Posted by: csdailyblog | March 3, 2010

A Case of the Mondays…..Exploration Week Style

Jon Ciatti, Conserve School Field Instructor, submitted the following post and photos describing one of the Exploration Week activities he designed and led.

Stopping often to discuss the evolution of Sylvania from the Sylvania Club to its current Wilderness status, four Conservites participated in what I would consider a true journey of exploration and discovery. Ben Baumgartner mentioned at one point, “We have this great wilderness right in our back yard!” So true, Ben, so true. It is a great wilderness, and such an amazing privilege to be able to visit from our campus.

Each time I visit, I find new things to see and experience. This time for me, it was the camaraderie of the journey and the new perspectives we gained on our trip to our “Big Backyard”.

Ben investigates what he soon deduces to be a porcupine abode. The pellets at the base of the tree provided us with ample evidence of a porcupine's main winter diet of bark.

On Monday of Exploration week, Conserve School Mathematics Teacher Roger Jones and Field Instructor Jon Ciatti took Matt Freitag and Ben Baumgartner on a historical and ecological snowshoe journey across the Sylvania. Starting at the northern boundary, the four intrepid explorers snowshoed across the Sylvania to Conserve’s Campus.

We start off our journey near the north end of Clark Lake, and hike straight down over the frozen water, ready for adventure.

Observing the beauty and wilderness that is Sylvania all day was our goal. The weather was perfect, a balmy 25 degrees and partly cloudy, meaning mostly sunny for us. A slight northeast wind kept up with us all day, but really made our journey easier as we trekked south across the length of Clark Lake, cut over at Crooked Lake, and stopped for lunch at one of the old resort cabin’s outdoor ovens at the southern shore of Clark Lake, the former site of the Sylvania Club’s visitor cabins. Then Matt and Ben took charge partway into the journey, leading Roger and me. We took some portage trails, and some “secret passages,” also known as bushwacking shortcuts. The two leaders followed compass bearings and map landmarks, unafraid to go off the path for some unexpected discoveries.

After an invigorating lunch of bratwurst and chicken noodle soup (you wouldn’t believe how delicious that is after 3 hours of hiking), we carried on for the second half of our journey. We followed some of the same portage trails many people use during the summer while canoeing. This gets me to thinking, how strange it is to be in the Sylvania for an entire day, and not see another person. And yet, how relieving. There ARE still places in this world where we can go as a small group to reconnect with the natural world that sustains us.

After 2 hours of hiking, we were all starting to feel the drain of a long day of snowshoe hiking.

We made it! Ben, Matt, Field Instructor Jon Ciatti, Math Teacher Roger Jones safe and sound back at the reassuring boundary rods that mark the north edge of campus, east to west.

Thankfully, we reached Florence Lake after crossing the length of Loon Lake, and came across Roger Jones’ tamped-down snowshoe trail, made for us to welcome us on the last ½ mile of our journey. How thoughtful! Needless to say, we all made it back safe and sound, a slight bit fitter, and much wiser from our journey. It was an excellent Monday. How was yours?



  1. Excellent entry Jon. Thanks for sharing the story of your day.

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