One of the many things I relish about parenting a student at the Calgary Science School is the opportunity to volunteer to accompany outdoor education trips. In late May, I joined 10 other parents to form the volunteer support crew for 50 grade 8 students (and their teachers) as they camped for 3 nights in Jasper National Park. A couple of parents rode on the bus with the students and teachers, while three more carpooled and traveled with the charter bus. Their first stop was at the Columbia Icefields, where everyone ate lunch and then enjoyed a ride in one of the giant Ice Explorers up to the Athabasca Glacier.
Later in the afternoon, guides from Walks and Talks Jasper met the bus at the trail head for the easy (5 km) Valley of the Five Lakes hike. K spotted early spring wildflowers, including several large clumps of Calypso Orchids. He also learned how glaciers helped form the valley.Peyto Lake, to gather the information required to log an earthcache that I somehow overlooked when we hiked there earlier this spring. That stop is when I realized I’d overlooked two things in my packing and preparation! First, I forgot to check trail conditions and ended up sinking mid-thigh-deep into snow all the way from the parking lot to the viewpoint, which resulted in wet socks and boots. Second, although I thought I’d loaded all the geocaches along the route and in the Jasper townsite onto two GPS units, the one that also holds the geocache descriptions (including earthcache questions) failed to load properly so I had to guess what the earthcache questions might be and take lots of photographs and observations. I was very tempted to stop at the Columbia Icefields. In fact, rounding the corner where snow-capped Parker Ridge comes into sight, I exclaimed “Wow! We have to come hiking here later in the year.”
I managed to resist the temptation to stop a second time, arriving in Jasper shortly afternoon noon, right on time to join the 5 other parent volunteers who drove directly to Jasper. Our most important job was to try to secure the Marmot Meadows group camping spot closest to the water faucets and washrooms (we were successful) and then to set up the school’s tents so they’d be ready and waiting when the students arrived about 5 o’clock.
The tents were all up by about 2:30, so we also set up the school’s giant propane BBQ and prairie cookers, positioned folding tables for food prep and serving, unloaded the big wooden crates (one holds dishes for 65 people and the other holds all the cooking pots, cutting boards, utensils and cutlery) and organized the dish washing station. Then we started preparing supper – hamburgers with all the fixings followed by fresh fruit salad. After a tasty meal, the students split off into small groups to start preparing for the Talent Show while the parents organized a few things for the next day’s breakfast and activities.
Everyone was zipped into their tents by about 10:30. Before turning off my LED mini-lantern, I made sure I had my bear spray close at hand and ready for use – just in case!