5/11/01 Today was an extremely cool day, for the time I was there any way. Morning found us scrambling to pack our bags and clean the lodge, so we could leave by 9:30 for the gathering in Dakota, MN. Everyone worked very hard and finished so we were able to leave on time.
When we arrived we were instructed to hide and wait until precisely 11:00 when we were to walk into the park to the cheers of our excited fans. It was a little strange for me to walk into a park with people screaming and cheering at my arrival.
When we made our way to the shelter we were instructed to sit in a group of chairs in front of everyone because we were the guests of honor. We then proceeded to listen to songs that the students and teachers had written about our great experience.
After about a half an hour it was off to our learning station. We were responsible for giving the students a little background on the trip. So Robbie, Sara, and I told the on lookers about some of our favorite parts of the trip, and then showed them a video that we had made during the trip. Everyone seemed to enjoy our wacky escapades, that was a little reassuring.
After about 45 minutes it was time for me to leave so I could get home and get ready for prom. It was difficult to let the group go, but we had exchanged e-mail addresses, and phone numbers so I knew that I would be hearing from everyone again. If any of you see this I would just like to say that you made this trip a great experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed spending a week with you! So thank you for being there with me to enjoy it!
P.S.-I hope we all stay in touch. I will e-mail all of you as much as I can, and I hope you feel free to do the same because I would love to hear from you!!
5/10/01 Excellent. Today was an excellent day. It started off with us driving to Lanesboro, and the Root River. Our plan was to canoe on the Root River from Lanesboro to Rushford. In reality we ended up going from a small town called Whalen to another tiny town called Preston, MN. From the beginning it was a very exciting trip. I shared a canoe with Sara, and right from the beginning we did very well. In fact, everyone on the river did a fine job of maneuvering and steering. Some of the most enjoyable moments on the river were the ones where we got together in one large group holding onto each other canoes as we floated downstream. The reason for this maneuver was to share food and water that we brought along on the trip. The trip itself was very fun; we spent a lot of time splashing each other, laughing, and singing. After two hours time we had made our way down the length of the course.
After this escapade we had some extra time on our hands so we spent some time touring Winona. The most interesting place we visited was the Winona National Bank. The bank was a model of the Egyptian Revival period, and looked from the outside like a huge marble castle. The inside was not much different; marble covered everything. The upstairs of the building contained many rare African animals that had been killed and stuffed by one of the previous owners of the building who used to go to Africa on safari. These stuffed animals both amazed and shocked me at the same time. Here were some of the most rare species in the world, so beautiful and yet so beautiful. What I mean is that these animals don't belong on display, they should be enjoyed in their natural habitat. THEY SHOULD NOT BE KILLED FOR SPORT! In fact, I am against the killing of anything for sport or competition.
The next thing we did today was go to the village of Pickwick. A small town near Winona. You would think that there would be nothing special about such a tiny place, but that is very, very, wrong. Pickwick is the sight of the oldest mill in Minnesota. That is where we were headed for a tour of the mill.
The mill itself was huge encompassing 7 stories, two of which were below street level. The most interesting part of the tour for me was the part where we moved out onto a doorway on the second floor of the building. The doorway was right next to the huge waterwheel that created all of the power for the entire mill. A large volume of water splashed through a door controlling the flow of water from the mill. The faster the water flowed, the faster the wheel moved, and therefore the more energy it produced. I found the entire tour very interesting, the way farmers lined up on any given day up to a mile away from the mill to process their wheat and get paid, and the way workers spent up to 24 hours a day processing wheat to keep up with the demand.
I am really going to miss this group of people. Over the past week and a half, we have gelled into one cohesive unit working together in various learning situations. I have grown to love each and every one of them as a brother or a sister, and yes sometimes we fought like siblings. However, through all off the highs and lows we have stuck together and will be linked for all eternity in the glory of our mission, even if we never see each other again.
