After a week of teaching Galax Middle School kids the fundamentals of compass and map use, and working with another group on basic bird identification, these two outdoor classes hopped on a school bus to rendezvous at Whitetop Mountain for a five mile hike.
Though windy and cool, the kids enjoyed the trail through the woods, exploring under rocks for salamanders and eating lunch before breaking out into the vast field and back into the wind. None of our students had ever been to this part of 'their backyard', and seemed to relish its uniqueness and other worldliness...many stating that they wanted to come back. They practiced leaning into the wind without falling down.
Buzzard Rock served as our destination, and with proper safety measures in place, they managed to crawl on the lower boulders before completing their hike loop.
Those with compasses were asked to find and share orientation positions as we changed directions. Those with binoculars saw a few birds, but with the wind, most birds were hunkered down. All managed to watch a few ravens swoop, tumble and dive, get a glance at juncos, and one Northern harrier hovering over the bald at hike's end.
The kids agreed, Whitetop Mountain is a treasure.