Photo Safari!

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This week our Mountain Kids learned and practiced everything photography! We learned how our human eyes relate to cameras, how cameras work, different composition techniques to capture the most interesting photos, and even had the opportunity to take home a print of our favorite shot!

Esha Chiocchio (CIT Zubin’s mom, and a professional photographer) came in to talk to us about composition and shared lots of fun exercises with us.

We explored a different photo challenge each day, sought objects for photo scavenger hunts, zoomed WAY in on bull frogs and goats, and took beautiful photos out on the many hikes we conquered!

Of course, sprinkled in to each day, was a number of active games to tie all of the skills we learned together. These campers were so impressive and are some of the best photographers Mountain Kids has seen all summer!

Three Day Backpacking to Wheeler Peak!

We climbed Wheeled Peak on our three-backpacking trip to find out what we were made of. It turns out we are made of tears and laughter, dancing and determination, strength and acts of kindness.

It was a long, tough climb to 13,170 feet (5 miles one way) to the highest point in New Mexico. When the going got tough for one camper in our party, we called a group meeting to talk about how we could support one another to get there. One friend stepped forward to carry their shared backpack. We gave another permission to play his music so he could dance us up the mountain, which was cheering for all. The friendship and camaraderie of a third helped both of them to feel supported and able to carry on.

I stayed in the back with the slower campers. We took lots of breaks, enjoyed the scenery, the rainbow of wildflowers, and saw a whole family of big horned sheep. The going was hard but steady. After multiple (disappointing) ‘false summits’, we finally made it to Wheeler Peak, the top of New Mexico!

This kind of experience can’t be measured in feet and miles however, but sweat, tears, and gumption.

The memories made, the friendships gained, and the confidence that comes with overcoming hardship to achieve the seemingly impossible is what will stick with these kids as they move back into their daily lives.

I am so proud of all the Mountain (climbing) Kids! for working hard and supporting each other to reach this incredible goal.  – Katie

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What an impressive week! Our courageous campers hiked, ran, skipped, and occasionally danced their way to the top of Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico, after a serious amount of preparation. Their physical capabilities and positive mental attitudes were truly impressive. We rounded the week off with some kayaking at Santa Cruz Lake. Nothing beats gliding around on cool, calm water after spending the week aiming to summit the next grand peak! – Max

Wonders of Water!

Wonders of Water week turned out to be a huge, wet success! Our campers triumphantly discovered a natural water source at each destination and enthusiastically learned a new fact or skill everyday. We explored the water cycle, how to conserve, and how to properly filter water!

In between lessons, our campers sought out interesting looking minerals on river beds, and came across a handful of native, water living creatures.

I think we all have an absolutely enormous appreciation for water, especially here at home in Santa Fe. Keep on rain-dancing everyone, bring on the rain!

Mountain Biking Skills and Thrills! June 4-8

What a great way to kick off summer for the Eagles – our 9-12 year old campers! On Day one we rode at La Tierra where we tackled the Flow Trail, climbs to and from the trail, and then the pump track at Alto Park.  We talked about specific skills for climbing, descending, braking and turning.

On our second day we rode Dale Ball, which was short and sweet!  Day three took us up to the Rift Valley Trail south of Taos. It was a long drive, but we had fun playing games along the way, and the views and riding were worth it!  We also had time for a dip in the Rio Grande, which was a treat!

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On Day four we checked out the Oak Flats campground in the Tijeras District on the east side of the Sandias.  It was perfect riding. At 7000ish feet, we rode through a ponderosa forest, which was a bit cooler than previous rides, and the trails were a combination of beautiful smoothness with a few technical spots to challenge our skills.

We are so proud of these campers for all the hard work they put into riding, and the fun they had!  Apparently, hard work and fun go hand-in-hand and provide great learning and growth for kids exploring their limits.


Forts & Forests!

What a fantastic way to kick off the beginning of an adventure filled summer! Week one of camp was all about exploration and creativity within our natural world in the National Forest. We had so much fun teepee building using the natural resources we discovered under the grand aspens. We loved playing relationship-building games in the chilly streams and vast meadows. Eagle Eye and Sardines were BIG hits amongst these eager to play at Mountain Kids! Thanks so much for joining us during our Forts and Forest themed week!

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Wilderness Skills and Villanueva Overnight – June 4-8

This week our campers spent an equal amount of time cooling off by splashing around in rivers, and learning valuable backcountry skills. We learned how to prepare for a backcountry trip, the basics of scene assessment in a first responder scenario, and how to treat certain medical conditions. We practiced how to find a compass bearing and how to use an analogue watch to find North! We learnnd how to make a salve out of pinon sap which is great for cuts, scrapes and bites. We also learned that on ninety degree days everything is better when you’re sitting in a river!

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Our week culminated with a make-believe scenario where one of our counselors pretended to have heat stroke and our campers had to assess the scene, assess his condition, and find ways to cool down his core temperature. They did a superb job, although they may have had a little too much fun dumping him in the river! It was such a fabulous time and we look forward to seeing these kids again.

Emerging from the Fog of Motherhood ~ Becoming a Mountain Mama

By Katie Macaulay ~ first appeared as an article in Tumbleweeds Spring 2018 Issue

Ever since I discovered the magic of morning fitness outside in the mountains, my life has changed.

