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Youth group combines hiking, habitat protection on Isle Royale adventure

August 5, 2012
By JOHANNA BOYLE - Journal Ishpeming Bureau ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Some kids go camping during the summer. And some kids go camping.

Members of the 4H Challenge Seekers group, based in Marquette, spent a week backpacking across Isle Royale National Park in early July, pulling invasive species to help protect the natural habitat of the Lake Superior Island.

"It's to become more aware of what's happening and try to protect (the environment) against it," said group member Ben Wright, 15, who is entering his sophomore year at Marquette Senior High School this fall.

Article Photos

Members of the 4H Challenge Seekers, a local 4H club, traveled to Isle Royale National Park in early July. The group focuses on outdoor camping and survival activities. They spent their time on the island backpacking and pulling invasive plant species. (Kathy Wright photo)

The trip was coordinated with park ranger Valerie Martin through the Isle Royale Institute.

Backpacking 20 miles over the course of the week, the group of eight students and two leaders - Kathy Wright and Kim Frost - focused their efforts on pulling a plant called mullein.

Although not considered invasive in the Upper Peninsula, mullein is a new species on Isle Royale and is an invasive on the island.

"We picked it out roots and all and we kept the seed heads and put them in bags," Ben Wright said. The bagged seeds are then destroyed by burning or being thrown away to keep the plants from spreading.

The group also worked to pull Mountain Bluet at some sites around the island.

Besides learning about the natural landscape, wildlife and plants found on the island, the trip was also a chance for the Challenge Seekers to test out their backpacking skills.

The group, which is split into a younger group of 9-12 year olds and an older group of 12-16 year olds, focuses on teaching outdoor camping and survival skills to its members.

"It's trying to get kids to develop self confidence through outdoor skills," leader Kathy Wright said.

Throughout the year, the club typically takes four different outdoor-oriented trips, ranging from camping to to canoeing.

"We go backpacking and whitewater canoeing and hiking," said club member Bethany Wright, 13, who will be entering the eighth grade at the Powell Township School this fall.

Meeting every month, the group chooses activities that focus on the outdoors. Prior to the Isle Royale trip, most of the members took a youth wilderness first aid class.

In addition, the group members helped to plan the trip, including what they would eat along the way.

Split into pairs, each pair was responsible for not only planning the food eaten by the group for one day of the trip, but also cooking the three meals and collecting and filtering group's water.

Carrying three tents and the supplies for the group, the 4H members learned to set up and repack camp each day and how to cook on small camp stoves.

"Some people can carry 50 pounds and some can only carry in the teens," Ben Wright said.

The key is to know how much you're able to carry.

"Weigh your backpack before you go," said Hanna Anderson, 14, who will be a freshman at the Negaunee High School this fall.

Those who are interested in learning more about the Challenge Seekers group, which is part of the 4H Adventure Challenge program, can contact Kathy Wright at The group typically meets at the Moosewood Nature Center in Marquette on the last Tuesday of the month. A meeting time for the fall is still being worked out.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is



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