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!

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 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 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 Forts & Forests

Our summer camp started beautifully with a green and lush forest to explore, finding special places within which to make finely engineered forts and shelters. The dandelion flowers have been abundant and we have all learned that they’re not only edible but delicious, too! (I suppose, that also depends on who you ask;) Each child made a homemade first-aid kit with the use of ‘Altoids’ tins to carry along with them for the week. The children used their first-aid kits at least once for some important concern; though, some children used theirs a whole lot more than others!

As we ventured through the week we learned how to stay S.A.F.E.R out in the woods – learning and remembering what each of the letters stands for, bringing awareness to how we might avoid getting lost in the first place and what to do if it happens. ‘S’ is for “STOP and Stay Put!” We also figured out how useful it is to have an assigned ‘buddy’ each day to help us, cheer us on, and relay messages to Counselors when needed. Kindness and attentiveness to each other, along with safety, was a theme this week for our group.

Several days in a row we passed Black Tail Deer in the same spot on Hyde Park Road as we drove up for our adventures. We now call that area “Deer Crossing.” There was an exciting sighting of a woodpecker during a quiet moment in our hike – all the children observed this loud bird with rapt attention and something akin to awe. Games were never too far from our minds with the desire to be the next eagle for Eagle Eye or the next sardine for, you guessed it, Sardines!

A splendid week spanning the cooler weather with increasing warmth. Thanks for a great week, campers – summer, here we come!


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@sfmountainkids.com

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

Thanksgiving Camp: Tuesday at Tsankawi

Wow! What a magical day! Not only were the kids amazing hikers and explorers, we were gifted with the experience of seeing thousands of sandhill cranes migrating above us. And I mean thousands!!

Once we heard them, we could no longer ignore the din of the bird calls above us. Group after group flew over us on their way to the Bosque del Apache, south of Albuquerque. We had so many questions, and then one large group proceeded to fly in a swarm above us, like they were doing a dance, or as one camper said “They are making a giant sandhill crane!” while another remarked “They are making a word!” It was mesmerizing.

Tsankawi (a part of Bandalier), is also a mesmerizing place. The deeply grooved trails and the caves are a magical place for the imagination to expand and dream of a life here, long ago. So much simpler and so much more difficult than our own. The pottery shards are too a reminder of their creative work and the necessities they created for their own survival.

The kids were fantastic hikers and we had the gift of my own mom and daughter joining us for the day. Lovely fun!