Western Montana: Natural History, Ecology & Leadership 
July 15th – 26th, 2018

Day 1: Introduction to Experiential Education and Swan Valley 

Today we have a chance to learn about “who” we are going to share this adventure, and recognize our group as a team. 

We arrive to Swan Valley, where we meet our hosts and local experts from Swan Valley Connections.  Settle in and begin by touring and learning the history of the Homestead as well as wildlife safety.  Then we enjoy our first outdoor adventure on a hike up to old Elbow lookout.  Here we start to understand where we are and the geography of the Swan Valley.  Tonight we discuss safety expectations during our 12 days together before enjoying an evening campfire with our special guest, Tom Parker, local entrepreneur and outdoorsman. 

Important Themes:

–       Your guides will introduce the Story Approach and the teaching themes that will cohesively link together the incredible wealth of

        information you will learn on this trip. 

–       Your group will be introduced to the Expedition Mentality, our named strategy for creating the strongest possible group culture. 

–      Our nightly circle and bandana ceremony will reinforce the Expedition Mentality and set the tone for the best possible

       experiential learning trip. 

       Overnight: Beck Homestead, Swan Valley Campus

Day 2: Wildlife Encounters around the Beck Homestead 

Today we learn about how to track and monitor wildlife 

 We have to opportunity today to explore the incredible diversity wildlife in Western Montana- including wolf, grizzly and black bear, mountain lion, coyote, elk, deer, and small mammals. We learn about ecology, anatomy and life history, as well as noninvasive wildlife research techniques, such as game cameras. We even have the chance to set up our own camera to monitor wildlife during our stay here.  Then we delve into the world of animal tracks and signs, such as “bear baths”, territorial markings, feeding, tracks and gait patterns, and more.  Tonight we enjoy a “Wildlife Film Festival” where we check out some of the rare footage shot by Swan Valley’s game cameras.

Important Themes: 

–       Wildlife of Western Montana

–       Animal tracks and signs 

–       Wildlife monitoring:  Why do we monitor?

Overnight: Beck Homestead, Swan Valley Campus 

Day 3: Wetland Ecology

Today we explore four different wetland types of Swan Valley

 Suit up in waders today to explore the Swan’s wetland types: riparian area, marsh, vernal pool, and fen.  Today we get to physically dive in to wetlands and see their beauty from below the water line.  We discover aquatic and terrestrial phases of wetland invertebrates, dragonfly identification, and rare, carnivorous plants.  We also discuss endangered species, and the importance of protecting species within our ecosystem.  This evening we hike to Holland Falls for sunset, in hopes of seeing nesting black swifts.

Important Themes: 

–       Role and importance of wetland ecosystems

–       Carnivorous plants: why do they eat insects to survive?

       Endangered Species Act – why do we have legislation protecting species?

Overnight: Beck Homestead, Swan Valley Campus 

Day 4: Stream Ecology and River Snorkeling

Today we explore streams and rivers, above and below

 This morning we head to the confluence of Elk Creek and the Swan River, where suit up in our waders again for a chance to check out what good fish habitat looks like from this vantage point.  In the afternoon, we try on wetsuits for a river snorkel!  Underwater, we have the chance to identify fish, fish habitat, and explore the ecological value of other aspects of the river such as woody debris.  This evening, we check our game cameras and download the footage.  Then we get packed up for our Flathead Reservation road trip.

Important Themes: 

–       Stream geomorphology and fish habitat

–       River ecology- important elements of a healthy river ecosystem

       Understanding watersheds

Overnight: Beck Homestead, Swan Valley Campus  

 Day 5: Flathead Indian Reservation- Introduction

Today we head out of the Swan Valley to explore the Native American culture of this region

This morning we head through the Jocko Divide on our way to the Flathead Indian Reservation.  Along the way, we explore the Jocko Wildfire of 2007, and learn about the history of native aboriginal use of fire from fire ecologist, Maria Mantas.  Then we meet with the Salish Language School teachers.  The Séliš, Ql̓ispé and Npoqinišcn Language is one of twenty three languages of the bigger Salishan Language Family that covers Montana, Washington and parts of Canada. We learn from the teachers about the history of Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Hellgate Treaty.  This afternoon, we have the chance to tour the National Bison Range, where we learn about the history of native relationships with bison, and bison management over time.  We set up camp for the night on Flathead Lake at Big Arm State park.  Tonight we enjoy bison burgers over a campfire, and a swim in the lake.  

