A Wilderness Experience
Have you ever had the opportunity to fly in a bush plane and land in the heart of the largest Wilderness complex in the lower forty-eight states?
A highlight of the MOSS Graduate Program is the annual spring semester adventure to the Taylor Wilderness Research Station (TWRS). Embedded within the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, TWRS is a one-of-a-kind venue for scientific discovery combined with the opportunity to explore the social and political impacts of human economics on natural resources. Surrounded by over four million acres of Wilderness in central Idaho, the station provides outstanding access, facilities and logistical support for research on natural environments and processes.
The annual trip is designed as an interdisciplinary wilderness immersion that culminates coursework taken at MOSS. For example, students’ winter ecology course ends with an exploration of relationships forged between people and plants. Students also complete their science communication course by developing and sharing environmental communication narratives that merged science and wilderness experience. There is no better place for such a capstone experience, one that our students never forget.
"The week we spent at Taylor Ranch was both transformative and an experience to come full circle. I remember how many of my thoughts expanded by conversations shared with fellow MOSS grads around the fire circle, learning from the arnica plants with Jim Kingery, and while exploring solo along Big Creek. Leading up to our trip to Taylor, I had been working on building storytelling skills as a way to communicate science as part of the coursework for the MOSS pro-gram, and something about being there, in the wilderness, surrounded only by a strong support system, led me to look at all of the stories I had been telling in a new light. I don’t think that my time at MOSS would have been as impactful without the trip to Taylor. It was an exceptional capstone to our year, tying everything that we had learned together and at the same time, expanding the scope of our knowledge. Flying away from the Taylor landing strip on the Cessna 206, I felt perfectly fulfilled, yet hungry to see the front country with new perspectives."
"My time at Taylor Ranch was restorative and a time for reflection on my MOSS experience. My graduate cohort few in on the planes as close friends, but we left with a strong bond closer than family. We came in worn down by a year of teaching kids, meeting deadlines, and surviving a long winter, and we were welcomed into a spring oasis where time did not exist and we were able to rest in our accomplishments of the past year. Taylor Ranch is a place where the natural world is valued more than our schedules, and where human interaction and connection is facilitated by the expansive landscape. I will always remember the last day as we waited on the porch for the planes to arrive, we all shared a piece of ourselves, an offering to the landscape in the form of a personal story. And what we received back were memories that will last a lifetime of this magical place surrounded by wilderness and the wonderful people we shared it with."
"I have been lucky enough to visit many gorgeous outdoor areas, including some wilderness areas, but I have never before experienced somewhere like Taylor. Everyone has a short list of special spots, places with very deep personal significance and ties, and even though Taylor was totally different from anywhere I have spent time before, it immediately felt like a combination of all of those places that I care so much about. I felt welcomed by the setting itself, by the people already there, and by the scenery. Taylor is friendly, it catalyzes calm and reflection, and it feels like a home right away (although that initial impression may have been partially due to finally escaping the turbulent airplane). After having spent most of the last year talking about sense of place, how to connect people to nature, and what values nature holds, Taylor is one of the places I feel most connected to and miss most often. Considering that I spent a total of one week there, that says something about the setting itself. Partially thanks to the people we interacted with, but also just because of the way Taylor is, the history, both human and natural, of the area is infused in everything, and I felt directly connected to those people and to their experiences. The freedom that the Frank Church offers is exhilarating and terrifying, but Taylor largely negated the later by serving as a place to come home to and as a safety net. Experiencing that freedom to explore, to connect with an amazing natural setting, to see ecosystems that most people are never able to visit, and to deepen my understanding of the connections between people and place through time was incredibly valuable. It allowed me to process and think through all the stressful things happening in life in a way that I am rarely able to experience, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have spent time in such an amazing place."