Week in the Woods 2023 Session Highlights
The magic of Week in the Woods reveals itself yearly, and 2023 was no exception. This was our second year in the Bonanza Creek LTER forest, with a short walk to the Tanana Bluff and its breathtaking view of the Tanana River Valley and the Alaska range. This year we had archeologist Nick visit and share his knowledge of the land and human history reaching 14,000 years ago. We stood at the bluff with Denali, “the high one,” showing itself, and imagined life for the first Alaskans. We pictured herds of mammoth, bison, caribou, and other animals living and wandering through the valley below and wondered what life must have been like. This set the tone for connecting with the land and learning from the forest.
Another bonus for camp life this year was the return of our fire ring. The weather was hot and dry for the last two years, with forest fires raging in the distance, so fire bans kept us from this camping tradition. This year was cool with occasional sprinkles and then blue skies, so we welcomed coffee on the fire, warmed our birch bark, offered the egg boil challenge, and enjoyed Dutch oven cooking and many other amazing meals. This was our third year with a camp cook. One camper said, “I have never eaten so many fresh vegetables while camping.” Sitting around the fire, we enjoyed laughter and music from our talented participants. We worked on projects and shared personal thoughts.
We were a large group of 26 participants from all over the US, including Alaska, California, and Washington, and one whose homeland was Australia. The magic of this camp is built around a multigenerational experience. This year’s age range was 8 to 78, with everyone growing and learning from one another and letting the forest guide us through a relationship of reciprocity. The community that quickly builds amongst a group of initial strangers is heartwarming.
We continued the tradition of forest theater with “The Adventures of the Alaska state bird”—the mosquito. The main characters were Fred, the flying fish/swordfish, and Leequi, the larva/mosquito. This story was about the unlikeliest of friends persevering against all odds and many other morals to be debated. We laughed while enjoying a mountainous bowl of popcorn. Theater doesn’t get much better than that.
Some would say this was a week of bugs, band-aids, and blisters, but it was much more. The mushroom and bug walks were mind-blowing. The mammal and tree talks were informative, and the artists who shared their skills helped us create some amazing projects. Ultimately, you go home and wash off the grimy layer of dirt that builds up over the week, but the experience, memories, and growth will never wash away.
Thank you, boreal forest, for being the ultimate inspiration and creating enumerable moments of awe. Thanks to our amazing work study folks, Cedar, Charlotte, Gracie, Trevor, and Nils, for your labor of love. Our cook Anja for keeping our bellies full; the Folks School Staff who work behind the scenes, Kerri and Don, caring for a million little things. The scientists who visited and shared their vast knowledge: Nick (archeologist), Carolyn (ethnobotanist), Christin (Mycologist), Pat (entomologist), and Bob (biologist-mammal expert). Our guest craftsmen: Nate (spoons, spatulas, and chopsticks), Bob (bone/antler needles and whistles), and Toni (birch bark and baskets). As well as Scobie and Brayden and their many years of experience and vast multi-faceted knowledge. And our founders, Marianna and John, whose dedicated passion for their work is carried on through generations from this experience. Last but not least, Thank you to all of our participants. It was wonderful to share this experience with you.