5/9/01 Surprise, surprise, today was another fun day spent with friends. The day started off with us sleeping in for a change. I woke up at about 8:00, and I still could have slept later and know one would have noticed. Anyway there were no activities planned until after lunch so I got some much-needed work done on my journal for school. I am caught up to the eighth of May, and I will get completely caught up tonight.
After lunch our little group went down to the local neighborhood to see where we could be of service. Joan and Bud owned the first house we went to. Joan had us clean out her basement, and put everything in the garage. After we finished at Joan's house, we went to Libbie's to see if we could help her in any way. Well, it turned out that she didn't need our help, but we stayed to chat to chat for about 45 minutes any way, Libbie is so easy to talk to, I could talk to her for days. So if you are reading this Libbie I really enjoyed the time we spent talking to you during this week. Thank you for your time! Our last stop was at Bob's house. He had us clear his yard of sticks and logs. This took about an hour and a half and was our last clean-up project of the day.
After this project we went back to the lodge, and had some more free time. At 5:30 we had to go into Red Wing to Fed ex our video for the Millard Fillmore Dinner tomorrow night. The next thing we did was go to the public library to work on our personal projects. I typed a small portion of a creative piece I have been thinking about for a while. The piece I began to write, deals with the growing pollution problem in our world today.
During the evening a storm, of epic proportions, pulled into Red Wing. Lightning and heavy rain ripped through the town, and we enjoyed watching this spectacle on the way home.
5/8/01 Wow! What can I say, but wow. Today, was another unimaginably great day! It started off with a trip to the bluffs of Wabasha and a meeting with naturalist Dave Palmquist. Dave met us atop a bluff along the Whitewater Valley near Wabasha. It was located above some of the most beautiful country you have ever seen. Bluffs wrapped in a huge blanket of green, clear blue ponds, and vast areas covered with all kinds of trees and plants.
Dave talked to us for about a half an hour about the formation of the river and the surrounding bluffs. Then we were off to the Whitewater State Park. There we climbed a bluff and talked about the process that the DNR follows to create a natural environment in the park. The DNR burns plants that are not native to the area, and that choke off the plants that really belong to this region. Dave explained that this process has to be repeated almost constantly to keep the region in its natural state.
The last thing that we did with Dave was the most memorable of all. Dave showed us a four-foot long Timber Rattlesnake that is native to the Southeast corner of Minnesota. He explained that the Timber Rattlesnake the most timid of all of the other species of Rattlesnake, and that it will only strike unless provoked. I found this animal extremely compelling and fascinating. Here is an animal that is thoroughly misunderstood, but in a way finds a way to persevere and push right through this confusion. The Rattlesnake has of yet remained elusive and crafty, and for those, and only those reasons, it has stayed alive to this day.
The next thing we did today was return to the camp for a canoeing expedition through the flooded neighborhoods surrounding the camp. This was very interesting because some of these houses had been completely gutted by the river. It was amazing to see that the river rises and reclaims its floodplain at any cost, swallowing everything in its path regardless of who or what it happens to be. After we completed our canoe trip we talked to some of the neighborhood citizens who agreed to let us interview them about the flood, and help them clean up after the devastation. These people seemed to be taking the damage very well, considering the fact that their homes would take months to repair and return to normal.
The most exciting event of the day took place after we returned from canoeing. This was the high rope adventure. What this activity involved was an exercise in teamwork. Helping one another overcome the physical and mental rigors of climbing on cables and platforms 30 feet above the ground. The exercise was a sizable challenge for me because I have a rather large fear of heights, but with the support of my peers I climbed around for a while and began to conquer my fear!!
5/7/01 Today was my favorite day in the trip up to this point. We started off the day by driving to Wabasha, MN, and the DNR office just outside of town. A Fisheries Biologist by the name of Mike Davis met us there and showed us a slide show about the human interaction and relationship with the river. This was very interesting because it explained that as we put up barriers between us and the river we have the mind set that we are doing a service to those who live around the river.
