JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
Fifteen youngsters, ages 7 to early teens, who are attending day camp at a mock 1800s Western town near Vallecito this week, learned Tuesday how to live off the land.
The day camp, in its first year, is sponsored by the Frosty Pines Wilderness Education Program.
The instructor was Katrina Blair, who hikes annually from Durango to Telluride to teach at a mushrooom festival, eating only what she finds along the trail.
Blair travels light – carrying a bedroll, a tarp, a map, a canteen for water and a knife. But she doesn’t go hungry.
On Tuesday, she demonstrated how to use what nature provides free: wild violet leaves, fir and pine needles (eaten or brewed for tea), service berries, wild raspberries, dandelion greens and stonecrops – a series of leafy succulents.
Dental hygiene doesn’t have to be neglected in the wilds. Blair used horsetail to fashion a toothbrush.
Tom Molinelli, who studied with Blair to become a wild-food chef and nutritionist, was co-instructor Tuesday.
The day camp is called Frontier Village, a series of mock Western store fronts erected on land on loan from Pine Song Tree Farm owners Ken and Lois Carpenter.
“We have a prospective property to build our own Western town,” Frosty Pines Executive Director Marcie Morgan said Wednesday. “This is just for the summer, but it’s going very well.”
The pretend Old West 1800s village is used as a backdrop for history instruction, she said.
The weeklong day camps will end Aug. 10.
Guest presenters visit almost every day, Morgan said. In addition to Blair, representatives from Dancing Spirit Art Gallery, Bear Smart Durango and Trout Unlimited have shared their knowledge with the campers.
But wilderness education goes on year-round, Morgan said. In the winter, she said, they teaches classes in ice sculpting, igloo building, snowshoe construction and winter survival.
Frosty Pines, in its second year, plans to apply for grants, Morgan said. Up to now, she and Molinelli have paid expenses.
Alpine Lumber donated material to build the Frontier Village and Backcountry Experience sponsored a child for day camp, Morgan said. They’ve made themselves known through newspaper ads, a booth at the Farmers Market and some free events at Durango Natural Foods and the Durango Discovery Museum.
JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald file