Summer 2012 – Week 9 – Dirt, Rocks and Clay!



Today we went to Galisteo River. We played name games and went over the Mountain Kids rules before heading off. Once we got there we hiked to our special spot with a tee pee.  We did some tee pee building and enjoyed playing in the water. We decided on our group names for the week: the Ant-Lions (Bigs) and the Earthworms (Littles). It was great to play and talk about the rocks and clay all around us. After lunch we hiked through the river and had ‘superman’ races running around and getting very muddy. We made a rock maze, played maze of life, camouflage, and caught a small frog and other insects. We collected dirt and made clay to build pots and make clay sculptures. We also had some quiet time, doing sit spots and a closing circle. The day flew by and we had an amazing time together using the earth as our playground!


This morning we played some ice breaker games as a group and then learned about all types of rocks. Heather brought rock samples from her time spent all over the country working in parks. After snack and circle we headed to the Ski Basin for the day. We brought jars for collecting bugs and all the kids searched for grasshoppers. We made Andy Goldsworthy statues with branches and rocks and made up a funny story about meeting Andy and catching flying sandwiches. We played camouflage, flash flood, dead bugs, built a dam in the river and painted rocks. We collected rocks, finding the most beautiful rocks we could. We hiked a lot and played a lot! At the end of the day we had story time and then each of the kids decided on one thing they were thankful for. Many said the mountains and the bugs and the rocks – what a great day!


In the morning we had a presentation on compost and how to make a compost pile. After our snack we headed to Aspen Vista and hiked. The Bigs hiked up and Littles hiked down to Big T.

The Bigs painted their rock boxes, threw some seed balls (we discussed seeds) and Mahko made up a game based on the maze of life which we all played. The boys caught bugs for some time – twelve in all – mostly grasshoppers. We played lots of games: Bob the Weasel, Dead Bugs, Robots and Blob Tag. We made mud huts and played “Meet a Rock” (the kids sat on a log blindfolded, felt a rock then they were handed several different rocks and they had to figure out which was their original rock).

The Littles collected precious rocks and read books about rocks. We found shady spots and wonderful shelters made from fallen branches. We counted butterflies and beautiful moths. We played in the river and played games as a group. The hike was long, but the weather was perfect. It was a wonderful day!


Today we went to Nambe Falls. After playing games, reading about soil, and having a snack we headed out. The Bigs hiked to the viewpoint first and then the waterfall. We took out the rock box and examined the different rocks, and then we used the magnifying glass to check out other rocks in the area. We played a game of camouflage, told another funny story during lunch about flying turtle. We headed down and hiked to the waterfall. The Littles hiked to the waterfall right away. The water has changed from clean and clear snowfall run off to silt infused rainwater that is much more like the Rio Grande. It was exciting to have so much water and hike through a river rushing and splashing by. At the waterfall all the kids jumped right in to play in the water. We were sure to have adults in the water at all times given that there was so much water. After playing we got out to get dry and eat lunch. We hiked back and had time for more games and songs about rocks. We changed into dry and clean clothes and headed back. It was a perfect way to end a great week. I am sure there are a lot of happy and tired campers!

Summer 2012 – Week 8 – Tremendous Trees and Photography!


We saw a lot of wildlife this week, as seen in the photos above – many of which were taken by the kids themselves!  Great stuff!  Thanks to Alexandra for the commentary below about the week!


We decided to leave early in order to get to the mountains before the rain came. We drove to Big Tesuque and had time to play in the river and climb up the side of the mountain before the rain started to fall. We got back to the van to escape the early storm. In the van we learned the “Tree Song.” We drove down the mountain to a shelter to have lunch and went to another spot in the woods to play games. We played camera tag, meet a tree, collected materials to make picture frames, played statue and sculpture, two truths and a lie, and a water drinking game. Then we headed back to the children’s museum to make our picture frames. We reflected on what we loved and what we learned in our closing circle. It was wonderful how much the group learned about one another in one day- new friends and old friends!


We went to Pecos National Monument. It is a great place to practice ‘take only pictures, leave only footprints’. We learned about Kivas and the history of the pueblo before and after the Spanish came.  It was very interesting. We worked on our journals and spoke about documentation, what that means, and how it can be done. We are using pictures and drawing to document our time together. We went into the Kiva and learned about how they are built and what they were used for. We hiked around the ruins and played games during water breaks. After lunch we made sun prints, learning about light and exposure. Then we played a big game of tag. At the end of the day we learned a new song, reflected, and read The Giving Tree. A wonderful day out!


