Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Changing Landscapes

We arrived at night; it was a desert mesa with a canyon in the distance. The signs of erosion and change were all around us. No campground tonight, no facilities, just a tarp on the ground under the clear night sky.

We had been traveling all day by van and my team was excited. Buddy Bison peeked up from the seat and I hauled my pack out of the van.  We were off on a 100-mile backpacking trip through the Escalante River in Southern Utah. My group was the most experienced outdoors team at Ojai Valley School Lower Campus, 8 students and two teachers. The 100-mile trip is the most challenging of the outdoor experiences at Lower Campus and I knew I wanted to be part of this team from our very first outdoor trip in first grade. Everyone hikes and everyone camps at my school. You learn a lot about yourself and your friends.

This is my last year at Ojai Valley School (OVS) Lower Campus and my last year as a Buddy Bison Student Ambassador. Buddy Bison Ambassadors serve from 4th grade until the end of 8th grade. I am not sure what the future will hold for me at OVS Upper Campus but I am excited that I will continue working with National Park Trust as an Alumni Ambassador. In this new role, I will continue to educate children and families across the country about the benefits of our parks as I travel with Buddy Bison to new and exciting places. I also look forward to representing National Park Trust at youth leadership summits!

My outdoor experiences at Ojai Valley School have taught me many important lessons, and have allowed me to try many new things. For example, the 100-mile trip was my first time ever pack rafting. Pack rafting is when you put all of your supplies in an inflatable raft and paddle down the river. Even here we face the unexpected, the river level dropped just before we arrived so there was a lot of wading and scampering over gravel bars and mud. It was very fun, but there were also some risks and not everything went well. During one rapid, my backpack was torn open, and my raft started leaking; however, it was one of the most fun things we did on the entire trip. It is important to accept change and take some risks. It is good to go a little outside your comfort zone on an adventure.

 

This Kids to Parks Day, I volunteered at Channel Islands National Park. It was really fun, and I was lucky enough to meet Colton Smith from Rock the Park, and Robbie from Kids Speak for Parks. We had over nine hundred visitors including 120 kids!

This is my last article for the National Park Trust as the first Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, but I’m excited to start the new role as an Alumni Ambassador! You will still see and hear from me, I promise. Follow the other Student Buddy Bison ambassadors at parktrust.org.