This state of mind is in fact very flawed because as we put up barriers, such as wing dams, for example, the river has no choice but to become narrower. When a river becomes narrow it has a tendency to move faster because the momentum that it was carrying on the outside is thrust to the middle where it then carries the added momentum downstream.
Another example of this attitude is when cities put up levies and dams to hold back water in flood years. You would think that this would be a smart thing to do to prevent the catastrophic, but if you look at it from a different angle you would see that towns without flood protection are in imminent danger. The reason is very simple if you deny a river her floodplain in one area the river will just stay within its boundaries and flow downstream. However, you can't bottle up a river forever, and it will defy its boundaries the first chance it gets. So towns along its path without a barrier will be flooded almost immediately, so in reality levies and flood walls may seem like a good idea to those they protect but they make the flooding that much more severe for towns who can't afford protection.
I found this very interesting because I have never thought about flood protection as causing harm instead of good, and I never thought about the potential problems. After we finished the slide show we took a trip into town got lunch squared away, and started our tour of several flooded areas around Wabasha. These areas were both very fascinating; the first was a flooded field. This area would not have been so interesting except for the fact that a culvert running from the flooded field pumped water from the field to the other side. This created a strong flow of water that ran from the flooded field.
We watched as fish, and pieces of wood were swept through the culvert by the raging current. As interesting as this was, it was not the highlight of my day by far. The most interesting part of my day was the trip to the Kellogg-Weaver Dunes. It was an unbelieving sight with a cross by surprise climates that is unmatched in all of the Midwest. When you pull up to the sight on the road there is a short hike though a small woods along the Mississippi floodplain. After you walk through a small portion of the woods, you hike up a small hill and there is the most beautiful sight you have ever seen in your life.
Rolling, sand whipped dunes accent a desert-like climate. It truly is like a desert, on the edge of the property a patch of prickly-pear cactuses grows out of the rolling prairie. You are in the Great Plains and the Southwest all at once, and you don't even have to leave Minnesota. This truly is one of the most unique places on Earth with a combination of climates unmatched in the Midwest. This harsh climate caught me completely by surprise; evolving from a small forest into a little piece of Heaven, this truly is AMAZING!
Today was a fun, physically exerting day. We traveled to Cannon Falls early in the morning, rented expensive GT bikes, and headed out along the Cannon River Trail. At first we were not sure about how far we were going to bike, but it turned out that we biked to Welch Village and back about a 20-mile trip!
By the end I was pretty sore and tired, and so was everybody else, so we decided to go back to the lodge for some down time. Some of the students took short naps, but most of us just relaxed and worked on our personal projects. I really enjoyed this down time and got some much-needed work done.
This afternoon I combined most of the pictures I have taken so far into one folder on the desktop of one of the iBooks. I have some very good pictures of ducks, geese, snakes, and fish. Tomorrow, I will begin more in-depth work on my project, including research on the Internet, and possibly some creative work. Well, that's about all I can think of for know. All see you all soon. Bye.
Today, started off very uneventful as we woke up at about 7:00 in the morning, got dressed, and ate breakfast on our way to the Red Wing Technical College for a webcast to several different parties. The first of which was a River Conference at St. Cloud State University, and the second was to a group of kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers in Brainerd.
However, as we got everything set up we found out that technical problems with the computers prevented the connection from going through to either of the groups awaiting our transmission from the college. So with no other choice we sent them the movie that we edited from the first three days of filming, and licked our wounds. For the rest of the morning while the leaders tried to get the connection back up we sat, played cards, and made ourselves available in case we were needed to explain the program and what we hoped to accomplish during the trip. Overall, the morning was not a complete waste it gave us valuable time to bond, and I learned several new card games. I had a great time doing nothing!
Next we were off to climb Barn Bluff, the 340-foot river bluff for which Red Wing is infamous. However, before we got there we had to stop at a store to buy film and batteries. The store itself was right next to the river so for a while we explored down on the shore, while the leaders bought supplies for our trip. I had a lot of fun observing and playing around the river. I noticed almost immediately the stench of fish on the shoreline, and I assumed that the tide had washed fish up on land to slowly suffocate and die. Later, I kind of kicked back and skipped rocks in the river. It was nice just to have some time to fool around between group activities and down by the river of all places!