Today we learned about tree anatomy: the tap roots, surface roots, heartwood, cambium, and bark. We acted out the various parts of the tree. We reviewed how to use our cameras. Then, after reading some tree stories, we headed to Leonora Curtain (a wetland preserve that is part of the Santa Fe botanical gardens). We were given a tour where we learned about the history of the wetlands and how ecologically special they are. The kids were so excited to take pictures and it was great to sit under the big cottonwood trees for stories and games. We played games using blindfolds and tried to remember the details of landscapes we were taken to. We also hugged a huge cottonwood –  it took everybody in the group! Seeing all the frogs in the pond was another highlight. We played more games to review the tree anatomy and looked at everyone’s favorite picture of the day. The day was great fun and we were lucky to have such nice weather!


Today we began the day with pinhole cameras. These cameras take a lot of patience!  It is interesting to contrast them with digital cameras where we get unlimited chances to take pictures already in focus. It was exciting for the kids to use our little viewfinders and find the shot they wanted to take with the idea that they only have one shot. Then we exposed the film and closed it up again! Picture taken! We read a story and had snack and headed to the Beaver Ponds. After taking a good hike and playing some games we put on face paint and it began to rain. We decided to head back and get out of the drizzle. We headed back early to the museum where we played freeze tag, made birds nests, and read stories about trees and reviewed our learning from the week. It was another great day!

Summer 2012 – Week 7 – Super Hikers and Wilderness Skills!

Big Super Hikers!

BIGS (7-9 year olds)

We had lots of fun this week with our Big “super hikers”.  We hiked the Black Canyon trail, the Rio en Medio trail to the waterfall, the trail to Carl’s Meadow at Aspen Vista, and the Ski Basin.

We went over maps, directions, compass, orienteering, poison ivy identification, equipment, safety, lightning position, and knots. The kids drew maps in their journals, played the game fascinating facts where each kid had one fact to tell all the others on the trail and then there was a trivia game at the end. A lot of water drinking games, wilderness facts, wilderness trivia in the car “Worst Case Scenario Game”. We went over stream crossing, lots of riddles, camouflage, flash flood, dead bugs, white out, compass course, and more. Tomorrow we are going to be signaling, shelter building, making a travois, and playing more games. Today we didn’t even make it to the meadow before we had some serious thunder and lighting so we retreated and went to Fort Marcy. Mark set up a compass course while Heather taught how to tie a figure 8, clove hitch, and then the knot of their choice from the knot book. It was lots of fun. Tomorrow we will finish with our super hiker ceremony.

The BIGS at Rio en Medio waterfall

We ended super hiker week with a bang and no rain. We went over topographic maps, built lean-to shelters, stopped and made many shelters for Smoky the Bear; both tee pee and desert-style. We practiced signaling with mirrors and creating SOS signs. We built a Travois, and saw five grouse – very exciting!  We super hiked part of the trail and Mark and Heather handed out bracelets for their great hiking skills and knowledge. They all left knowing how to read a compass. Overall, it was a great week!

Shelter Building

LITTLES:  (5-6 year olds)


Today we went to Black Canyon. It was so beautiful. We choose our animal for the week. Mountain Goats seemed to fit us since we are super hikers (or really, wee wanderers). We learned about North, East, South, West (Never Eat Soggy Waffles) and how to find our way with compasses and maps. We made a group flag and played camouflage games. It was great to play in the woods. We looked at pictures of poison ivy so that we can be ready if we see any on the trails. We also gathered ‘instruments’ (rocks and sticks) and made a symphony! Then we heard the thunder. We headed back to the vans as the rain began to fall. By the time we got to the van and escaped the rain we decided to head back to the Children’s Museum and play. We reflected on our day and played in the sandbox. A great day!



