Pine needles – they’re what’s for dinner

At this day camp, kids learn the bounty that nature provides

Tom Molinelli, an instructor with Frosty Pines Wilderness Education Program, uses his knowledge as a wild-foods chef to teach day campers which plants on their hike north of Vallecito Lake are edible. From left are Cooper Knox, 12, Gage Atkin, 10, kneeling, and Nadine Drake, 7. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Tom Molinelli, an instructor with Frosty Pines Wilderness Education Program, uses his knowledge as a wild-foods chef to teach day campers which plants on their hike north of Vallecito Lake are edible. From left are Cooper Knox, 12, Gage Atkin, 10, kneeling, and Nadine Drake, 7.

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.

daler@durangoherald.com

Nadine Drake, 7, a day camper at Frontier Village nibbles on horse tail, an edible plant, that campers gathered on their hike north of Vallecito Lake. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald file

Nadine Drake, 7, a day camper at Frontier Village nibbles on horse tail, an edible plant, that campers gathered on their hike north of Vallecito Lake.

Marcie Morgan’s bowl is full of edible plants that she and day campers found during their hike north of Vallecito Lake. Morgan is executive director of Frosty Pines Wilderness Education Program. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Marcie Morgan’s bowl is full of edible plants that she and day campers found during their hike north of Vallecito Lake. Morgan is executive director of Frosty Pines Wilderness Education Program.

Wild raspberries are one of several edible fruits and plants that in the wild. Day campers attending a program at Frosty Pines Wilderness Education Program learn how to identify the plants, along with other information about nature. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Wild raspberries are one of several edible fruits and plants that in the wild. Day campers attending a program at Frosty Pines Wilderness Education Program learn how to identify the plants, along with other information about nature.

Wild raspberries are one of several edible fruits and plants that in the wild. Day campers attending a program at Frosty Pines Wilderness Education Program learn how to identify the plants, along with other information about nature. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Wild raspberries are one of several edible fruits and plants that in the wild. Day campers attending a program at Frosty Pines Wilderness Education Program learn how to identify the plants, along with other information about nature.