Central Washington Field Trip:
Week 7 -2013

For week 7 of the Wilderness Certification, we headed out on a field trip to the dry habitats of central Washington State to study desert ecology, tracking, and medicinal plants. Its an environment much different than the moist temperate rainforest where we live and study at the main campus.

We arrived in Umtanum Canyon on Tuesday afternoon and half of the class headed out tracking local wildlife species such as mule deer, bighorn sheep, coyote and elk. The other half headed out to learn native desert plant species and ethically harvested certain plants to make natural medicines.

Below students display their bounty of various medicinal plants before we processed them and made medicines which strengthen the heart, cure headaches and heal the lungs from respiratory ailments.

class photo from central Washington fieldtrip

On day two we headed a little farther east to the Vantage area and the Potholes Dunes. In the Vantage area we ran a tracking exercise to help prepare students for the evaluation that they'll be taking at the end of their program. At Potholes Dunes we taught the ins and outs of human tracking skills. For a portion of the day we split the class into groups and had them track and evade one another using tactics learned in class.

Below we see one of the groups sneaking up a ridge to surprise the opposing group.

Practicing human tracking

Here student Sam loads a squirt gun before heading out on another human tracking mission.

Loading the squirt gun for ambush exercise

On the last leg of the trip, we continued to study local ecology by tracking wetland species and identifying birds at the Columbia Wildlife Refuge. This was probably the richest area for wildlife species that we encountered the entire trip and we all wished we could have stayed at this particular location for another week if we could.

Below the class circles up for a morning lecture on survival trapping before heading out to the wildlife refuge.

Morning lecture in the fall sunshine

Students gathered for a photo opportunity atop one of the ridges at the refuge.

group photo in central Washington

All and all it was an amazing trip where the students furthered their knowledge in tracking, bird language, survival techniques, natural medicines, and plant identification. It really is fun and rewarding to see them absorb and put into use all of this information and transform from a class into a family. Looking forward to the next trip together!


Learn about the Alderleaf Wilderness Certification Program, our in-depth, nine-month course that trains students to teach and apply wilderness survival, permaculture, ethnobotany, wildlife tracking, naturalist, and outdoor leadership skills.



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