Couple turns longtime recreation lodge into ecology center
Originally published December 8, 2010 at 9:33 a.m., updated December 14, 2010 at 7:28 a.m.
This story previously reported that Steve Bondi worked for a different organization as a wildlife biologist. The error has been corrected in this version.
MAZAMA — An adventure on snowshoes for four Seattle friends on Saturday became an education in local plants and animals, and their methods of survival in the harsh winter environment.
The friends were staying at the North Cascades Basecamp in Mazama, which has served for decades as a place to begin and end a day of cross country skiing, snowshoeing, bicycling or hiking.
Kim and Steve Bondi bought the Basecamp this summer, and with their touch, it also is now a place to study and learn about wildlife.
The Bondis — both wildlife biologists — have a winter-long lineup of environmental programs and presentations, along with some fun and whimsical get-togethers.
“We’re finding a bridge between recreation and getting to know the place that you’re visiting,” Kim Bondi said. “We’re hoping this will be our niche, versus just another hotel accommodation.”
Their free programs are open to all, not just guests at the lodge.
Already on tap for this winter: an owl prowl — when participants can learn to identify four kinds of owls by their hoots, a dance and percussion around the campfire, a snowman-making contest and a full moon ski.
Presentations on beavers, bats, wolves and cougars also are part of their Thursday night presentations featuring experts in the field from around the region.
Steve Bondi said he thinks some people who already come to Mazama to recreate will find the environmental programs a nice addition to their outdoor experience. He’s hoping the programs will draw some new faces to the Mazama landscape.
The Bondis also are opening their lodge as a venue to others who want to offer classes in a variety of disciplines, like music or art.
As biologists, Kim Bondi has been working for Pacific Biodiversity Institute in Winthrop, where she led a study on Western gray squirrels this summer. Steve Bondi works for the Methow Conservancy. But both are finding less and less time for outside work as the lodge becomes their livelihood.
They hope to bring some of the projects they’re working on to the Basecamp, which includes 20 acres of protected forests and wetlands.
This Thursday, they’ll host their first Thursday night Ecology Center presentation at the Basecamp, featuring wildlife biologist John Rohrer, who will talk about a study of North Cascades wolverines. Thursday night events continue through February, and begin with $5 vegetarian soup and homemade bread at 5:30 p.m., followed by the free presentation at 6:30 p.m.
On Saturday, the Bondis led their first guided snowshoe tour of the winter for Seattle residents Barbara Walkover, Robert Blumberg, Lon Walton and Alan Kirtley. The Bondis’ children, 6-year-old Amelia and 3-year-old Emmet, trekked along with them.
As the sun began to break through the overcast skies, they wound their way through a forest of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees into a grove of large cedar trees. They made their way out to a clearing, where they were met by bright sunlight and the gently bubbling Methow River.
They found tracks left by deer and snowshoe hare, including one spot where a bevy of the bunnies gnawed on the needles of a recently downed fir tree, now close enough to the ground for them to reach.
Kim Bondi remarked that snowshoe hare, when times are tough, eat their own feces to get a little more nutrition from their food than they did the first time around.
They looked high to the treetops in one of the Methow Valley’s few cedar groves, and peered low into a squirrel’s snow hole. A short jaunt past the beaver ponds and alongside the Methow Valley Sports Trail Association groomed ski trail brought them back to the warmth of the lodge.
This was the second time three of these Seattle friends stayed at the Basecamp since the Bondis took it over in July.
Kirtley said he particularly likes it because it reminds him of Michigan, where he’s from originally.
“I had a home out in the middle of nowhere, where you left your skis leaning on the front of the house, just like here. And when you came home from work you snapped them on and went out,” he said.
Walton said the wildlife education is certainly a draw.
But mostly, she said, she came back because “It’s quiet. And they’re just a lovely family.”
“And,” Kirtley added, “they make us breakfast.”
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512
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