When we had everything ready we went to mighty Barn Bluff for the view of a lifetime. Let me tell you that it was an unforgettable time. At first you could see very little through the trees and brush, but soon I was overlooking the entire city of Red Wing and had a bird's eye view of the Mississippi River. For me the most incredible part of the experience was the moment I emerged from the woods and walked into the open atop the Bluff. The moment I walked out I felt like I was on top of the world.
Looking over the adjoining landscape I had an almost religious experience; I was in such beautiful surroundings it was like I was very close to Heaven. Toward the end of the day's activities we decided to stop in a small town of about one hundred people called Stockholm. I know what you're thinking and yes the town did take its name from the capital of Sweden, and the high percentage of Swedish residents. Anyway, getting back on track, we stopped to let some the students interview people from the town about their thoughts on the river.
I on the other hand had a great opportunity to get some shots of the local river wildlife. For this task I chose a flooded park at the edge of town that always seemed to be bustling with activity. Once I got there I noticed several animals, including a duck swimming in the water, and several robins and blackbirds. Soon I had shots of each of these animals, which made me very excited, but the biggest surprise was yet to come, and it took several of my peers to get me to notice it. There lying on the road was a dead fish from the river that Sara suggested I photograph. I had come into the park and walked right past this gold mine opportunity. I would just like to thank Sara because without her I probably would have missed this huge discovery. Well I think I have written enough for today. In short, today was another day full of discovery and fun!!
5/4/01 Not surprisingly today was another great learning experience spent with friends. We started the day off traveling to the Prairie Island Dakota Community between Hastings and Red Wing. During the trip as we drove through Hastings we discovered that we had some extra time before we had to meet with the Native American herbalist and international speaker Joe Campbell.
We initially stopped to get some refreshments, but decided to go down to the river in Hastings to look and maybe take some pictures, it was amazing because the river had come up to the point where it covered a trail that ran along the river. After we stopped to look at the river for a while we were on our way to the Prairie Island Dakota Community once again.
Once we got there we met with Joe Campbell, and he started talking to us about a wide range of topics ranging from the nuclear power plant standing just outside of the reservation, to his thoughts on religion and culture. For me the most interesting part of the lesson was when Joe talked about some of the visions he has had about his dead mother and father. Joe explained that he had a vision every night while he was asleep for a very long time, in it he saw his father laying on the ground dead in front of his mother who was standing on the railroad tracks saying something that he cannot quite make out. In the background, a figure stands behind his mother, but stays far enough away to remain faceless. Joe has this dream recurrently for about 11 years! Finally one night he made out what his mother was trying to say to him, she says motioning to her husband that it was up to him to heal the land, but know it your responsibility to carry on the responsibility.
Throughout this entire story I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat with my mouth wide open completely enthralled in the story! Joe has the ability of telling a story in such detail that you would swear that you were there or experiencing the story firsthand. This whole experience was of great value to me, and I will never forget the lessons that I learned in the 4 hours or so that I spent with him. Joe if you ever see this entry I would just like to thank you for the time that you took out of your day to spend with us, I thought that your wisdom and methods of teaching were both extraordinary!
I would have to say that this journey left me in deep thought in the van on the way to Red Wing. I found myself thinking about things that I had never thought of before, such as, how humans fit into this crazy world that really belongs to our plant and animal counterparts. Humans have taken everything in this world for granted, things that we have no business taking from the natural world. WE ARE JUST TOURISTS HERE!!
