July 8-12: Robin Hood’s Secrects

“The story of Robin Hood evokes clever and thoughtful adventures in the woods, stealthy river crossings, balancing on logs and fine homes in trees.” The Hummingbirds had an adventurous week discovering ways to heal wounds, practicing archery and fire making skills, and uncovering techniques for keeping invisible and camouflaged in the woods! A Monday spent at the Norski Trail was the perfect opportunity to learn about the Leave-No-Trace Principles, how to stay prepared with the 6W’s (who, what, where, when, why, and weather), and to gain some practice building shelters and hiding huts.

A day of hiking at Rio en Medio, on Tuesday, allowed for the Mountain Kids to romp throughout the woods and experience several beautiful and refreshing river crossings. A handful of the Hummingbirds chose to challenge themselves with an extra long hike all the way back to the waterfall – a glorious feat well worth each step!

Wednesday, the Hummingbirds began their morning learning how to create Pinon Pine Salve which can be used to help in healing small scrapes and wounds. After their fun craft, the Mountain Kids headed out to Chupadero where they worked with, Michael, a wonderful primitive skills educator, who taught them new archery safety and skills and how to create fire with sticks! After a day spent in the sunshine, Thursdays trip up the Santa Fe River, allowed the Hummingbirds to use their imagination while balancing on logs, crossing the river, and walking stealthily up the waterway!

The Hummingbirds and Eagles joined together, on Friday, for a day spent splashing in the mud and water at Abiquiu Lake. The low waters allowed for endless amounts of clay and mud which was just perfect for practicing camouflage skills!

July 8-12: Forest Survival School with Archery

What a full week of fun and skill building we had this week.

A Monday spent at the Norski Trail was the perfect opportunity to learn about the Leave-No-Trace Principles, how to be prepared with the 6W’s (who, what, where, when, why, and weather) and what one should do if one were in a survival situation.

Shelter is a high priority, so we learned the finer points of the Debris hut, the most suitable shelter for our climate, and tried our hand at making them.  Two groups worked together to make a couple of pretty amazing shelters in a short period of time.  A shelter tour ensued, bisected by a tour of our local Catarpillar Sanctuary, which had been created by a third group of empathetic campers.

We used Leave No Trace principles and dismantled our shelters, which can be very fun, and an important part of our play in the forest.

We played Eagle Eye to end our day, a great way to practice our hiding and sneaking skills.

A great start on a Debris Hut.

 

Caterpillar Care was an important part of the day for some campers.

 

Caterpillar Sanctuary Tour

Fire is another important aspect of wilderness survival. Tuesday took us to Chupadero where we learned several primitive ways to make fire from Michael, a wonderful Primitive Skills educator. We tried our hand at the bow drill and the hand drill in small groups.  Primitive fire making takes a lot of practice, and the campers all practiced….  soon there was a good fire smell wafting around the tent and wisps of smoke could be seen. Ultimately we all worked together to make a coal for a fire.  Team work saves the day! Not inly does team work help in a survival situation, we spoke about the importance of attitude (keeping it positive!) in a survival situation.

Trying their hand at the Hand Drill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bowdrill takes more coordination, but ultimately many find a good way to get your first survival fire.

Archery was a popular activity, especially when we began to play “Bark Bunnies”, a game where small targets of bark are donned with some Turkey Jerky. If you hit the target, you eat the jerky.  Yum!

Arching for Jerky during a game of Bark Bunnies

 

Wednesday took us to the Borrego trail, with handmade fish hooks and rods.  We charted our hike with a topographic map, determined which direction we were headed and how far we had to go.  While the length did not seem daunting, the topo lines also show us that there was some significant elevation drop and gain along the way, making our hike more difficult than it would be if flat!  We spoke about the importance of telling someone where you are going and when you will be back.

How long is the hike? Which direction are we going? How to remember the four directions? (Never Eat Soggy Waffles) Time to use a Topographic Map!