This morning we had some pretty tired campers, so we decided to call off our hike and play some games by the Tesuque Creek at Shidoni. It was FUN! When we got there we had a little tour of the place where they make the sculptures and then went to play in the river. It was wonderful and much needed play time. We then played tons of tag style and hide and seek games. We practiced being still and stealthy hiding in the sculptures. Then we worked on observation skills and played ‘Museum’. We were preparing to see the small movements of animals in the forest. We took on the movements of deer, alligators, butterflies, and other animals that may be still in order to protect themselves. After some more river play and lunch, we went to the glass blowers studio and they let us watch while they made a shellfish. It was super cool! Then we headed to the museum to play and reflect before heading home! It was a really rejuvenating and delightful day.


With our energy stored up we were ready for a super hike. We went to Big Tesuque where we hiked up the river to play and collect bugs. We played camouflage games and then began to feel the drops of rain. There was no thunder, so we continued to play. Then, as the kids started to get cold, we headed down to stick close to the vans. The thunder began, so we loaded up. As the doors shut, the rain got heavier. We headed to town to have a treat of hot chocolate and story time. At the museum, we made fairy houses and rock collection bags. We had snacks of white cheddar popcorn and strawberries. Yum! Even though we got rained out, it was a great day.


Today was a blast! We went to the Ski Basin, identifying landmarks along the way. Once there, the kids collected grasshoppers to carefully look at in glass jars. They released them and then began their search again! We played tree tag, museum, and blob. All the kids used their rock collection bags and some carefully selected a few rocks to take home. We hiked to the top of the double chairlift and some opted to go further with Jennie. We wandered into the woods and made a lean-to and tee pees out of fallen wood. Then we hiked down to play in the river. At the end of the day, we reviewed safety tips and backpack essentials as well as the cardinal directions.

Summer 2012 – Week 6 – Massive Mammals and Insects!

Monday: Today the Littles went to Little Tesuque Creek.  In the morning they introduced themselves, thinking of their favorite mammals. We mostly had furry friends, but one camper did come up with a Dolphin. They practiced animal gaits and on a big piece of cardboard decided on rules for the week, such as respect, leave no trace, and wear your hat! In the car ride the Littles sang camp songs about bears and bees. Once on the trail we spotted butterflies and worked on using our reference pictures to identify them. We came up with our group animal, coyotes, and practiced howling. We also practiced finding our buddies hide and seek style. Today we focused on tracks and scat, which we will be referencing all week. We played What Time is It Mr. Fox and a few other jumping and clapping games. After lunch we continued on our hike and found a nice coyote den to make the cover page of our nature journals and the decorations for our safari hats. Then it began to rain. We put on rain jackets and headed to the warm van. After reading a book we decided to call it a day for the mountains and have some city fun. We went to the Railyard Park and looked at the progress of the Mountain Kids plot in the community garden. We played on the playground and had a nice closing circle learning about coyotes and thanking the earth for rain. It was a wonderful day.

Tuesday: Today was a beaver day! We headed to beaver ponds bright and early. Mark did a presentation dressing up like a beaver and Jenny passed around pictures for everyone to see how many cool traits beavers possess. Afterward, we hiked off pretty far, passing the ponds and heading into the woods and bushes. We found sit spots by the river and made sound maps of the water and birds. After playing in the water, the hike continued up to find a view and a nice little den to have lunch. After lunch we headed back down to the ponds to make beaver dams. It was raining and there were some cold campers so we hiked back the van.  We warmed up in the van and went to Fort Marcy Park to play a huge game of freeze tag. We read the beaver book and reflected in circle before heading back to the Children’s Museum. It was a wonderful day!

Wednesday: The trip to Las Golondrinas was wonderful. We began the day at the museum learning about all the all the insects inside the museum. The kids each did a sketch of their favorite insect. Then Jenny led them in learning some Spanish songs and words to prepare for the trip. We all had a snack and then headed out. Once there the Littles went to learn about yarn and weaving with looms. We visited the animals and had a chance to pet the goat. Then we visited the blacksmith – that was exciting! We had lunch under the big beautiful trees and then read a story. The coyotes played together in the tree (known to them as the coyote den). We took a trip to the pond where we saw frogs, water snakes, tadpoles, dragonflies, and butterflies. We sang songs about frogs and pretended we were like our big green floating friends. At the end of the day we reflected on all the animals we had seen.

