Winter Trek a step in the right direction |

Winter Trek a step in the right direction

by Andy Bourelle

Lake Tahoe children have some big shoes to fill if they want to continue the environmental work going on in the basin when they grow up.

They will do just fine, however, if Monday morning was any kind of indication – when about 20 fifth-graders tried some very big shoes on for size.

Students from Tahoe Valley Elementary School visited Valhalla on Monday to participate in the U.S. Forest Service’s annual Winter Trek program, where they were able to take a short hike. Even though the snowshoes they used were nearly as long as the children were tall, the students quickly got the hang of using them.

“(Winter Trek) is a nice program,” said Carol Murdock, teacher at Tahoe Valley Elementary School. “We like getting out to do everything Tahoe has to offer, experimenting with different kinds of recreational opportunities, like snowshoeing.”

It isn’t just about recreation, though. The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has conducted the Winter Trek program for 11 years, teaching children about winter wildlife.

“It’s an environmental education program geared toward fifth-graders,” said W.J. Cober, interpretive naturalist for the Forest Service. “We have all the local schools from South Lake Tahoe, and we also get a few from Reno, Sparks, Gardnerville, Carson City and Placerville.”

“We talk about the winter environment and animals in the Lake Tahoe Basin – how they survive in the winter,” said Chris Leindecker, interpretive naturalist for the Forest Service.

Leindecker and Cober organize Winter Trek, and they have been welcoming children from different schools every day for the past few weeks. The program will continue until late March.

“It’s good to just come out here and learn about wildlife and how animals adapt in the winter,” Murdock said. “It’s nice just to come out to Valhalla. It’s a real homey experience. It’s a place some of the kids can come to later.”

The children watch a slide show about winter wildlife, participate in events at a number of educational stations and strap on snowshoes and take a small hike.

The program lasts two to three hours, depending on how quickly the children have to be back in class.

“It’s really enjoyable. They all seem to enjoy the activities, especially the snowshoe part,” Cober said. “They like getting to be outside.”

Murdock said she thinks the program will help the students learn to be good environmental stewards.

“I think they learn that we’re part of the environment,” Murdock said. “We’re the ones who are going to have to make sure this area remains the way it is.”

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