Chase Charaba, Online and Social Media Manager
On the white, iced-over trails of Mt. Rainier’s Paradise students strapped into their red and black snowshoes Jan. 24 and began their two mile trek, guided by a National Park Service ranger. Trekking through tightly packed snow, many of these snowshoers were beginners, prepared to experience winter.
That’s because the Office of Student Life took Pierce College Puyallup students on an all-expenses paid winter excursion to learn more about sustainability in U.S. national parks.
Sustainability Coordinator Morgan Pasquier organized the trip in an attempt to make educational events more exciting and appealing to students.
“I’ve been trying to figure out some ways to make my events a little more exciting and entertaining for students rather than being strictly educational,” Pasquier said. “(I’m) trying to think outside the box. Stuff like the chocolate factory tour and the snowshoeing is kind of an attempt on my part to combine that educational factor that comes with my position with more fun stuff to make people more interested in attending events.”
The trip involved students leaving the college at 10 a.m. on Jan. 24 to head for Mount Rainier National Park. Students met in the OSL with their gear to sign waivers and take attendance for the trip.
As soon as 10 hit they filed into the college’s red and green vans, one driven by OSL Adviser Sean Cooke, and the other by Activities Board and Clubs Assistant Christi Grohs.
“I was little nervous driving up there because I’ve never driven up to Mt. Rainier myself and I knew (the road) was really windy, so I was like, ‘Okay, I’m just going to go nice and slow,’ but I think that it went well,” Grohs said. “We all safely made it there and back and we had everyone on our bus, so that was good. And we didn’t get stuck in the snow.”
As the vans left the A lot of the college, a student had to run across the parking lot to stop the vans from leaving him and Pasquier, who organized the event, behind.
After the hour and a half drive to the mountain, the vans had to stop to chain up, where it took just over 30 minutes to complete the task.
“They were brand new chains, so I think that they were just stiff and never bent (because) they had never been used before,” Grohs said. “It was just the process of putting them on the tires for the first time.”
An older set of chains was eventually used for Grohs van because they were easier to put on.
“It worked out that the van that I drove had the extra chains that we had used before, so that went on much easier,” Grohs said.
Once at Paradise students ate a lunch of sandwiches (either ham, turkey, or veggie), potato chips and a cookie provided by Lancer Catering at no cost to students in the parking lot, where they were set loose to enjoy the park as long as they returned to the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center by 1:50 p.m.
Just before 2 p.m. students gathered around an interactive map of Mt. Rainier National Park with their guide, who explained the purpose of the tour and asked for student interests, such as wildlife and sustainability. Students were also instructed on how to put on the snowshoes.
Leaving through the back door of the lodge, students tightened their snowshoes and began their trek up the hills, which were covered in about 12 feet of snow.
At certain points along the trek the park ranger would stop the group and talk about issues at the National Park, such as the building of the new visitor center at Paradise in order to be more environmentally conscience and the effects of climate change on wildlife such as pikas.
“I liked that in every single stop that we had (the park ranger) talked about different things like asking us what kind of wildlife did we think that we’d (encounter) and what kind of wildlife’s more endangered and what problems they’re having,” Grohs said.
The park ranger would ask students to consider problems that the park has faced in the past and continues to face, such as foxes getting drawn to close to the roads and getting hit.
“I liked how he’d ask us questions about, ‘So these are the problems we’re having with the wildlife, but then what would you do to solve it?’” Grohs said.
After learning about how glaciers helped to shape the mountain, students returned to the visitor center and began their ride down the mountain, stopping for photos of the orange sunset on the bridge over the Nisqually glacier at 4:40 p.m..
Students returned to the Puyallup campus around 6:30 p.m.
“I feel like the weather conditions were perfect and I felt like our guide was so nice and funny, that he made it fun and educational at the same time,” Grohs said. “I thought it was a blast. I loved it.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost