This week was the week of our last trip as a class, and as an ODS family, so it was a difficult trip emotionally for all of us.
Our Northern Canoe Trip was our longest trip of the year and as such we had to be ready for anything mother nature could throw at us. Fortunately, we were extremely lucky and had no problems with the weather.
The first full day up north was “the perfect day for canoeing”, as stated by Mr. Moore. As we paddled we got to see the province in a completely different way than if we had boats with motors and just passed everything at high speed. Our day started with us doing a little bit of canoeing followed by a short portage. After the portage Colin taught us how to ferry our canoes across moving water followed by another portage that was a little longer. After much paddling we found the island to sleep on, so we set up camp and made supper. Once we finished supper we changed into clothes that could get wet and we did our canoe over canoe rescue training for our canoeing certification.
We started Wednesday in high spirits because we were all rested. Our destination for the day was Champagne Island on Bellows Lake where we finished the final part of our canoeing certification test. Colin put us through our paces as we practiced sweeps, pries and draws. Each day after we finished our travel, site set-up and cooking we worked on assignments related to Outdoor School. There is no place like the shore of an island on a calm evening while the sun is setting to write an expository essay, or to relate our experiences to fur traders hundreds of years ago. On Champagne Island we also did a comprehensive set of environmental tests and an evaluation of flora and fauna and their adaptations to the environment. Hands-on learning can be a very powerful experience and we will not soon forget the concepts that we learned on our canoe trip.
On Thursday morning we were told that we had to travel the distance we travelled on Tuesday and Wednesday all in one day. When the day ended, we were back at Devil’s Lake. We had a little excitement as Tyrell caught a northern pike that weighed nearly 20 pounds. After the fish was landed and released properly, we went to the fire that Colin had prepared for us. At the fire we shared our best memory of ODS, and our best memory of the trip. It was an emotional evening as we sat around the fire that night and recounted memories. There was laughter and tears shed as we realized that our ODS semester was nearly done. We have learned a lot and made some great friends. That was a very emotional night for everyone, including the teachers, even if they don’t admit it. On Friday we left our island and headed home. On the bus we realized that our best memories of school
were from ODS, and that the bonds we developed over the semester will last forever.
Our trip to Grey Owl’s began with a stop in Batoche filling us with their history events on the battle. Day one of we started off with hiking 4 kilometers to Westwind site, day two was a full day with 18.7 kilometers with camping at Northend Site and walking to Grey Owl’s cabin. Day three we hit 12.7 kilometers back to Westwind Site, and finally day four we finished off hiking with 4 kilometers adding up to a total of 39.4 kilometers. When we reached Grey Owl’s cabin we read all about the history on the cabin and who Grey Owl was. We explored around Grey Owl’s cabin, guest cabin and his wife’s, child and his grave. During one of the four nights a few of our students presented a poster on the eco region of Uplands the Mid Boreal Uplands. Following night the students read poems based upon the Mid Boreal, after the readings we wrote our own poems in groups and had a blast with having a poetry standoff. Throughout our entire hike we passed many plants that Colin pointed out to us and taught us what they are, what they are used for and how they suit the environment they grow in. From the days of 18.7 kilometers to the days of just 4 kilometers of hiking was all full of great fun, scenery, laughs, lessons, and many memories.
Travelling to Cypress Hills and Grasslands National Park was a thrill for everyone in the class. Cypress Hills was amazing! The view from the interpretive center is awe inspiring. As we walked down the path to Fort Walsh we could see massive stands of lodge pole pines in the distance and it was hard to believe we were still in Saskatchewan. The history of the Cypress Hills Massacre, Sitting Bull and of Walsh was fascinating especially when presented at the historical site. Once we got back to the Center Block camp site we were treated to a great presentation by the Cypress Upland ecoregion group and we did a re-enactment of the play Walsh. The history came to life for us and we will not soon forget what we learned.
Our next adventure was our visit to Grasslands Nation Park. Once we picked-up our snake gaiters from the park office we loaded the bus to travel down the Ecotour Road off of which our hike would begin. The beauty of Grasslands National Park is impossible to describe. This was our first true wilderness hike and it did not disappoint. We saw bison and antelope from the bus and once on the trail we saw several prairie rattlesnakes, a mating pair of long billed curlews, and six greater short horned lizards. The hike to the top of Seventy Mile Butte was hard, but the view from the top was amazing! The 360 panorama of the park was awe inspiring.
Our Cypress / Grasslands trip was an amazing adventure! During the trip we worked hard, learned a lot about our province and really came together as a group.A special thank-you goes out to Derrick Dietz, for taking the time off of work to be a guide on our hike. Derrick is knowledgeable, helpful and he is an amazing guide.
This trip was our prep for our Grassland trip in early May, and for our survival challenge on April 27. To begin our outing we gathered our packs from the trailer when we reached the camp area, and Mr. Moore, Mrs. Werner, and Colin Frey told us our plan for the day. We set out on a hike around the park, and Colin told us about the uses of various plants in the area, and how to identify them based on the stem, number of leaves, and the area that they grow in. We hiked until we reached an area near the water and had lunch, some of the guys went to the beach and skipped rocks while everyone else finished eating. After everyone finished their lunch we continued our hike, and Colin showed us three more plants on the way back to the camp area. When we got back the groups picked an area to set up their tents and cook their food. After supper, we went on a little bit of a hike as Colin and two students set up for the next activity, which was learning how to make char cloth, and how to start a fire with a rock and a piece of hacksaw blade. After Colin got the fire going, Mr. Moore told us a story about a young cougar that got trapped in an outhouse. When Mr. Moore finished the story, Mrs. Werner gave us an assignment based on it. After spending some time around the fire, we returned to camp and went to bed. The following morning we had breakfast and cleaned up our areas because it was our last day. After breakfast was over we returned to where we had lunch the day before, and Colin taught us how to make a figure four dead fall trap, and an emergency bed. We had little time remaining at camp so we ate as we worked on our traps, and Colin showed us the right knot to use on the bed. After that was done, we returned to camp to take the tents down, returned to the school.
Today we had Adam Matichuk come out from the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation to lead a fish dissection. To start the day, Adam taught us different ways to identify fish based on the location of the fins, the color of the fish, and the size and location of their eyes. Adam also told us how the SWF is working to protect fish species as they become scarce. The dissection itself was a powerful educational experience for everyone who was involved. Adam taught us how to identify all of the major organs in the fish and the function of most of those organs. Once we were finished the dissection, Adam showed us how to determine the age of the fish we dissected by extracting a cheekbone, drying it and holding it up to a light to count the growth rings. Learning from a trained biologist who is passionate and extremely knowledgeable like Adam was an amazing experience for all.
Today we travelled to the Last Mountain House trading post to give our reports on the fur trade. Mr. Moore lead us to a lace that was sheltered from the wind, and had a place for us to sit so we could see the presenters and hear them clearly. The presentations took most of the morning so we broke for lunch at about eleven thirty, and some of us went for a bit of a walk up one of the hills where we got an amazing view of the lake. After lunch we finished the presentations, and went up to the trading post to read the plaques that described the use of each building, and we got one final presentation that was about the post before we left for home.
Today was our last day of swimming lessons, so we did our testing today. What we did was swim 100m and tread water for five minutes. After we finished our testing we played water polo, during which team Moore beat team Werner in both games. The score of the first game was team Moore 10, team Werner 9, the score for the second game was forgotten by the teachers.