Thursday was all about water, and games!  We played another sneaking and hiding game called “Pig” and talked about various ways to filter and purify water in a survival situation.

Actually, Friday was really all about Water!  We spent the day cooling off by swimming  and practicing our camouflage, getting muddy at Abiquiu Lake.

Camouflage at Abiquiu Lake, an important skill! 🙂

Thanks for an action-packed and fun week, Mountain Kids!

July 1-5: Mud, Clay, & Camouflage

Monday was a great start to a week full of mud, clay, and camouflage for the Eagles and Hummingbirds! Our first adventure location for the week was Deer Creek, where the Mountain Kids found giant pools of mud in which they rolled, jumped, and played for hours! The Eagles got into full camouflage mode and quickly were ready for stalking and hunting in the jungles of New Mexico!

On the Hummingbirds hike, several of the campers witnessed their first rattlesnake in the wild, enjoying the shade covered rocks. We gave the snake its space and moved along, full of excitement for what we had experienced.

Tuesday was all about clay! Each child had the opportunity to get their hands dirty in clay during our morning craft, making little pinch-pots and tiny clay structures. A trip to Galisteo allowed the team to romp about hunting and gathering buckets of their own clay – which was used Wednesday morning to create miniature ‘adobe’ bricks for clay houses. More messy mud fun followed, with a day spent playing camouflage games on the Little Tesuque trail.

The Mountain Kids! had a wonderful day, Thursday, discovering the Galisteo River, finding clay, making pigments, and whipping up some ‘algae pancakes’. We gathered cattail pollen as a last little treat and wandered along the dragonfly river path.

A refreshing end to the week was had at Nambe Falls on Friday. The Hummingbirds and Eagles hiked up stream together and cooled off with a splash in the lovely pool, created by the beautiful, roaring waterfall. It was certainly a clean and cool finish to a fun and messy week!

June 24-28: Wilderness Skills

The Hummingbirds (Mountain Kids’ younger group) started their week exploring the trails and waterways of the Beaver Ponds, while learning what to do should we encounter a bear and mountain lion.

The fun continued with an introduction to building survival shelters and a lesson on their importance. As the week continued, the Hummingbirds discussed the essential 6W’s (who, what, when, where, why, & weather) and why they’re important even before entering the wilderness. The children also learned seven new hand gestures in order to help them better understand the seven Leave-No-Trace Principles (ways in which we can respect and take care of our wild lands and parks with low impact practices). We also explored ways of staying S.A.F.E.R. (a mnemonic for how to stay safe while spending time in the outdoors), with one of the key elements being to STOP AND STAY PUT if you get lost.

During our week of acquiring new wilderness skills, the Mountain Kids roamed through areas such as the Rio en Medio, Aspen Vista, and the Ski Basin, all of which are  beautifully wooded locations and provided us with a wonderful setting for each camper to use their imagination while becoming animals such as deer, mountain lions, bats, and moths.

Our week ended with the Eagles (older campers) and Hummingbirds gathering together for a day filled with fun and games at the meadow of the lower Big Tesuque trail. What a fun and adventure-filled week!

June 24-28: Photo Safari!

Our Photo Safari was full fun and of course, photography! We learned about the rule of thirds, and talked about composition among other things, but were mainly encouraged to shoot, experiment and have fun.  We went on a photo scavenger hunt, played games, hiked to a waterfall and a mountaintop, took lots of photos and explored our caterpillar tolerance when we encountered the “mother-load” of caterpillars at Carl’s Meadow. It was quite extraordinary just how many caterpillars there were if one stopped to look, or eat, as the case may be!

Our wearable Pinhole Camera Robot was a hit with all ages, and a cool experiment in learning how our eyes, and cameras work.

We tried our hand at sun prints, making compositions with natural objects. For the end of the week each camper selected 1-4 favorite photographs to frame and hang for art show.