Important Themes: 

–       Fire ecology

–       Native tribes of Montana

       Native Americans: the importance of preserving language and culture through time

Overnight: Camping at Big Arm State Park, Flathead Lake 

 Day 6: Flathead Indian Reservation

Today we continue to explore the Flathead Indian Reservation

 This morning we tour the People’s Center and Museum, where we more deeply experience the rich cultural heritage of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribes, which has been passed down orally for generations.  We explore the artifacts and exhibits, and get the chance to try our hand at traditional games such as stick & hoop and shinny.  Then we visit the Fine Arts Department of the Salish Kootenai College, where we see beautiful examples of Native art and design.  This afternoon we meet Rob McDonald, the Tribal Communications Director, where we bring all of our experiences of the Flathead Reservation together.  Then we head to Wayfarer’s State Park to camp on Flathead Lake again.

Important Themes: 

–       Role of oral traditions for indigenous cultures around the world

–       Native fine art and design

       Traditional Games: what were the purposes of games in native tribes? What daily activities did they mimic/enhance?

Overnight: Camping at Wayfarer’s State Park, Flathead Lake

   Day 7: Glacier National Park

Today we explore one of the most stunning landscapes in the lower 48

We start our morning off by joining the Polar Bear Club: an early morning swim in Flathead Lake!  Then we begin our drive into Glacier National Park, our country’s 10th National Park, established in 1910. Glacier boasts a wide variety of mammals, such as grizzly bear and moose, but also endangered species – wolverines and Canada lynx.  We enjoy a hike to Avalanche Lake today, passing through an ancient Western Hemlock and Red Cedar forest, the furthest extent of the Pacific Northwest maritime climate zone.  After our hike, we camp out on Lake McDonald.

Important Themes: 

–       Role an importance of our National Park system

–       Glaciers as climactic indicators through time

       Observations in Nature: what can we learn about habitats and micro-climates by observing mountains?

Overnight: Camping at Apgar, Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park 

Day 8: Glacier National Park

Today we explore the ecology and geological formations of Glacier National Park

 We awake to the gorgeous landscape surrounding Lake McDonald.  Today we drive to Logan Pass via the famous Going to the Sun Road.  Along the way we learn about about the history of its construction.  Upon arrival, we being our hike to Hidden Lake, a high altitude lake where we have the chance to hike across snow and potentially see mountain goats.  Then we walk along the Highline Trail for sunset, where we delve into the fascinating geology of the Belt Formation.  Afterwards, we have dinner before driving back to the Beck Homestead.

Important Themes: 

–       Safe travel techniques for hiking on snow

–       Ecology and life history of mountain goats

–       Adaptations: what methods do different species come up with for survival in harsh climates?

Overnight: Beck Homestead, Swan Valley Campus

 Days 9-11: Backpacking Trip into Bob Marshall Wilderness
We pack our bags for an incredible backpacking trip in “the Bob”
We being packing up for our 2-night trip first thing in the morning.  We learn all the essentials of packing a backpack, how to care for our feet while backcountry hiking, and how to care for the group while hiking.  While out in the incredible Bob Marshall Wilderness, we learn a variety of wilderness skills such as how to deal with food in a bear habitat, backcountry navigation, water filtration, and leave no trace camping. We complete our experience with a four hour solo reflection time before hiking back to the trailhead.

Important Themes: 

–       ABCDEs of packing a backpack; foot care; group safety while hiking

–       Wilderness Skills

–       Reflection: Why do I do what I do? Why have I done what I’ve done? What will I do next and Why?

Overnight: Beck Homestead, Swan Valley Campus

Day 12: Home with Inspiration!

On our final day together we’ll enjoy a final slideshow and ceremony, and make sweet pine bouquets.  We enjoy last group meal, head to the airport, bid our guides a fond farewell and return home with memories of our Montana Expedition that will last a lifetime! We hope to inspire all those who travel with us to gain a greater appreciation for the many natural treasures our world has to offer, and reflect upon the choices we all make at home to help preserve this precious culture and environment. 

Program Cost: $2995 per person, all inclusive land cost :

  • Includes all lodging, meals, activities, in-country transportation, local bi-lingual guides, emergency medical insurance
  • Does not include international flight, gratuities, incidentals, activities not listed in itinerary
  • * Minimum of 5 participants required for program to run