Thursday: The morning began with a visit from Ranger Rowdy (Heather in costume). We learned about mammals and looked at real animal pelts! Then we headed for the Big Tesuque Campground. It was cool and beautiful. The coyotes hiked to a clearing to play lots of games! Then we hiked back down for lunch and had time to paint and play in the river. We read ‘We’re Going On a Bear Hunt’. The clouds began to get dark so we got jackets on a prepared for the storm. We played until the rain began to fall. Since we were ready for the rain and so close to the van we stayed as long as we could.  We dried off on the ride back and most of the Littles took a quiet rest. Back at the museum we played in the sandbox and had a circle to remember what we had learned during the week: beavers, tracks and scat, insects, frogs! Then the rain caught up with us and we stayed dry in the greenhouse until pick up time. It was a treat to have so much rain![slideshow]

Summer 2012 – Week 5 – Plein Air Painting and Water!

Making our mural with charcoal (the Littles would later paint it)!
Ahhh…zeee charcoal mousse-tache! It’s fun to draw with too!
Blind drawing….why not?
May I see your mousse-tache, Madam?

We stopped for a water game, then stopped and sat looking out over the mountains and made landscapes using the chalk pastels. We sang the song “Aru cha cha aru cha cha” which is a rain song and then had lunch.   Heather told a story using their ideas which was really neat.   We played the “Salmon Game” where we used blind folds and guided our salmon up and down stream. The kids really enjoyed the blindfolds. We stopped again for  “Bob The Weasel” game and then again under the Douglas Firs for more art using oil pastels.  We told the kids they could challenge themselves if they wanted to draw with a blind fold on. When they were done they had free time to build shelters, stack rocks or whatever they could dream of. It was a hot one but overall a very fun day!

On Monday, the Littles explored Aspen Vista. We found a tee pee and cleared space under it to eat our lunch. We found charcoal and drew on paper and our bodies, then we made our nature journals and painted the cover page. We continued on our hike and hiked up to where the trail heads down to Big Tesuque. It was hot, so we stopped to play in river; we splashed and cooled off and had a snack. It was a challenging hike for the little ones and they all did incredibly well!

On Tuesday, we started the day by playing games and then in our circle we talked about water conservation.  We practiced by water conscious with a water passing game.  After snack, the Bigs headed to the Rio en Medio trail for a hike to the waterfall, while the Littles headed to the Big T.

A REALLY cool catarpillar!

The Bigs were strong hikers today – everyone wanted to get to the waterfall.  We discovered a lot of plant and animal life along the way (including poison ivy!).  We discovered insects, lizards, butterflies, squirrels, and birds on our hike.  Once at the waterfall it was great to cool off under the falls, or in it’s spray.  Some kids chose to build a small pond, while others enjoyed trying to catch minnows.  We all had a chance to do some watercolors after we had had plenty of time to play, and some chose to hike to the top of the falls for a big view down to the bottom!  I was proud of all of the Bigs for their strong hiking.  Despite the hot temperatures out in the “real world”, it was plenty cool all along the trail.

All the “Bigs” at the waterfall!

Tuesday was an easy and fun day at Big T for the Littles. We played in the river, we did pastels and water colors, and we painted on a big drop cloth that the Bigs had drawn on. We used charcoal and painted cat whiskers and ears and ran around pretending to be cats. We went on a mini hike up to a meadow where we read a story. On the way we counted how many butterflies we saw, then we found sit spots and listened to the wind and the water. We played a few games and did an imagination exercise remembering our day. We had a little time to play in the water and have a snack before heading back.  A great way to spend a hot, hot day!

On Wednesday we had the opportunity to go to the Day family ranch up on Rowe Mesa.  We were excited to check out a new location, with the promise of water!  it was beautiful up on the mesa, and after a bumpy drive down the dirt road, passing several cows (playing sardines?) along the way, a plenty of moo0ing from the vans, we arrived at our destination.  It was a short hike to a watering hole that had water in it.  Just enough for the kids to get wet, and REALLY muddy!  We did manage to do some watercolors and pastels before heading back.  The Littles went back a different way and saw a dead cow – a first for many!

The mudhole!
Can you say FUN?! (and sorry about the clean-up, Mom and Dad!?)

It was a three-part bath that night in our house. For most Mountain Kid parents, this is the sign of a good day!  The kids will not soon forget our day trip to the Day Ranch.  Thanks for Jennifer and Carson for making it happen!