Anyway, I wanted to finish off this entry by talking a little bit about my favorite part of the day. Toward the end of the evening our group headed down to the woods for a group activity. We participated in a game where we had to depend on each other to complete a task. The game involved five boxes and four wooden planks. The task at hand was to stand behind the first box and place a wooden plank into two slots in each of the first two boxes and use the plank as a bridge to walk across. The trick then was to repeat the process to get all the way to the other end of the line of boxes, and in the shortest possible time. Two groups put their teamwork to the test and perfected the task the second time around. This was one the highlights of the whole day for me, it was an excellent experience for me to work with the rest of my peers in an activity both fun and challenging! Today was another superb day. Period.
P.S.-I would just like to say hi to everyone at MNCS! I hope your enjoying these journal entries. See you soon.
Today was an unbelievable day! We spent the entire time exploring historic places in the Twin Cities from the Village of St. Anthony, and St. Anthony Falls to historic Fort Snelling it was a day of learning and discovery.
We started off at St. Anthony Falls, which due to the flood was an incredible sight. A portion of the lock, which was usually closed off from the river, was now open with water running through it at a harrowing pace. Our guide, Pat Nunnally, explained to us that he had seen pictures of the riverbed when it was completely dry due to a long drought, the revelation made the scene even more spectacular.
Seeing the river in this state was amazing, but I can think of no incident that showed the power of the river more than when we spotted a tree trunk floating down the river toward the lock. Well, upon viewing this situation our curiosities rose immediately, we watched in silence as the limb floated perilously down the river directly toward the lock! As I waited I remember feeling a mixture of wonder and shock for the event caught me completely by surprise.
When it got to the lock it slammed into the steel door and broke in half, the back piece flowed right through the barrier while the front piece was pushed onto the top of the retaining door. After a little while the front piece slid off the door and floated down the river. Even though this spectacle lasted only a minute I can't remember having such a feeling of awe in all my life!
After lunch we traveled to Fort Snelling for a tour of the historic settlement. In fact we ended up taking two tours, one was a private tour from a Park Ranger named David Wiggins. It was a very interesting time; my favorite part of this tour was when we went up onto a platform at the edge of the fort directly over the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. There we learned about this place the Dakota Indians consider to be sacred and holy ground.
Next we took a regular tour where you go from building to building learning about the different elements of life at the Fort. I really enjoyed the time we spent in the hospital learning about different treatments for disease in the 1820's; to me it is truly mind-boggling how far we have come in the field of medicine since that time. Anyway, the entire experience was both beneficial and a lot of fun. If the rest of the trip is like it was today I am in for a real treat.
Finally, I just wanted to add one more thing, at the beginning of the trip I was kind of unsure of myself and what I was doing here, but the staff and the rest of the students have really been kind and very accessible to me and for that I just wanted to say thank you. When the people around you go out of their way to make you feel welcome it makes the trip that much more enjoyable. It's been for this reason that I have had such a good time up until now!!
Tonight, we celebrated the opening of the Rivers of Life excursion with a dinner and program at the Radisson Hotel in St. Paul. I was very surprised right from the beginning at the elegance and prestige of the ceremony; I was not expecting such a welcoming committee. One of the first things I noticed was the number of people at the gathering; it was obvious to me that there were a lot of dedicated people included in this program. Let me tell you that it was reassuring to know that so many people showed interest in the trip. You can always tell the quality of a program by how many volunteers choose to share their time and talents to making it work. The next thing I noticed was the great food, the fish and the salad was excellent. Anyway, the meal was not the best part of the gathering, by far. The presentation was the part of the program that I will never forget! Toward the end of the meal, the leaders of the gathering showed clips of last year's trip, and some of the news stories that covered it. It was excellent and left an impression on me of what the trip would be like even though we would not be venturing out on the river. The video showed a group of kids who appeared to have a ball doing what they signed up to do and for me that's what it's all about. During your lifetime you generally forget some of the things you learn in school, or at your job, but you never forget making new friends. During this trip I hope to accomplish many things, first and foremost I want to have a great time learning and developing new interests, but I also want to meet new people who share my interests and are here to learn like I am. I think that we will soon find that we have more in common than we think!
for Global Environmental Education