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Immersed in Alaska: Eight-day summer trip provides wealth of experiences

Members of the Hudson High School group that took an eco-cultural trip to Alaska last summer include, back from left, Jack Cahoon, chaperone, Mary Lesher, Kelsey Robertson, Camden Droppo, Dan Cahoon, Patty Mueller, science teacher; front, Katie Thielmann, Mac Parsons, Molli Bichrt, Allisse Rouleau. Not pictured, chaperone John Mueller, students Andy Klanderman, Dane Rudy and Alex Wakefield. Photo by Jon Echternacht

Judging by the enthusiasm remaining among a group of Hudson High School students who took an eco-cultural trip to Alaska last summer, it was well worth their time, effort and expense.

Eleven students and three adult chaperons, including HHS science teacher Patty Mueller, made an eight-day trip to the 49th state Aug. 7-14 and got totally immersed in the fauna, flora and culture of the area in and around Seward and Kenai.

Their experiences included hiking up a glacier, taking a boat ride to observe another glacier, netting salmon with members of an indigenous tribe and kayaking in the open water.

Each student had to raise about $3,000 to cover the cost of airfare, guided tours, food and lodging provided by Green Edventures.

"We had a bunch of fundraisers," said Kelsey Robertson. "We bagged groceries, had bake sales and sold candy."

The Green Edventures program promotes educational emphasis on climate change, cultural studies and environmental issues as well as other scientific areas.

Mueller said the Hudson group pulled invasive plants from an area and did water testing.

When asked about their single favorite experience, a variety of answers came back.

"Hiking on the glacier," said Mary Lesher, which necessitated wearing spikes and learning to walk a certain way. It was about 1,200 feet to the top of the glacier, which was tough enough, but on the back side it was 1,200 feet down an icy incline that provided another challenge.

The glacier's color was unique. It was a deep aqua and the guides referred to it as Smurf blood.

The students said there were markers to designate the end of the glacier each year since the 1880s and it had shrunk more than a mile since the first record.

A tandem kayaking experienced topped the list for Molli Bichrt.

The boat ride to another glacier where the group observed big chunks of ice thunder into the seas was another unique experience. "There were chunks as big as a car, one as big as big as this school," said Robertson.

For Camden Droppo, a stint at netting salmon with the Kenaitze Indians in the Kenai Peninsula created a significant memory.

"We pulled in 151 fish in one netting and 350 salmon in three pulls," he said.

Droppo said he won a competition of sorts by holding up eight salmon with the fingers of one hand hooked through the gills. He said the largest fish in the nets was a 35-inch King salmon.

The group toured the Ghost Forest created when the 1964 earthquake inundated Seward with salt water and killed the trees and Fort McGilvray developed during World War II to defend Seward from a possible Japanese invasion.

When asked if they would do such a trip again, the answer was a resounding "yes" in unison. The group reportedly has its eyes on a possible journey to Baja, Mexico, with Green Edventures next time round.

One student remarked emphatically, "yes in a heartbeat," and another said on the plane ride back there was a general feeling they weren't ready to come home.

See the attached Photo Gallery for more pictures from their trip.