By Dominic Rickicki
The seasons are changing and the insatiable itch of cabin fever is ever present here in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Spring storms are coming and going, wildlife have become more active, and even a few flowers have begun to bloom. As spring runs its course the Rocky Mountain Conservancy (RMC) Field Institute is busy taking registrations for its educational classes and bus tours this year.
The Rocky Mountain Conservancy is the official non-profit partner of Rocky Mountain National Park. The conservancy helps purchase land for the park, fund youth programs and provide fundraising for the park. Along with all this, the Field Institute offers many single and multi-day classes for visitors to the park. Over 300 classes and tours are being offered this year, with topics that cover a broad range of interest and age groups. Many classes will start in the comfort of our field institute building, but quickly move out into various locations around RMNP for a hands on experience.
The Field Institute offers educational adventures of varying interest for children and adults, including classes on natural and cultural history, art, photography, and outdoor skills. Alongside these classes the Field Institute offers weekly scheduled bus tours in a 14 passenger mini-bus. New this year is the From Meadow to Tree Line bus tour; this tour focuses on the often overlooked things happening below tree line in the park. Although it is easy to pass some of these things by for those high alpine views, there are large amounts of interesting things happening down low. Hop on this bus tour for information on the cultural and natural history of RMNP and to check out beautiful locations such as the Alluvial Fan, Many Parks Curve, and Moraine Park. For those looking to enjoy the alpine the Field Institute will still be offering favorite bus tours such as the Sunset Safari, which takes participants up trail ridge road to enjoy the changing evening light at Rock Cut, the Grand Lake Safari, which takes participants on a day long trip over trail ridge road to the west side of the park, and the Journey to the Top!, which will take passengers to the top of Trail Ridge Road to experience the changing life zones in the park and the vast alpine tundra.
Kids and families will enjoy new youth classes being offered such as the Rocky Mountain History Hike, a naturalist guided hike to the once-active Eugenia mine, or Cloudy with a Chance of… Groppel?, a class that looks at the mysterious weather of the mountains. The Field Institute will also be offering a new class called Plants for Young Sprouts, a hands on, exploration based program that looks at the leafy wonders of the park, and for those looking for some old favorites the Kids Fly-fishing and Stream Ecology class is still being offered throughout the summer.
Photographers will be excited to learn about a night sky photography class that is offered this summer, instructed by Stan Honda. Stan has 34 years of experience as a photojournalist and has been the artist in residence at five different National Parks. This class will be sure to inspire photographers to stay out later and capture those fantastic starry sky photos. Also new for this year will be a photographing elk and aspen class on September 30th taught by W. Perry Conway. Eli Vega will be returning this summer to teach Photographing the “Small Wonders” of RMNP, a class focused on learning to photograph the many overlooked small wonders of the park on August 3rd. Also returning will be Lee Kline to teach a wildlife photography class in September and a new class focused on photographing the wildlife of the Kawuneeche valley on September 21st.
Artists will find new inspirations in the Field Institutes two new watercolor painting classes. One class is Beginning Water Color for the Nature Enthusiast with Karen Ramsay on May 13th, which will introduce the medium of watercolors to the artist and get them a jump start on the process. The other class is Painting the Kawuneeche: An Advanced Watercolor Class with Donna Lyons on August 26th. In this course artists will be given ample painting time to work on seeing as an artist sees and discovering a path to individual expression.
Those with an itch to get out and hike this summer can find a whole new list of guided hikes with a naturalist that the Field Institute will be offering. The destinations for scheduled hikes include, the Tundra Ute Trail, Ouzel Lake, Boulder Brook Loop and Bridal Veil Falls. If you’re looking for a more skills based course, Doug Hill will be back on May 6th to teach primitive survival skills and Peter Price will be teaching a GPS basics course on August 6th.
There are many new natural and cultural history course being offered by the Field Institute this year with some of the highlights being Night Creatures & Evening Adaptations with Kevin J. Cook, What’s Going to Happen to Our Park? Unraveling the Climate Change Knot with Dr. Tim Kittle and The Hidden Forest: Exploring an RMNP Ecosystem with Jeff Maugans. For wildflower enthusiasts there will be a new class on learning how to use a dichotomous key with Marlene Borneman this summer. For history buffs or those with a curiosity of the parks past there will be a new class called The Ghost of Old Fall River Road taught by Mary Taylor Young that will explore the original path of the Continental Divides first through highway. And finally for those looking for a good old fashion ghost story around a campfire the Living History Tales of the West will provide entertaining stories by characters in period costume with time for roasting marshmallows at the end.
The Rocky Mountain Conservancy – Field Institute offers education adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park for all ages and interests. From photography to history there is always a new adventure to experience. For additional information about these seminars or to register, call (970)-586-3262 or go online to www.rmconservancy.org and click on the Learn With Us tab.