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.”