The Origins of Wolf Camp

History of Wolf Camp and the Conservation College, Blue Skye Farm & School of Natural Science

In 2020, proprietors Kim & Chris Chisholm provided complimentary Outdoor Skill Broadcasts every day of the spring, added Virtual Day Camps on a sliding scale as well as ran in-person day camps following strict Covid-19 protocols during the summer, then weekly ethnobotany and survival classes online throughout the autumn season.

In 2019, the Better Business Bureau announced that Wolf Camp was selected as a BBB Torch Awards for Ethics finalist.

In June 2019, Parent Map announced that we were voted BEST NATURE CAMP and BEST FAMILY CAMP in their Golden Teddy award survey.

It was another stellar year for camps, classes and workshops. Chris & Kim updated the name of their Blue Skye Farm home office, bringing back the School of Natural Science sub-title used in the early years of Wolf Camp, in preparation for running programs under that name in Pierce County.

In 2018, Amy Liu became the Wolf Camp Lake Sammamish ESL Camp Director, and the new, independent Conservation College board of directors worked all year to achieve its non-profit, set up its own website and launched its vision to “inspire a global conservation ethic, by connecting people to nature through outdoor education.” Wolf Camp continued reached its goal a second year in a row of serving approximately 1,000 students at summer camps and weekend workshops for all ages, engendering appreciation and conservation of the environment through its “earth skills education” taught by highly trained outdoor leaders utilizing effective risk management, as well as fun and collaborative teamwork strategies. Our most successful Blue Skye Farm Internship year was lead by full-time participants Leila Leta, Minami Seco and Siattle Olivera after Chris & Kim successfully lobby the City of Puyallup to allow streetside farmstands in town. Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship graduates-turned-instructors include Jordan Ewing, Kyler Shumaker, Abby Welter, Andrew Bottcher, Jacob Gerstman and Caitlin Davis.

In 2017, a new board of directors was founded as the first step to expand the Conservation College vision from running summer camps and periodic weekend workshops, to becoming an accredited technical school offering degree programs to all ages of student throughout the year. Logan Nelson is hired as staff videographer and runs our first Nature & Survival Film Camp. Blue Skye Farm Interns begin to sell produce at the Puyallup Farmer’s Market run by the Puyallup Main Street Association where Wolf Camp is a member. Wolf Camp also collaborates on day camps with the Puyallup Historical Society at the Meeker Mansion, inspired by the story of town founders Eliza & Ezra Meeker who emigrated across the Oregon Trail, stood against early discrimination in the northwest, and later rediscovered and promoted the Oregon Trail with reenactment trips to lobby several presidents in Washington, D.C.

2016: Our 20th Anniversary! October 28-30, 2016 the Wolf Gathering – 20th Anniversary Celebration & Skillshare Rendezvous was a success with returning staff telling of harrowing survival treks, performing re-enactments of John Muir’s legacy, and meeting about the future of Wolf Camp. The will continue annually as a conservation forum and “skillshare rendezvous.” In other news this year, we were certified by the Washington State Farm Internship Program for the Blue Skye Farm Internship, with produce including berries feeding hungry campers all summer. Wolf Camp employed 16 seasonal staff, accepted a host of wonderful camper-turned-apprentices including graduates Thomas Fellows, Marco Garcia-Duarte, Andres Godinez, Heather Carmichael, Anna “Wren” Schmid, Sarah Inskeep, Jacquelyn Kellin, Drew Basham and Elissa Pemberton.

Conservation College Poster 2016 B copy2015: Colleen Valadez becomes the Wolf Camp Office Administrator, and Puyallup Parks & Recreation co-sponsors summer day camp for kids. Kim & Chris Chisholm embark on a legacy plan which includes changing the name “Wolf College” to “The Conservation College” in preparation of shifting ownership of its apprenticeship program, overnight camps and King County day camps to a new entity over the course of the next couple of years. Chris & Kim also prepare an application for Conservation College accreditation to the Washington State Workplace Training & Education Coordinating Board so that certifications and credits can be offered for apprenticeships and expeditions.

2014: Wolf Camp and the Wolf College experience a doubling of enrollment. Organizations including the Tacoma Mountaineers, the Sierra Club in Portland, and others co-sponsor monthly Wolf Journey classes on outdoor skills including wildlife, ethnobotany, survival skills and more. King County day camps shift to a wonderful new location at the Lake Sammamish State ParkHans Jensen Group Camp. Northwest Nature Hikes is also born as a project utilizing multi-thousand member meetup sites to reach out to hikers and backpackers about risk management, plants, navigation, wildlife awareness and more.

