HOWL Kids Learn Survival Skills Through 'Edible Harvest'

     A group of kids will spend the weekend outdoors foraging for their meals. Homer Wilderness Leaders, or HoWL, will teach the kids survival skills during the two-day trip.

     The destination for what’s called the Edible Harvest Weekend is Cottonwood Canyon. It’s located at the north side of the Kachemak Bay State Park. It’ll be about a six mile round trip hike from the starting point on Kilcher Road. Along the way, HoWL Programs Director Libby Veasey said the kids will be picking foods while the guides explain what they can and cannot eat. 

     “We’ll be harvesting sea lettuce and nori and clams. We’ll be making sushi for snacks and nettle burgers and fireweed fries for dinner. For breakfast, we’ll have dandelion cakes, also known as ‘dandy cakes,’” she said.

     And tea, don’t forget about the tea.

     “Spruce tip tea and chamomile tea and raspberry leaf tea. It ends up being the most gourmet food that we eat on HoWL trips,” she said. 

     Veasey said you don’t need to be an expert before going on these trips. The point of the excursion is to get you familiar with what’s safe and tasty.

     “We’re going to teach you everything you need to know; most importantly what you can’t eat. Because there are some very dangerous foods out there that if you mistake for edible foods, you could poison yourself and potentially die. That’s the most important part of our curriculum is teaching what foods are poisonous. And then secondary to that, what foods are delicious,” she said.

     And falling in line with the “survival skills” theme of the weekend, no tents are allowed.

     “We just bring tarps and we challenge the kids to create their own survival shelters. And for some of our more experienced students, we challenge them to go even further and not use a tarp. And instead, to create a forest shelter with only what they can find in the wilderness,” she said.

     Veasey said the trip won’t just be educational, though. She expects an epic game of Capture the Flag to break out and Cottonwood Canyon is the perfect spot.

     “Because it is a canyon, and at the bottom of the canyon there’s a river which has many points you can cross and many points you can get wet. So it adds that extra challenge,” she said.

     The trip is meant for kids between the ages of 11 and 18. Veasey said they typically take eight and there is still room for one more on this trip. But if you aren’t able to make it to this weekend, there are more expeditions over the summer.

     “Every other Thursday we’ll be focusing on a specific type of edible plant or animal in this region and we’ll be harvesting those foods,” she said.

     There will be a nettle burgers and fireweed fries trip, a day spent halibut fishing and another focused on berry picking. More details will be available at the HoWL website.