The Salamander Efts arrived at Clayton Beach trailhead ready to explore off-trail on Chuckanut Mountain. Circling up the Mentors shared the news that we would not be heading up towards the Chuckanuts, but instead we would be hiking down to the beach. The reason for the change was at 12:35pm there would be one of the lowest tides of the year and intertidal exploration would be at it finest. Mentors further explained that often we make a plan for the day but are always ready to give it up based on what the moment and environment offers.
Before we headed out we introduced two new Mentors to the group. Jake Ray is a part time Mentor and Peter Sundberg is a Volunteer Mentor, and both would both be joining us on our exploration. With Dave and Matt off in the Chuckanuts backpacking with another group and Greg at the grand opening of his wife Rebecca’s practice, Birthroot Midwives and Birth Center, it was the perfect opportunity for the boys to meet the new Mentors. As Mentors we firmly believe that exposing the boys to many Mentors within our community helps convey that there are many ways to be a healthy and caring male in the world.
We gave the floor to the Explorers and they handed out and explained our culture of jobs and safety to the new Mentors. With that we headed out, anxious to get down to the beach. After crossing the treacherous obstacle of Chuckanut Drive we found ourselves hiking down an old railroad grade. Looking at the landscape the Mentors called the group together for a game. In the game of Cougar Stalks Deer the Cougars stalk the Deer as it moves down the trail, but whenever the Deer’s eyes catch the Cougars moving he can send them back to the end of the line. Using the landscape the Cougars found a parallel trail on a ridge above the railroad grade. While the Cougars on the main trail distracted the Deer the Cougars on the ridge ran ahead and waited for their moment to ambush. In the end the Deer perished to the clever Cougars, what fun!
Arriving at the beach the group let out a cheer and we dropped their packs. Walking the mud flats the Explorers marveled at the exposed Eelgrass meadows and Clam beds. The Mentors took a moment to mention that it was important that we watch our step because many of the intertidal organisms are hidden just below the mud and grass. It was apparent to see how abundant and complex the intertidal ecosystem is in the Salish Sea.
As we roamed I could hear Explorers calling from all over “Check this out!” and “Whoa, over here!” Using all our senses we investigated and found that the diverse invertebrates littering the beach all had unique coping strategies and adaptations for staying cool and wet while the tide was out. Getting down close to the mud and sand we observed that some organisms hid while other closed themselves inside their shells. One of the most exciting finds of the day was the rare Hooded Nudibranch gliding gracefully through the Eelgrass meadow.
Once we had had our fill we lounged and ate on the Chuckanut Sandstone basking in the sun. As Mentors we covet the down time in outings because it is a wonderful chance for us to connect one on one with the boys and see what is going on in their lives. Cultivating a personal relationship with each boy gives Mentors the ability to track their growth over time and allows us to help them work though their challenges and find their powers and gifts.
After lunch some boys spotted each other as they climbed on boulders and others felt inclined to teach Peter the important Explorers Club game of Hide! Peter did quite well for his first round by lying behind a blind of Honeysuckle and Snowberries, but the keen eye of the seeker eventually spotted him. After a few more rounds the Mentors called the group together and we circled up on the sand. During lunch a few of the Explorers had expressed interest in playing a game called Spider’s Web and others wanted to stay at the beach. Conflicts of interest arise naturally during outings and they are an excellent opportunity for Mentors to hand their facilitation power over to the boys so that they have ownership in the process and outcomes. Our Tribal Elder for the day has the job of facilitating the groups’ decision-making process during the outings. The Tribal Elder guided them through the process: deciding what questions needed to be asked, brainstorming ideas, evaluating the solutions, making a decision and checking in, and finally compromising with those who still disagree. Wow! The Salamander Efts are quickly becoming confident and versed with this vital life skill for working together amongst community members.
Coming to a compromise the group decided to spend a few more minutes at the beach and then to head out. Before crossing the tracks we listened for trains and sure enough we heard one off in the distance. Moving well out of the way the group watched the train thunder by. The Mentors take road and track crossings very seriously and for good reason. Mentors reminded the group that this navigation skill is also very transferable for crossing obstacles on our backcountry trips this coming summer.
Hiking back the group dropped into a lush valley full of second growth Cedar and head high Sword Fern. Circling up a few of the Explorers explained Spider’s Web to those who had never played before and boys got to setting up the course. This Spider’s Web location is one of the Mentors favorites because of the creek that intersects through the center of the valley making it challenging. Jake was chosen to be the Spider and through his keen awareness and vantage point was able to hold the flies back from the food source for quite a long time. In the end through teamwork the flies came out victorious by capturing the food source.
Calling the group back in we debriefed the game and shared our camouflage and stealth strategies. When we had finished Jake called the group to do a sit spot. Spreading out over the land the Explorers got quiet and lied back in the sun and moss as they listened to the land. After about fifteen minutes the group came back in and shared what we had observed while passing around apples.
We had just enough time for a closing meeting and a round of thanks. The boys gave thanks for the tides and Clayton Beach, for the chance to explore with friends, for the sound of rushing water and smell of healthy forests, for the chance to carve and climb, and for Spider’s Web. The Boys EC Mentoring Team would like to thank all the parents for their support this season and to the Salamander Efts for stepping into deepened leadership within their own group and amongst the younger Explorers on their service day.
Don’t forget we will have a summer solstice gathering at Hovander Park on June 14th. You can find more details at the bottom on the Salamander Eft’s spring page. Also, if you haven’t already check out the summer camp and excursion offerings for the Salamander Efts.
For more pictures from the outing please visit the photo gallery!