2013: Andy Jacobs joins the staff as tech guru, bringing the Wolf College website into the modern era, and completing his teaching apprenticeship along with his wife Chelsea Jacobs during the summer. Ben Kleiber and Braden Ploger, both former day campers and youth mentor program graduates, complete their apprenticeships to join the Wolf Camp instructional staff. Hannah Hynes-Petty participates in the apprenticeship and begins leading herbal programs the following year. Meanwhile, the Wolf College begins collaborations with Columbia Springs Environmental Center in Vancouver, WA to run a day camp and classes there, and the Tacoma Mountaineers begins monthly co-sponsorship of Wolf Journey classes on climate change and more.

2012: Torrey Burke-Weeks, a former day camper who started at age 7, now becomes the youngest Wolf Camp lead instructor ever. Ella Ashford attends her first camp this year, and goes on to lead camps at an even younger age than Torrey. Meanwhile, Chris & Kim successfully lobby the City of Puyallup to restore several adjacent acres which her grandmother sold to the city for wetlands preservation, with plans to convert Meeker Creek, a polluted, flooding ditch back into a working stream to mitigate pollution, reduce flood risk, and develop habitat for wild salmon and other wildlife.

2011: Wolf Journey class locations expand to include Portland-Vancouver, Ellensburg, Bellevue, Sumas & Silverdale at the Clear Creek Nature Center. Kim & Chris also co-found Wolf Trackers for Conservation in response to wildly inconsistent wolf management policies taking place at federal and state levels, with hopes of helping to bring sanity back to the situation. Wolf Journey revisions begin with a name change to the Wolf Journey Earth Conservation Courses, music videos, and artwork by Joanna Colbert.

2010: Kim & Chris add the name “Wolf College” to reflect growing adult programs, and start Wolf Journey classes in Seattle, Snohomish, Bellingham, Puyallup and Olympia, as well as begin bimonthly weekend workshops. Summer camps grow 50% as we spread out locations out across Western Washington, including camps in conjunction with Wolf Haven, International. Hunter Tiemersma begins attending our first weekly homeschool classes in Puyallup, goes on to earn his Eagle Scout, and becomes a Wolf Camp instructor a decade later.

2009: Kim & Chris get married with Joanna Colbert and Gene Tagaban officiating, after running camps from Snohomish, and gear up to re-start Wolf Journey classes and weekend workshops throughout the Puget Sound region. At the end of they year, they purchase Kim’s grandparent’s old homestead in Puyallup which they name Blue Skye Farm after Kim’s search dog Skye who continued to be active in weekly searches for King County Search Dogs, and begin implementing a permaculture design for the house and property. Projects include the development of 2 vegetable gardens, 1/4 acre of orchards, backyard chickens, and energy efficiency retrofits.

2008: Chris offers Wolf Journey freely online. After another 5 years of injury-free earth skills programs, Chris sells camp house on 5 acres, and operates primitively on remaining 40 acres around Woods Lake, which he also sells at the end of the summer, a move that kept Wolf Camp going, fortunately in advance of the Great Recession. Wolf Camp gets a home office in downtown Snohomish, and Chris begins offering weekly classes again for the first time since departing Bellingham, moving live open mic gear from a recession-closed coffee shop to the Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater. Tim and his partner Cyndi “Soup” Elliot later found The Pond Beyond environmental retreat center north of town.

2007: Wolf Camp begins a collaboration with Snohomish County Parks & Recreation for day camps. Living out on the 45 acres of Wolf Camp surrounding Woods Lake, Andrew Twele completes his Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship. Morgan & Indigo Tidd, Patrick Wiley, James Helms, Charlie Borrowman, Elise Santa Maria, Anna Flies, and others complete our Youth Mentoring CIT Program by this time, with many going on to become instructors.

2006: Megan Damofle starts her Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship, and with much prior herbal medicine training, transforms over the next couple years into our lead herbal instructor. Charlie Borrowman attends camp for the first time, later becoming senior instructor and wild gourmet chef. Lorien MacAuley (later earning her Ph.D. focusing on internships like she did with us) was leading our tracking camp this year, and comes across a young male cougar who had just died of starvation. For Chris, it was a sign to transform leadership of Wolf Camp toward into a less individual-lead program.

2005: Morgan Tidd becomes first youth to complete all portions of Wolf Journey Part One – Trail of the Naturalist to certification level. Jason Patterson comes on board the staff, and Chris “Huck” Anderson completes the Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship where we meet his future wife Megan, and they go on to found Lost & Found Adventures back home in Phoenix, where Huck is later honored as one of the 2013 REI Adventures Top Guides. Jay Doyon pilots our Sustainable Citizen apprenticeship as our first graduate. Braden Ploger attends his first day camp at age 8 and later becomes our first Day Camp Director upon graduating from college.

