Looking Forward to Summer with the Truckee Donner Land Trust

Looking Forward to Summer with the Truckee Donner Land Trust

Headwaters Science Institute is lucky to be able to bring our summer camps to Truckee Donner Land Trust Land. Campers explore the natural spaces, ask scientific questions, and design and conduct experiments to answer their own questions. Science is fun and engaging when children get to ask and answer the questions they are curious about, and these fun camps help foster a unique connection between campers and the land. The foundations of our overnight programs are scientific research, mentorship, and professional caliber scientific exploration, helping these future scientists hone important skills. 

We have the pleasure of learning more about the Truckee Donner Land Trust, their work, and the lands they protect as campers are starting to register for camp

Girls summer science camp participants

Hi, Greyson! It’s certainly still winter here, but thank you so much for joining Headwaters to talk about summer! And thank you to the Truckee Donner Land Trust for allowing Headwaters Summer Camps to explore, learn, and discover at some of your sites! Could you introduce a little bit about TDLT?

Hi Megan! All of us here at the Truckee Donner Land Trust love working with Headwaters Science Institute to get young people out on our lands. Since the Land Trust was founded in 1990, we have protected more than 40,000 acres of open space in our region. We also manage about 50 miles of trail, a campground, and backcountry huts to get people out to enjoy those lands. Some protected lands folks might know include Waddle Ranch in the Martis Valley, Royal Gorge on Donner Summit, Independence Lake, Perazzo Meadows, and Lower Carpenter Valley. Some of our trails include the Donner Lake Rim Trail, Royal Gorge Rim Trail, and Elizabethtown Meadows Trail.

The Truckee Donner Land Trust mission includes both Protect and Enjoy. What does that mean to the land trust, and why is it important to help campers get out onto TDLT land?

Truckee Donner Land Trust’s mission is to Protect and Enjoy Open Space for Nature, For People, Forever. This means we choose our conservation projects to help protect natural resources like forests, meadows, wildlife habitat, and watersheds – and also to allow for sustainable access and recreation for the public to enjoy. Getting Headwaters’ campers out on our Lands is a great way to get young people out on our lands and appreciating the nature all around them, and hopefully giving them a lifelong interest in both enjoying and protecting the outdoors.

Headwaters’ camps are happening again this year at Webber Lake, Serene Lakes, and our Truckee Young Scientist Exploration Camp has a new location at Johnson Canyon. What should campers be looking forward to about these sites?

Webber Lake is a truly special place with not only the beautiful lake, but also Lacey Meadows to explore. The sound of sandhill cranes ringing across the lake while the mist clears from the lake in the morning is a really magical experience. Our Royal Gorge property up near Serene Lake is also a great place to get to know our local ecology. Sitting on the crest, it’s the headwaters of both the North Fork American and South Yuba River, with beautiful meadows, forests, and incredible views down into the American River Canyon. And Johnson Canyon is such a great property because it’s so easy to access, but so quick to get into a unique mix of flora and fauna. Seeps and springs keep lush fern mats green well into the summer, and the variety of riparian plants really make this a great place to learn.

Are there any activities that campers and families, and the wider Headwaters community, can participate in while enjoying TDLT land this year? 

Truckee Donner Land Trust definitely suggests getting out on other Land Trust lands. Using our new interactive map here: https://www.truckeedonnerlandtrust.org/explore is a great way to get to know Land Trust lands and trails, and of course we’re always happy to talk if you want to give us a call at (530)582-4711. Each summer the Land Trust offers docent-led hikes if you want a little help getting to know a new place, and trail days where volunteers help build and repair trails for those interested in a fun way to give back.

What advice would you give to the Headwaters community about exploring TDLT land and the surrounding area? Where should they go and when, but also how should they be good stewards of the space while enjoying the land?

There are year-round opportunities to enjoy Land Trust lands, with a variety of properties at different elevations throughout our region. In the winter, Johnson Canyon has become popular for snow play, as well as access to bigger backcountry pursuits. If you’re waiting for snow to melt, Elizabethtown Meadows Trail in the Martis Valley is typically one of the first trails to be accessible. Wildflowers in Lower Carpenter Valley are a must in summer, and as summer wears on Royal Gorge up on the summit can be a great place to beat the heat. We do ask that folks check the rules on our website before going, and to practice Leave no Trace to keep our lands beautiful for generations to come. 

And what advice would you, or some of the TDLT staff, have for campers who are budding young scientists who might want to one day work in conservation?

First off, I’d say always be curious, and enjoy the adventures your curiosity takes you on – you never know what you’ll learn. Being outside in nature, learning first-hand in situations like Headwaters Science Institute camps is so important too. There are so many great ways to get involved in conservation as you find out what interests you, so exploring all the different aspects and finding what you’re passionate about is a great place to start. Whether you’re interested in scientific research, doing in-the-field restoration to help strengthen our forests, meadows, or waterways, or if you’re interested in what the Land Trust does to protect land, there are lots of ways to get involved and to make a difference for the future.

Headwaters Camps

Camp registration is open now!

Thank you so much to the Truckee Donner Land Trust for supporting Headwaters camps!

Hiking and science in the Sierra Nevada: Headwaters executive director shares her family’s summer adventures

Hiking and science in the Sierra Nevada: Headwaters executive director shares her family’s summer adventures

There’s no better time than summer to get out and explore the natural world around you. Whether it’s hiking in the mountains or swimming in lakes, rivers or the ocean, even summertime fun can bring out the curiosity of scientific inquiry. 

The wonder nature can inspire is one of the foundations Headwaters Science Institute was founded on. 

Founder Meg Seifert took that to heart during a busy summer heading up Headwaters’ programming and summer science camps but also doing a bit of exploring herself with her family around the rugged beauty of the mountains surrounding the Truckee-Tahoe area. 

Meg loves to explore new places with her family. It’s not only great for getting the kids outside but also noticing their surroundings and connecting with nature, she said. 

“We learn grit and perseverance, as well” she said. 

Meg took two backpacking trips with her family this summer. The first a 35-mile, 3 ½-day trip to the Trinity Alps that included 10,000 feet of climbing and an equal descent. 

“It was hot and hard hiking, but the kids felt really accomplished,” she said. 

The second hike was two days and two nights to the Royal Gorge of the American River, a 7-mile out and back hike that included about 3,000 feet of climbing and descent. 

“We swam in pristine spots on the river; we saw snakes and other animals,” she said. 

Here’s more from Meg about her summer adventures and how she applies scientific inquiry:

How do you and your family view such stunning nature through a scientific lens?

“We encourage the kids to be curious. We try to notice things from flowers to plants to the landscape. We talk about and think about how the areas we are in were shaped or formed. We think about why there are different features of the landscape. We also talk about changes in plants and leaves and all of that.”

Do you try to incorporate science on these types of trips or is it more appreciating nature and all that it offers?

“It depends. Sometimes the kids are really into asking questions and looking for answers; other times, it is more an appreciation of what is around us. We let the environment and the kid’s interests guide the trips and what we do. We always have paper and a pencil to take notes or draw things. Mari loves to document with photos. She is always taking photos of plants and flowers. Sometimes it is appreciation, and sometimes it is more scientific.”

Has your science background allowed you to appreciate nature more?

“Yes, and I think it helps my kids as well. Instead of just saying something is pretty or special, we usually delve into the why. It allows us to think about how things are connected and how humans have changed or are changing an area. Really it just allows us a deeper look and hopefully, it is helping the kids to be more curious.”