participant numbers as well; 24 participants came back to more than one Hike and Learn program throughout the season.

Participants’ favorite aspect of the 2016 Hike and Learn programs was the expertise of the leaders to guide participants toward new learning, piquing interest in natural history topics or artistic endeavors. One commented that “the science was so delightfully explained” and that “the leader’s passion for the Monument is inspiring.” Others mentioned that the time in nature was invaluable. “It was wonderful to go to a place I had never been,” one participant said, as did others who were appreciative for the opportunity to get familiar with the Monument and spend time with a friendly, inquisitive group of fellow hikers. The need for educational events like ours is even more pertinent this year, given the Monument’s expansion and political opposition to President Obama’s recent proclamation. The Hike and Learn program gives people opportunities to see biodiversity first-hand and learn from experts about the importance of conservation.

Though snow still covers much of the Monument’s now 100,000+ acres, longer and warmer days are approaching. The Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument are excited to offer another full season of engaging and inspiring Hike and Learn programs in 2017. Stay tuned for an announcement on our full line-up in April.

Text and photos by Katie Boehnlein, Hike & Learn 2016 Coordinator