2004: Lorien MacAuley and Scott Fanello, as well as Griz Chambers, complete the Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship. Lorien and Scott pilot our semester apprenticeships. Chris buys additional 5 acres with camp house. Morgan Tidd and Patrick Wiley attend Wolf Camp, and will go on to become camp instructors, earth skills specialists, and logistical wizards in later years. Nicco Minutoli attends camp for the first time to become a camp counselor by 2011, our health/logistical coordinator by 2016, and his father becomes WOLF Foundation president.

2003: Graduates of the Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship increase to 6, including Krista Rome. Micah Fay pilots our Traditional Technologies apprenticeship and goes on to live primitively in the western wilderness over the following 2 years. Griz Chambers is first graduate of our Youth Mentoring CIT Program. Lummi Island Heritage Trust secures ownership of the 40 acre camp property, now to be designated as open space. Chris buys property for Wolf Camp on Woods Lake in Snohomish County.

2002: Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship grows to 4 participants. Camps begin to increase in size upwards of 20 students. The WOLF Foundation is co-founded by a parent (Scott Davis who is our longest-serving board member) of a beloved Wolf Camp student Max Davis who contracted bacterial menengitis the previous winter, and we rename our scholarship fund in honor of him. Glen MacKay attends Wolf Camp for the first time, and goes on to be our first camp instructor under the age of 21. James Helms attends his first overnight camp at age 9, and will go on to become a camp instructor by 2009, with his younger brothers close in his footsteps, as well as his father Mike later joining the WOLF Foundation.

2001: Kate Hedges is first official graduate of the Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship, and goes on to found the first earth skills educational institute in Scotland: Blue Skies Earth Skills. Our earliest overnight-camper-turned-instructor ever, Griz Chambers, first attends camp at age 14. Judy Chiasson attends her first Wolf Camp workshop, and goes on to co-found the WOLF Foundation. Torrey Burke-Weeks attends day camp at age 7, and will go on to become our youngest lead instructor ever.

2000: Chris writes Wolf Journey Book Two – Trail of the Tracker, and begins accepting correspondence students working through Wolf Journey. Nikki van Schyndel is first participant in the pilot Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship. Bill Baroch teachings camps, and 40 acre property with cabin on Lummi Island becomes home for Wolf Camp. Aldin Huff attends day camp at age 7, and will go on to become our first day-camper-turned- instructor in 2009.

1999: Chris publishes Wolf Journey Book One – Trail of the Naturalist. Bill Baroch and Nikki van Schyndel come on board during evening classes, working through Wolf Journey field exercises along with Joanna Colbert who uses it as inspiration for her Gaian Tarot artwork. Alexandra Bunker attends overnight camps at age 10 and goes on to become our youngest apprentice ever at age 15, then becomes Florida’s youngest public official as part of her successful effort to save critical wetland habitat from development, among other accolades.

1998: Chris begins writing the Wolf Journey Earth Conservation Courses. Carol Goulet comes on board as lead instructor for Wolf Camp which runs two full overnight youth camp weeks as well as four full summer day camp weeks taught by several original tracking club members. After-school classes start filling up.

1997: Chris files a business license for Wolf Camp in January, runs the first day camp in July, and starts after-school and evening classes. Wolf Camp runs its first custom program, for the Lummi High School, and continues learning with inspiration from Cha-da-ska-dum Which-ta-lum and friend Swil Kanim.

1996: Chris embarks on a group wilderness quest across the Yakima River and into Umtanum Canyon, where the idea for Wolf Camp is truly born. The tracking club runs first workshop near Bellingham, and Chris leads another on Lummi Island. Parents begin requesting that Chris teach after-school earth skills lessons.  To support the original people of the lands where Wolf Camp began, we request donations to the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Foundation.

1995: Earthwalk Northwest and the Wilderness Awareness School move to Washington State where Chris first sees formal earth skills education in action. Chris is hired to teach as a specialty teacher in the Whatcom Hills Waldorf School which accelerates the pedagogical development of a future Wolf Camp.

1994: Chris and a group of friends in Bellingham start a tracking club, meeting weekly to practice earth skills, a group that is considered the origin of Wolf Camp. Chris continues personal nature and survival study where he purchased property on Lummi Island, later sold to Joanna Colbert and Craig Olsen who built a straw bale house and welcomed scores of like-minded friends to feel the spirit of nature and music.

1993: Chris embarks on a wilderness quest to practice his earth skills, develop spiritually, and continue personal growth work while employed as a Level II Youth Specialist Chemical Dependency Counselor at Sea Mar Community Health Centers.

1992: Chris moves to Bellingham and picks up a a series of outdoor educational books and realized all he’d missed while growing up in the north woods of MN/WI and roaming the mountains of Europe during high school and South America in college.

1991: Founder Chris Chisholm graduates from the University of Wisconsin where he studied the return of wolves in the Chequamegon National Forest and volunteered as a witness to the return of Indian Treaty Rights in the northern part of the state.

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