The Art of Mud?

Thursday was a very different story – clean, cool water at Nambe Falls.  We had a wonderful time.  The Bigs found a nest of baby birds as they hiked up the river canyon.  Many discovered the fun of whirlpools and spent a lot of time watching sticks being sucked down and to another location.  Others just enjoyed splashing a playing in the water.  At last, the Bigs had a chance to paint their glass jars here after doing some watercolors by the river.

The Littles taking a water break while hiking up river!
What an inspiring spot! And COOL, too!

The Littles hiked up a ways before eating lunch in a shady spot.  We returned for sit spots and watercolors and pastels in our journals.  Everyone filled all of their pages with beautiful, colorful art work!  We played monster tag, and some built rock cairns/dams in the river, while others pretended to be animals –  like frogs and loons, running from Katie and Alexandra and chanting to have them chase them. Afterward, we headed up the river to get closer to the falls.  It was a challenging walk through the river, but everyone did it.  Once there, some settled in to hear a story, while others enjoyed finding the wood pieces worn smooth by the water.   All in all it was a wonderful way to spend the day – staying cool and having fun![slideshow]

Summer 2012 – Week 4 – Dirt, Rocks and Clay!

We started this week getting to know one another at the Children’s Museum – playing games and making our group contract.  Edie read us a story about clay called “When Clay Sings” before we headed out on our adventure to the Galisteo River, which we have found to be a wonderful source of clay.

Once at our destination, we split into two groups – the “Bigs,” who chose to be the Greater Roadrunners this week, headed one way along the river to play Camouflage, and explore the river.  We had lunch and found water striders, which many enjoyed trying to scoop up.  We walked back along the river, through the river this time, to our great clay source.  Once there, we had a great time: some building a long canal, some making clay bowls, and some getting into a clay fight!  It was wonderful a cool in the shade of the clay wall and in the river for a great afternoon.

The Littles chose to be the black-tailed deer this week.  The Littles hiked the other way in the river, made clay pots, and played games to practice listening to the natural sounds. We got really muddy and found a tee-pee where we made a bed of bamboo inside.  It was a great way to start our week of Dirt, Rocks and Clay!

On Tuesday we started the day playing games and then read the story Everybody Needs a Rock, which inspired all of us to find a beautiful rock that day.  After snack, we headed out on our adventure to Santa Cruz Lake.  The lake was a welcome sight on such a hot day!  We found some giant crawfish and enjoyed running into the water up to our waist, getting completely soaked, and soaking as many other people (mostly counselors!) as we could in the process.  We balanced rocks, played tag, and enjoyed lunching by the lake. We read another story about different types of rocks after we had found our own special rock before heading back to Santa Fe.

On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to create our own Mountain Kids garden at the Railyard Park thanks to Mountain Kids Staff, Jennie and Mark.  It was a HOT day, so we did out best to stay cool as we buddied Littles with Bigs for a Scavenger Hunt in the Park. We had a tour of the park, and did an obstacle course, played tag, planted the garden, and planted our own sunflower seed to take home.  We each won a veggie gift plant to take home as well.  We learned about compost and worms.  We made prayer flags to hang in our garden to provide some shade. Everyone was thrilled when Alexandra bought popsicles to cool us all down as we played in the playground and splashed in the water to end the day.

By all accounts, Thursday was an AMAZING DAY!  At the Children’s Museum, we all played hide and seek, did sun salutations and then read a book about giving thanks to the sun and earth before heading up the mountain.

The Big Tesuque was shady and cool after the heat of yesterday.We took a short hike all together to the meadow and had lunch together. After lunch we split into two groups.

The Littles played in the river, did water colors and drawings, read stories, played ‘meet a tree’ and did sit spots. A few brave kids went with Alexandra on a harder and steeper hike to get some great views. We listened quietly to hear the wind and the river below and then walked to a grassy meadow.

The Bigs went with Jenny and Heather on the “Explorer Hike”. We explored a shelter, played camouflage in the grass, played the log game using our names, and read wilderness survival cards. We looked at different rocks and how they may have formed. Each of the kids found a smooth and a hard rock and then we discussed how they would be formed that way. We played the game “Bob the Weasel” the kids really had fun with this. Then we picked a smooth rock to be the weasel for the next game.

