A dozen youth from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson experienced an advanced immersion trip to Grand Canyon National Park July, 9-14, 2012. Most of the kids had never visited this world-famous park in their home state and exclaimed with “oohs, aahs and wows” at their first glance of the canyon.
We spotted a California condor almost immediately upon arrival and found another one in our camp later in the week (though the latter was actually Elizabeth, age 12, dressed up as a condor to help the group learn about survival adaptations). Unlike the majority of visitors to the park, our youth experienced the canyon on many levels including numerous viewpoints along the rim, from the Colorado River, and a couple miles into the canyon along the South Kaibab Trail. Fortunately, the weather was perfect during our hike to Cedar Ridge Point where we could comfortably watch distant storms zap peaks with lightning, and hide, then unveil rock formations in the distance. The cloud cover kept us cool and provided great photo opportunities as shadows danced over the landscape, highlighting new formations each day.
Some of the best memories happened at our exclusive campsite where we were all happy to play “house” amid the ponderosa pines. We endured a few rain showers, but joyfully played games, observed the wildlife, and got to know one another. The group had a great attitude about roughing it for a whole week and some kids (and adult mentors) even traded in showers for the chance to indulge in some ice cream, yum!
We were fortunate to have several talented adult mentors lead the youth throughout the week, sharing their expertise on the natural world and sense of wonder at the incredible place we were visiting. Thank you Tyler, Kalyca, Eric, and Jasmine! Our trip leader and personal Park Ranger, Dillon, was a constant source of information. He helped us notice the macro and microcosms we encountered and motivated us to be aware of and appreciate our surroundings. Additionally, the youth met with several professionals who taught and inspired their artwork and likely, their personal ambitions. Mike Buchheit, director of the Grand Canyon Field Institute and a professional photographer, gave us a private tour of Kolb Studios and shared some of his photo secrets. Adam Schallau, also a professional photographer who specializes in landscape photography, gave a workshop during the golden hour of sunset where the youth captured their best photos of the canyon. Additionally, Artist-in-Residence, Melinda Esparza, expanded our visual art pursuits with a collaborative watercolor painting activity.
After a week of visiting park resources, practicing photography, and chasing squirrels and ravens, we wrapped up our trip by initiating our participants into the Grand Canyon Junior Ranger program. Special thanks to Grand Canyon National Park, the Grand Canyon Association, and Debbie and Ray at “Just Roughin It” for making this trip possible!