Land of Fire: Eagle County’s Yellowstone invitational |

Land of Fire: Eagle County’s Yellowstone invitational

Carolyn Connolly
Gore Range Natural Science School
Eagle County, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyThe Gore Range Science School group poses in front of the Steamboat Geyser " a geyser that erupts without much warning and with no pattern. The last eruption was in May 2005. It erupted three times in 2003, twice in 2002 and once in 2000. Prior to that it had not erupted since October 1991. When active, it can erupt as frequently as every four days, but it has been known to skip 50 years.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado “-In mid-September, Eagle County’s Gore Range Natural Science School led an educational excursion with 11 participants to the Black Butte Ranch, bordering Yellowstone National Park.

The Avon-based science school offers two trips, called “invitationals,” annually to destinations that have premier educational opportunities. Gore Range Natural Science School partners with local organizations to provide unique educational adventures to individuals and couples who enjoy traveling and exploring the natural world.

The Science School’s past Invitationals include exploring the ecology of coastal Alaska, the Anasazi culture of Crow Canyon and Mesa Verde, the crane migration at Great Sand Dunes and experiencing the elk rut and bugling at Rocky Mountain National Park. These intimate explorations exemplify the Science School’s mission of “awakening a sense of wonder and inspiring environmental stewardship through natural science education.”

Kim Langmaid, founder of Gore Range Natural Science School, was one of the lucky 11 at the Yellowstone Invitational. Langmaid felt one of the most amazing aspects of the trip was the 600-acre Black Butte Ranch, where the Invitational was based. The Black Butte Ranch is owned by the family of Science School board member Dan Patten, whose grandfather acquired the land in the 1950s to breed horses. The family purchased the property before the current boundaries of Yellowstone National Park were established and it now borders the West Entrance of the Park along the Gallatin River.

“It was truly the perfect setting for the trip and everyone agreed that there is something special about the Patten family’s appreciation of the property that really added to the program,” Langmaid said.

Gore Range Natural Science School partnered with Bozeman-based Montana Outdoor Science School, which provided expert guides during the Invitational. The trip included two full days in Yellowstone National Park exploring geologic features and extraordinary wildlife. During the geology exploration, the group learned about hot springs, geysers, mud pots and fumaroles, discovering the difference between them all and quickly learning why the Park has the highest concentration of protected thermal features in the world.

During the predator exploration, participants learned why predators are a vital part of the Yellowstone ecosystem, which is the only place with a complete, in-tact ecosystem in the United States. They examined the predators’ roles as hunters and learned how to avoid becoming prey, and they searched for signs of unique adaptations that help predators in the wild.

Langmaid was impressed with seeing wolves, elk, deer, bison, coyote and the best of all she said, “was an amazing, great-horned owl caught a snake and ate it before our very eyes.”

Between guided excursions, participants spent time fly fishing, hiking, horseback riding, relaxing and learning more about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“We were so pleased to meet new people on the trip and we thought the Patten’s Ranch was a truly lovely location,” said Judie and Jack Chain said.

The Chains had previously visited Yellowstone after a major wildfire and they were very impressed with nature working its wonders to revitalize the Park. Judie’s favorite aspects were the beautiful meals and the the stimulating, informative and educational Invitational, she said.

In the evenings they were entertained by local legendary cowboy poet Tad Drake, and special guest speakers including Dr. Duncan Patten, a world renowned ecologist. Participants also enjoyed a creative art activity hosted by the Montana Outdoor Science School.

Another treat of the Yellowstone Invitational featured gourmet food prepared by Natalia and Clyde Hanks. Menu items included veal pate with pistachios and green mayonnaise, grilled wild salmon with horseradish sauce, wild mushroom risotto and other delicious dishes made from fresh, seasonal ingredients.

“The Yellowstone Invitational was a four-night, five-day journey which is typical of our Invitationals,” said Natalia Hanks, director of development for the Science School.

“These explorations are offered at a reasonable cost and a portion is a tax-deductible gift to Gore Range Natural Science School.”

Upcoming Invitationals include a spring 2009 river rafting trip on the San Juan focusing on the geology of the area, a return to Yellowstone in September 2009 and the coast of Alaska in 2010.

In addition to its well known school field classes and summer camps for students, Gore Range Natural Science School offers one-day field seminars for adults covering a rich selection of topics including wildlife, birding, mushrooming, wildflowers, medicinal and edible plants, and ecology. Participants can earn their Master Naturalist Certification from the Science School as well.

Other opportunities for adults include a winter lecture series on numerous topics and the EdVenture program, available to donors of $1,000 or more, offering four annual half-day guided explorations such as hikes, snowshoe outings and first-tracks skiing ” all incorporating a bountiful meal.

For more information visit, or contact Natalia Hanks at (970)827.9725, extension 30 or

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