It was a wonderful week of creativity, adventures and fun! Enjoy a selection of camper photos below as well as images showing our week-in-action.

 

June 17 – 21: Wonders of Water

Our week was full of wild and wonderful water expeditions. We began our days together learning about the Santa Fe Watershed, where our water comes from and the life and adaptations of our natural dam builders, the Beavers. From there we discovered just how frigid snowmelt is as it passes through our higher mountain streams and worked studiously ourselves on creating highly effective dams with the added joy of dismantling them afterward. It’s quite exhilarating releasing even the smallest of well made dams, water surely wants to move!

During our trip to Nambe Falls we experienced strong currents gushing down the river as we worked together, holding hands, locking arms or taking rides on Counselors backs in order to make it to and from the Falls. What a thrill it was to stand, wade, and explore the strong white water spilling speedily from the Falls. On Friday morning, Micael Meade and his brother, Alex, came to help us co-create a water dance and song, allowing us a chance to move and sound like various forms of water while singing to all the precious and vulnerable waters we know and remember. A beauty-filled practice!

As always, with a bit of cheek and fun, we Councilors managed to get one up on the children and soak them after our water relay on Thursday, to which the children self organized and proposed a culminating water fight on Friday – children versus Councilors! The ultimate ending to a wet and wonderful week, saturating all of us equally.

June 17-21: Backpacking Wheeler Peak

We had an impressive group of campers for our three-day backpacking trip. After a successful prep day on Monday, we headed up to the Wheeler Peak Wilderness. Our spectacular winter meant that there was still a substantial amount of snow on the ground, and our campers did a stellar job traversing the trail and, most importantly, being helpful and encouraging to each other even when the going got tough.

During our first evening, our campers proved that they were ready to learn the basic skills of backcountry travel: how to set up tents, how to cook safely, how to navigate, how to sleep warm, etc.

Each camper took on a different job every day (such as being in charge of cooking a meal, or being a Leader of the Day – in charge of pacing and group dynamics) and they rose to those jobs with aplomb. We all went to bed tired, happy, and excited for the following day.

On our second day, and after an early rise, we started the trek up Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico, at 13,167 feet. It took us 7 hours, round trip, to get to the highest point in New Mexico, a stellar view that feels more like Colorado or the Alps!

Due to the snow levels, it was an even more exciting hike than usual: lots off off-trail rerouting, careful snow-stepping, and glissading down low-angle sections. Again, we were very impressed with the campers spirit and ability to help each other. They were wonderfully cheerful and resilient in the face of this challenging climb.

Overall, it was a great trip. In true backpacking style, we returned dirty, tired, and happy, having had an experience that we will never forget.

June 10 – 14: The Secret Language of Birds & Bugs

Our week began with a bug search on land and water in the Nature Conservancy with Wade, from the Harrell House Bug Museum. Thanks to Wade, we now know that the large black beetles we’ve been calling ‘stink bugs’ are really called ‘Darkling Beetles’! We had fun looking for and identifying bugs with Wade.

Tuesday found us at the New Mexico Wildlife center in Espanola, where we met an impressive variety of birds of prey in addition to two relaxed bobcats and a fox, each of which were enjoying their afternoon downtime. With a long day spent exploring the grounds of the Wildlife Center, the team cooled down in the Pojoaque Creek, where they splashed in the water and built mud castles. Fun!

Each camper made a bug catcher on Wednesday morning, just in time to carefully capture and release a number of cabbage white butterflies and crickets at the La Cieneguilla Petroglyph site, down airport road.

On Thursday our culminating bug trip was to The Harrell House Bug Museum, where we delighted in visiting with all sorts of scorpions, tarantulas, various beetles and a huge water monitor (rather like a Komodo dragon).

‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ will forever be ‘Head, thorax, abdomen’ to us, especially as we added antennae, mandibles and compound eyes to our action song! Becoming bugs together in bug charades infused us with fun and laughter and the necessary water frolicking was an essential part of our week together!