I’m here! I’m trained!

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The past two weeks have been two of the craziest of my life. It’s gonna be hard to put to words what I’ve done, experienced, the people I’ve connected with, or where I see this whole program going. I will do my best though…

It took almost no time at all to get the ball rolling here. Our (the other student naturalists and myself) first weekend was pretty much free and open after hauling our stuff in. Move in was an absolute piece of cake. Joe, the Director of Naturalist Training, and the four Second Year Mentor Naturalists were there waiting to help haul everything in. It was a very warm welcome!

The next day the real exploration started. A group of us went out and for a hike around. There are about 2000 total acres of land owned by Wolf Ridge ELC. It took almost no time for us student nats to start bonding. In the first weekend alone we went raspberry picking, lobster mushroom foraging, canoeing, and visited the nearby towns of Finland and Silver Bay.

Training started the following Monday and will be coming to a close tomorrow. It has been incredibly exhausting. We’ve been scheduled from 8 am to around 9 pm Monday-Friday for the past two weeks. The days have gone by really fast but you can feel it in your body and mind how tired you are. We’ve been taking classes that we will be teaching starting next Monday. I won’t give a complete list but just a few examples include Adventure Ropes Course, Superior View Hike, Small Mammals, Earthworks (think making impermanent artwork using things you find in nature), Climate Change, and Forest Management. We’ve taken classes in beautiful weather and strong downpours. I’ve probably been averaging over 10 hours outdoors every day. It’s great!

The staff here is really incredible. Some of the naturalists here have been working at Wolf Ridge for over 30 years. You can tell they really love the place and the community that exists here. They are also incredibly good at capturing your attention and drawing you into the classes. All of them keep encouraging us to use them, the grounds, the equipment as resources. “This is all yours. Use it.” Has been a phrase I’ve heard repeated all week. It’s kind of overwhelming! The ropes course, the canoes, the telescopes, the rock climbing walls, the tents, the library, the wetsuits, etc. are all ours to use whenever we want. It’s becoming more and more obvious the importance of the naturalist training program to Wolf Ridge’s overall mission. They have been running this program for over 30 years and know what they are doing. It really is an honor to be here.

Ok I just have two more stories to tell. Both take place last weekend and were opportunities set up by the second year naturalists. First, last Saturday evening the second year naturalists invited us to grab a wetsuit and meet them at Crystal Cove, a beach on Lake Superior. We ended up throwing on the wet suits and swimming out to a cave about 25 yards offshore. Wetsuit or no wetsuit, Lake Superior is COLD. First time swimming in a cave though and it was sooooo cool! We ended the night with a fire, snacks, and beer on the beach. It was great : )

Second, we woke up the next morning and about half of the student naturalists went out with a guy name Kurt Mead to do some mushroom hunting. Kurt is married to one of the permanent star members here and really knows his stuff when it comes to mushrooms. He took us out to a bog to pick Trumpet Chanterelle mushrooms. Walking on the bog was cool enough but we collected bag full of mushrooms. I had been telling people that mushroom foraging is something I wanted to do while I was here. It happened in the first week! It’s so cool to be surrounded by people who are so in touch with the land around here. I’m going to learn so much!

Well I thin that’s about it for now. I was planning on getting some pictures up with this post but the internet here is kinda shoddy and not behaving super awesome right now. I’ll get them up this weekend, I promise!

Than you for reading and know that while I’m having all of these awesome adventures, I’m also missing so many amazing family and friends from back in the Cities. Guess you’ll have to come visit : )

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