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2014-2015 Park Trips

"Our guide said that our group gave him hope for the future, but I think it was this trip that would shape us into the kind of people that could and would do something of importance for our future."
Hannah Palmerton, Yosemite, 2012


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Virgin Islands National Park

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Virgin Islands National Park
Above: Snorkeling in Princess Bay mangroves.
Virgin Islands National Park
Above: New Year's Day on Ram Head Cliffs.
Ringing in the New Year in the Caribbean. The National Parks Experience fall semester students enjoyed the first days of 2015 in Virgin Island National Park on the island of St. John. We arrived on the island on December 30 after a long day of traveling. New Years Eve was spent snorkeling Salt Pond Bay and Blue Cobblestone Beach. We ushered in the New Year by hiking up to Ram Head cliffs before sunrise. The first light of a new year shone on our faces as we looked out over the Caribbean Sea. The following days were spent snorkeling locations such as Water Lemon Cay, Hanson Bay and the Princess Bay mangroves. Students also explored the sugar mill ruins of Annaburg, Cathrineburg, Reef Bay and Cinnamon Bay. No trip to St. John could be complete without a hike to view the petroglyphs. These petroglyphs were carved by the native people of St. John over a thousand years ago. The true meaning of the images can only be theorized as the people and culture that created them have been erased. The night snorkels brought shrieks of excitement and fear. Especially when several members of the group were fortunate enough to have a nurse shark swim by and check them out. The list of wildlife that we had the opportunity to observe is much too long to list. Highlights would include: spotted eagle ray, hawksbill sea turtles, nurse sharks, reef shark, octopus, squid, and over 100 different species of fish and invertebrates that call the coral reef home. Cap off the week with an evening of singing and dancing with Ital, and you have created memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Grand Canyon National Park

Above: Hiking along Clear Creek Trail.

Grand Canyon National Park

Above: Descending into the canyon on the South Kaibab Trail.



The Grand Canyon National Park

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The spring semester brought in a new cast of characters and shifted the focus from aquatic/tropical ecosystems to the Colorado Plateau and the Grand Canyon. This year marked the National Parks Experience's 5th trip to the Grand Canyon. This was one of the most remarkable of all the trips. The canyon was in full bloom. Everywhere we looked, we saw blossoms of brilliant colors. Many of the students had prepared themselves to see a landscape dominated by rust and brown colored rock. For them to see the slopes of the canyon alive with red, purple, yellow and white flowers was an unexpected treat. Another unexpected treat were the Pueblo Indian ruins that the National Parks Service has recently opened for hikers to view. These large and well preserved ruins reminded us that we were just few in a very long list of travelers passing though this remarkable place. Students were also treated to the joy of a swim in the Colorado River. As a result of the water temperature, it was more of a splash than a swim. Thanks to our guide, Jack Pennington, from the Grand Canyon Field Institute, the canyon became our classroom. And with each lesson learned, the canyon became more remarkable and alive. We were also provided with an opportunity to give something back to the canyon and help the people that work to protect this treasure. The students spent an afternoon removing an invasive species of plant, horehound, which is spreading through some of the campgrounds and damaging the fragile ecosystem. Our group removed over 150 horehound plants from Indian Garden Campground. Service projects like this provide the students will a sense of pride because they feel they have made a difference and helped preserve and protect a place with which they have developed a deeper connection. Once again the canyon provided the students with opportunities to learn, connect with nature, develop friendships, and challenge themselves. The students that reached the top of Bright Angel Trail were not the same as those that started down the South Kaibab four days earlier. They have been forever inspired and touched by the spirit of the Grand Canyon.

Thank you to all those who supported the National Parks Experience. Whether you gave of your time, treasure or talent, you have helped make lifelong memories and foster of love of nature and self-confidence to a group of young people. They will be forever grateful.


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