We hiked up a small mountain and read another trivia card about wilderness survival. Afterwards, we went down to the river and constructed a dam out of rocks and branches tested it out.  We played on the teeter-totter log we had discovered last week, and Heather told us a story about “Falling Rock” while we had snack. Afterward, we went over to see Gigi’s island and played there for a while. We returned to meet the Littles for a group rain dance to help Santa Fe get some much-needed rain, and close out a wonderful week![slideshow]

Summer 2012: Week 3 – Tremendous Trees and Photography!

The girls show us their Goldsworthy inspired rock art.

We started the week getting to know one another and playing games at the Children’s Museum – freeze frame tag, sculptures, a name game, (tell your name and a favorite picture you have taken) and steal the chicken.  At circle, Edie introduced viewfinders and talked to us about looking closely and taking photographs.  We were all excited to get up into the mountains to do some snapping!  After snack, we loaded up and headed up to the ski basin to enjoy the cool mountain air, the tremendous trees, and the refreshing river water. What a great place to be on a hot summer’s day!

In the van, the Bigs decided to be called the River Otters after talking about several other animals.  The Littles chose to be Mountain Lions.  The Bigs were scared – although we discussed how these two animals are unlikely to encounter one another, so the Bigs were in fact not prey for the Littles.

The Bigs sang “There was a Tree” as they drove, and the Littles sang that, plus a plethora of others – the Bear Song, the Bumblebee Song, Black Socks, etc.  The Littles do excel at singing and are so much fun to drive and sing with.

Once at the ski basin, the River Otters said farewell to the Mountain Lions and went off up the mountain to Adventure Land.  We encountered a mine shaft, an old cabin, and best of all, a bear cave where the kids chose to eat lunch.  After lunch, we were introduced Andy Goldsworthy and his incredible artwork made out of objects found in nature.  We were inspired, and went to work building our own.  There were many beautiful sculptures made out of rocks and sticks, and we all went on a tour to visit one another’s artwork, and of course, take pictures.

Little Goldsworthy’s at work

The kids had a choice to hike up farther, or make their way slowly down through the trees, taking pictures, and ending up at the river for some water play.  Of course, they chose the latter.  We talked about different types of trees and enjoyed exploring what can be found in the forest as we made our way through the thick stand of trees between runs.  We took a lot of photographs – of beautiful rocks, looking down, looking up, getting close, lying down, looking at Coover – our Mountain Dog –  who became the subject of many photos.  There were some great close-ups taken of her mouth, smiling and panting – a perspective only a child could have!

Coover, the mountain dog, captured by a mountain kid.
A chance encounter with the small, but fierce, Mountain Lions!

We encountered the Mountain Lions (yikes!) and the headwaters to the Rio en Medio coming down the mountain.  The kids became scientists – testing which sticks would make it down through the long culvert, floating leaf boats into whirlpools, and encountering, identifying, and playing with insects.  Some dwelled in the imaginative realm, becoming builders of fairy houses and fairies.  Some became athletes, leaping over the river like hurdlers.

Fabulous Fairy Fabrication

The Littles ate lunch by the river and then played there before heading up the mountain.  As we hiked, we got into our role of being mountain lions and learned how to stalk, ambush, and play camouflage.  The Little mountain lions enjoyed exploring nature, taking pictures, and beginning our collection bags of natural objects to put on our Father’s Day photo frames.   “This is gorgeous” was overhead by one little mountain kids on this day.

Climbing at Tsankawi

Tuesday took us all to Bandelier National Monument where we got to imagine life thousands of years ago, and feel like explorers discovering caves, ladders and deeply grooved paths.  What an amazing place for photography as well!  We did a photo scavenger hunt, talked about “framing” and stumped each other with Riddles.  We found petroglyphs, pottery shards, arrowheads and obsidian glass as we walked. What a treasure to have this living museum in our own backyard.

Deeply grooved paths at Tsankawi

On Wednesday, the Bigs and Littles split up for the day.  The Littles went to Las Golondrinas where Alexandra was kissed on the lips by a goat, and we all saw wool being spun into yarn and then woven into fabric.  We stopped to enjoy many enormous trees, which were happily providing us with shade. We spent a good deal of time under the largest, most magical tree on the edge of a meadow where free and imaginative play always thrives. The kids also loved playing “Build a Tree” where they learned about the parts of a tree by making a giant tree with their bodies, and then fighting off Alexandra, the bark beetle.  They managed to do so – keeping the tree healthy and strong! The Littles also made their lives in tree rings on paper plates with pencils and watercolors and explored the pond and the life around and in it.  Overall, it was a super fun day with lots of time for playing and exploring nature.