I call it “Emerging From the Fog of Early Motherhood,” and you might be familiar with some of the symptoms:

• No time for self-care (always taking care of others needs first)
• No time for exercise (or a haphazard attempt)
• No time for connecting with other moms (without kids hanging off your leg)
• Feeling constantly frazzled and exhausted (even slightly depressed)

If you are familiar with one or more of these symptoms, you may be experiencing The Fog. My experience with The Fog and my emergence from it is the reason I am starting a new program called Mountain Mamas!

Before the Fog lifted for me, I experienced all of these symptoms. I was out of shape and did not feel good in my body after having two kids. Getting outside for a 10-minute walk felt like a huge achievement. My inertia was like that of a newborn, and my speed was only that required for chasing a toddler or teaching a 5-year-old to ride a bike. I likely experienced some mild, undiagnosed depression during those early years of the Fog.

As the kids got older, I found another symptom of the Fog was a lack of clarity. When my daughter started kindergarten I was disoriented. I spent the first few weeks of her kindergarten year in a daze, as if always walking from room to room to get something and forgetting what I was looking for. Where would I focus my energy now that both kids were in school? I had so many dreams of this time of newfound freedom, yet I was experiencing the lack-of-clarity Fog.

In the Fog, I also had the latent desire to get out into the mountains and exercise but did not know where to start. I envied the moms who “had the time” or the previous experience to run trails or skin up the mountain on a powder day. I had not done much of either, and with small children it certainly did not seem like the time to start.

Luckily, I found an antidote. It started with a group of other moms who were rising before dawn to run mountain trails and return home before kids were awake. Really? I had no idea that this was even an option. This sounded terrifying and impossible, yet intriguing (and only possible because my husband could stay at home with children).

Could I really get up that early? (I had never, ever been a morning person.) Could I really commit to regular exercise? (I had never had a regular exercise routine before.) Would my family accept this new behavior and roll with it? And would these mountain mamas really accept me, an out-of-shape, non-runner, into their group?

Despite my lack of experience, lack of confidence and lifetime subscription to the Non-Morning Person Club, I was desperate for change, so I gave it a try.

It didn’t take long for me to become addicted to this taste of me-time. My own objections were quickly overcome; my body clock adjusted to the new time frame. Going to bed early and rising before the sun felt like a gift to myself. Regular exercise made me feel like a whole new person, as I shed the extra pounds that had been weighing me down, mentally and physically. Plus I was feeling so good from exercise-induced endorphins that I was able to deal more constructively with many of my family’s expressions of discontent. I could pacify, and problem-solve, and not for a minute consider giving up my morning routine. Lastly, the other moms accepted me. They weren’t as hardcore as I had feared and I made new lifelong friends and a new lifelong habit of exercise.

The runs themselves were surprisingly energizing, and the early morning experience was surprisingly sublime for an anti-morning person. The quiet in our dark house was like a well-kept secret — just me, alone with my thoughts, uninterrupted. Pure heaven! Driving to the trailhead listening to the morning news made me feel like an intelligent grown-up again, a return to my formerly more informed self. (I had stopped listening to the news when my young son asked me what a death squad was.) Breathing in the fresh mountain air, witnessing spectacular sunrises and getting stronger each day felt like a spa treatment; glowing with endorphins I happily got the kids ready for school upon my return from the mountain trails. But really, the best part was connecting with the other mamas, sharing the joys and challenges of motherhood on the trail. The Fog lifted a little more with each early morning rise. I had newfound camaraderie, fitness and confidence.

As a bonus to all these other positives, my dog loved the new routine. She was getting more and better exercise than she ever had. My new motto became: “If Coover is happy, I am happy.”

After a while, we started training for and doing longer runs. I was amazed when I finished my first half-marathon. With a friend organizing a group run, I began to train for the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim — something I hadn’t dreamed possible barely a year earlier. My new feelings of well-being spilled over into all areas of my life. Not to mention that running the Grand Canyon itself was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of my life. (It was really a run/hike at more than 90 degrees in the bottom of the canyon.)

The next marathon for me, however, will be the realization of my long-held dream to share this idea — Mountain Mamas — with other women. I know there must be other mamas experiencing the Fog who could benefit from regular exercise and mama connection. Mamas who would like to:

• Get regular exercise in nature (through hikes, runs or bike rides)
• Connect with other women, sharing the joys and trials of motherhood
• Gain more clarity and confidence in all areas of life.

Are as you afraid as I was? Fear not! You do not have to be a hard-core early morning runner to participate. Mountain Mamas will offer hikes and mountain bike rides (after kid drop-off), in addition to early morning runs. All will be suitable for beginners and experienced athletes alike. With time, we will offer gourmet backpacking trips, photography and art workshops, creativity and clarity circles, and more.

The theme of Mountain Mamas will be connecting with nature and with each other, lifting each other up and getting clear. As women, we know how to encourage and support one another. Together we will hit the trail and climb mountains to find our own personal summit.

To learn more about becoming a Mountain Mama, look under Programs or email

Katie Macaulay is the founder and director of Mountain Kids!, a year-round outdoor adventure and education program, now entering its 10th year.