I was visiting Pine Butte Guest Ranch west of Choteau with a group of kids and their chaperones/parents the other day.
The ranch had planned an activity using hand held GPS devices, created a scavenger hunt and wrapped that in with a hike. It was a fun way to get some exercise, learn how to use a GPS and expand knowledge of plants, trees and wildlife.
We split the large group so there were four kids with each leader, accompanied by a parent.
I wasn’t much help because I’ve tried using a GPS before and it did not get me to where I was going!
The ranch manager from Pine Butte led our group and the first thing we did was learn how to read and understand the numbers on the GPS. The kids seemed to pick it up faster than I did but I decided to keep trying! We were also cautioned about walking along and staring at the GPS, then possibly tripping on a tree branch or stepping in to a rodent hole. After all, we wanted to see things on our hike so we needed to keep our heads up and our eyes looking at where we were going.
We started our hike near the corrals at Pine Butte Guest Ranch. Our first stop was the little Metis cemetary nearby. I have been here many times and the place seems so special. The kids thought it was unique too.
Our next clue for the scavenger hunt led us through some thick aspen trees. We learned that many shoots, or trees, come from one main aspen. That’s why you typically see them in little groves. No matter what, they were beautiful!
The day was getting hot and, even though we were partially protected from the trees, our next lesson was to rub our hands on the white bark of the aspen. Our leader explained that the powder that comes off in our hands can be used for suncscreen. Of course, we all rubbed the trees and patted it on our faces.
Next, we learned about fire and this mountainous ecosystem. Fire, as devastating as it is, can have good effects too.
We hiked to one tree that was completely charred black on the lower third of the trunk. In an effort to keep the kids engaged, our leader said it might be what football players use to create black marks under their eyes before a football game. You can probably imagine this – the next thing we did was rub black soot on our cheeks…on top of white aspen bark!
Pasque flowers (named a different name in Dr Seuss’ The Lorax), Canada violets (we ate these little flowers), pine cones that looked like many little mice tails (you had to be there) all combined to make a fascinating hike.
I’ve taken this same hike before, also ridden in the same area on horseback. Each time I am there I learn more! Which is how is should be – never stop learning.
Our day wasn’t over – we had more hiking, then had to hike back to the ranch. It wasn’t super hot that day but, with hiking, we were warm. When we got back to the lodge at Pine Butte Guest Ranch the kids and several parents changed in to swimming suits and headed to the pool.
Splash! And that felt good.