Playing Stalker

The Bigs got a day at Base Camp where they played some games and then worked in their nature journals.  Each selected one of New Mexico’s native trees and then learned all about it by making a journal page.  They did some leaf rubbings with leaves from base camp, and some made tree rings of their life in their journals, and interesting way to think about many trees long lives compared to our own.

Meet a Tree!

The Bigs also played build a tree, steal the chicken, capture the flag, meet a tree, and did ‘white out’ where they were all blindfolded on a mini-hike.  The Bigs also had free time for shelter building and rope climbing.  We closed the day by making our Father’s Day frames followed by a closing circle where we read The Giving Tree – a nice reminder with Father’s Day so near.

A Photographer in Action

On Thursday, the Littles were at Base Camp and the Bigs headed up to the Big Tesuque to get out of the heat.

After some games at the Children’s Museum, the Bigs walked around the Children’s Museum on a photo safari.  There were some great shots from this little walkabout. We continued to listen to ‘My Side of the Mountain” in the van, which we have been enjoying all week as we drive to our adventure spot.

At the Big T we hiked up the trail and saw a lot of waterfalls. We took pictures of flowers up close, and played in the river, floating boats. We had lunch by the river and read the “The Tree of Life”. We made sun prints with natural objects and spent some time in our secret sit spots, listening to nature and using all of our senses to explore what is around us.

We relaxed in the forest, as we became a tree in all four seasons, trying to feel what this would be like, as Heather guided us through this tree meditation.  We found a great log for a teeter-totter, played some chicken football, found a lot of catarpillars, and had plenty of free play around the river.  Overall, another fun day!

Little fuzzy friends in the forest!

At Base Camp, the Littles explored the shelters and learned the boundaries for free play.  After playing on the ropes and having a snack, we went on a “story hike” where we learned about trail markers.  This time, the trail markers were a story about a beautiful tree.  Gus was our reader, and amazed us all with his great reading skills!   We played some games and had lunch before starting our Andy Goldsworthy inspired art projects.  The kids did a great job and were very proud of their work!  We also collected more natural objects for our Father’s Day frames, and made this into beautiful natural art to frame one our photographs from the week.  We cooled off by playing Drip, Drop Splash (like Duck, Duck Goose, but with water!) and relaxed by listening to The Lorax – “I speak for the trees!”  We closed the day with a circle, sharing our favorite part of our week at Mountain Kids.

See many of the amazing photographs taken by the Mountain Kids at this link.

Enjoy photographs from the week below from the staff. [slideshow]

Summer 2012 – Week 2: Super Hikers and Wilderness Skills!

All of the “Bigs” made it to the top of the Quad from Aspen Vista!

We started the week by getting to know each other, creating our group contract, and having a discussion about how to prepare for a hike.  What should we bring?  Who should we tell where we are going?  We learned an acronym to remind us of the important things to remember: S.A.F.E.R.

S – Stop and Stay Put if you are lost

A –Always Tell and Adult where you are going

F – Go with a Friend

E – Bring proper Equipment

R – Rest and take care of yourself by eating and drinking water

We set off up the mountain for Aspen Vista.  The plan was for the Bigs (aka Golden Eagles this week) to hike up through the aspens along the ridge through Carl’s Meadow and up to the Quad.  The route was more than a mile with an elevation gain of 1500 feet. A big challenge!  Along the way we stopped to drink water, eat lunch and learn how to use our compasses. We enjoyed the wildflowers, beautiful trees and great views.  It was a cool and  drizzly day.  Fortunately, we were prepared for the rainy outing with the right equipment so everyone stayed (mostly) dry.  ALL of the Golden Eagles made it to the top, which was exhilarating and exciting for the Eagles.  We were in radio contact with the Ladybugs so we called them from the top as they were on their big hike down the mountain from Aspen Vista to the Big Tesuque Campground.

