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!

 

June 10-14 Bikes and Boats!

What a busy and fun-filled week we had.  We began our adventures with two days of mountain biking at La Tierra.  The kids got to try cross-country riding, learned how to brake, climb and descend.  We talked about the Ready Position, and used our new knowledge on the Flow Trail and the Wee Whoops. In the afternoon we spent some time trying out the small jumps in the terrain park, and then playing Capture the Flag and Baby Squirrel, among other games, when we needed a break from the sun and heat of riding.

On Wednesday we packed up and headed to Abiquiu Lake for two days of kayaking, swimming, jumping into the water, fishing, eating, playing games, story telling, singing, and sleeping!  Everyone challenged themselves to jump off the rocks into the water at their own level.  It was impressive to watch the kids expand their perceived limits and try something new. The photos tell all!

Steve, our kayaking guide, led the keen kayakers for a good long kayaking along the shore of the lake.  Most campers had been kayaking before, and several were trying it for the first time.

We returned to Santa Fe Thursday with time for an ice cream stop at Bode’s, a sweet reward after all of our fun in the sun.

The Friday Finale was a great day to play games at the Big T. Everyone was tired from camping and a low-key day was the perfect way to round out our action-packed week!

June 3-7: Wilderness Skills with Overnight Campout

What a busy and fun week we had!  On our first day we made mini-survival kits and headed out to the Beaver Ponds where we hiked, played Eagle Eye (a sneaking and hiding camouflage game), climbing the perfect climbing tree, learning how to use a compass and a topographic map, and found fossils on the walk back to the van. Phew!  

Day Two started with a discussion of Leave No Trace principles by Annie, our very own LNT Trainer!  After snack and games we headed up to the Norski Trails where we learned how to build survival shelters and then made our own in small groups. As we hiked, we had fun playing many types of games, shared by counselors and campers alike. (Thank you, Ella for bringing your repertoire:). We enjoyed singing The Bear Song and Bats Eat Bugs on the trail and in the van.

Day Three was our big camping day.  With storms on the horizon there was a question about whether we would be able to sleep in our shelters.  We prepared for the storm by setting up tents, a group tarp, and gathering firewood and putting it under a tarp.  Once we were ready for the evening and prepared for the storm, we worked on our shelters, made survival bracelets and enjoyed many rounds of Meet-A-Tree.  

Back at the camp, we learned about fire-making and made a warming fire for us to gather around. Then the rain came for a short time during dinner, when we retreated to the group tarp for Nacho-making, and a short stint in our tents. After the rain, we were able to emerge for a perfect evening around the fire of stories, songs and laughter.  

Our last full day together we made water filters and talked about a variety of ways to purify water in the wilderness, an important skill! We practiced filtering water with a gravity filter on our hike down the Winsor Trail to the Rio en Medio.  The campers were eager for more Meet-a-Tree so we partnered up for this fun sensory game again before we gathered to share our appreciations of the week. We then brainstormed the many uses for a bandana and each camper was gifted a bandana to take home.

What a wonderful week and a great group of campers!  Thank you all for making this such fun!