All of the little ladybugs on the Rio en Medio Trail

The Littles – aka ladybugs – also hiked through a light rain and chilly weather –  but the brave ladybugs persevered.  We did ladybug dances to stay warm. As the ladybugs ate lunch we learned about the directions and how to make a compass with a needle and water. We looked at maps of the mountain and spent the rest of the hike looking out for landmarks and other ways to tell where we were on the map. By the end of the hike, we were tired ladybugs we wanted to rest.  We read ‘Oh The Places You’ll Go’ and hung out by the river as it began to warm up.  After our big hike we warmed up in the bus with some singing, the Animal Game, and a lot of silliness.

Tuesday was another fun day  – on our way up the mountain we sung songs: the Bear Song, the Bumblebee Song, and Black Socks to name a few.  The Little Ladybugs started our hike in Hyde Park and hiked about a half a mile to the waterfall.  We all got a chance to do some bouldering after plenty of time learning the safest way to climb a rock.  Counselor Mike spotted us one at a time as we learned to spot steady holds and climbed up – just far enough to be safe and exciting at the same time!  As we hiked down we played Landmark Telephone and paused to listen  – to the water, to the birds, and the other sounds of the forest. At the end of the hike, Mike taught us how to make rope and paint brushes out of yucca – a great wilderness skill!  Some of us painted with the yucca in our nature journals and some made rope for binding their journal.

The “Bigs” enjoying Tesuque Creek on the Borrego-Bear Wallow Loop

On Tuesday, the Golden Eagles arrived at the trailhead of the Borrego-Bear Wallow Trail with the intention of some Mountain Kids doing the entire 4-mile loop and some doing the Bear Wallow Trail out and back (about a mile shorter).  They had a choice.  It should not have surprised me that they ALL chose to challenge themselves with the longer hike. These are Mountain Kids Super Hikers, after all!  Along the way we saw a lot of interesting and beautiful things. We saw many beautiful wildflowers (and pressed a few), examined a tent caterpillar nest, and learned about how to tell the age of an evergreen  – without cutting it down.   With games to drink water, riddles, the A-Z Animal Game, the Birthday Challenge  – a group problem solving game, and some orienteering, we learned and had fun as we hiked along. We had lunch at the Tesuque River and had time for free play in the water.  What a beautiful spot on a hot summers day, and ALL of the kids completed the 4-mile loop.  We are definitely a group of Super Hikers!

Shelter-building at Base Camp

Wednesday.  The Golden Eagles were at Base Camp today for a lot of learning about Wilderness Skills.  We completed an orienteering course, learned about three types of survival shelters and built one of the three with a team.  We learned some knots and used them to make a travois – a stretcher that can be made with sticks and ropes to carry an injured person.  The best part was when we got to practice using it!

Making yucca paint brushes

We made paintbrushes out of yucca plants, pressed flowers and made maps for our journals.  We played Capture the Flag and Alaskan Football and had a discussion of how a pinecone spreads its seeds.  It was a busy day of learning, discovering, and fun.

On Wednesday, the Lady Bugs adventured to the Rio en Medio for some hiking, water play, and the opportunity to see poison ivy in real life!  We identified it quickly and cautioned the kids to be aware and not to touch it as they walked by. We also had fun learning how to play Stalker, making watercolor paintings with yucca paintbrushes, and finding Secret Spots while playing by the river.

On Thursday, the Bigs and Littles swapped locations.  The Bigs hiked up to the Rio en Medio waterfall. It was refreshing and beautiful.  To commemorate our accomplishment as Super Hikers this week, each of us received a necklace with four beads to represent our four days with Mountain Kids.

The ladybugs had a sweet day at Base Camp. After such a long week, we were ready to just rest, play games, and make arts and crafts. After learning more about maps, East, West, North, South, and landmarks, the ladybugs went on a small boundary hike. Then we learned about different kinds of forts and outdoor shelters.   First, we drew a picture of a fort, and then we went out collecting sticks to build one. Many of us elected to build smaller forts that we could take home, but several of us worked on a huge fort, big enough to sit in! We finished our nature journals and bound them together with yucca rope that we made. When it got hot we played Drip, Drop, Splash, but made sure to treat the water with respect and not waste too much. It was a really amazing day and so nice to spend time fun a relaxed time together at Base Camp.[slideshow]